Overcast

Winnipeg, MB

-15°c Overcast

Full Forecast

Movies

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Doc a cautionary tale about ego

Posted: 03/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Advertisement

  • Print

To have watched the available movie version of The Thief and the Cobbler is to subject yourself to one of the great mysteries of animated feature films.

How did a project more than two decades in the making end up becoming such a hodgepodge of insipid cartooning coupled with a few moments of animation genius? What went wrong?

Kevin Schreck's documentary points the finger at Toronto-born animator Richard Williams, simultaneously crediting him with a genius for his transcendent artistry (Williams was the Oscar-winning animation director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and accusing him of self-indulgence run amok.

Begun in the late 1960s, the project began as Williams' self-admitted "ego trip," an animated version of a book of Persian folk tales. Williams worked doggedly on the feature, devoted to blazing new trails in the medium and exemplifying "excellence."

Schreck includes reams of footage suggesting the film was indeed destined for greatness. Before computer animation made it comparatively simple to negotiate three-dimensional space, Williams was making astonishing headway in that department, as evidenced by a psychedelic chase sequence in which the cobbler chases the thief through a stunningly rendered palace.

Alas, for all his vision, Williams didn't have an end game. He was two decades and millions of dollars into the work before he even started producing storyboards for the finished movie.

Williams himself refuses to discuss the movie, but Schreck has reams of old interview footage and access to a host of animators, artists and writers willing to discuss the project. There is a suggestion that so many artists worked on the thing, it was possible for Disney to purloin some of the film's design elements for use in their hit musical Aladdin. (Check out the similarities between T&C's "Grand Vizier" and Aladdin's Jafar and the conclusion is inescapable.)

When the film was pulled from Williams' hands by Warner Bros., to be cannibalized into the available version of The Thief and the Cobbler (a.k.a. Arabian Knight, a.k.a. The Princess and the Cobbler), the movie resembled a clumsy ripoff of Aladdin, with the gratuitous addition of some insipid songs and comic voice-work by the likes of Jonathan Winters and Vincent Price.

Williams's vision of excellence became the definition of makeshift mediocrity.

Yet one doesn't come away with contempt for the philistines of the major movie studio. The film acknowledges that Williams was his own worst enemy, a visionary who knew everything about the art form, except when to stop.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2014 D5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.