Richard Williams was a Canadian–British animator, voice actor, director, and writer, best known for serving as animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, for which he won two Academy Awards, and for his unfinished feature film The Thief and the Cobbler.
In 2015 his short film Prologue received both an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA nomination in the category of best animated short. Prologue is actually the first 6 minutes of his hand-drawn feature film Lysistrata, based on the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes, which Williams joked should be sub-titled “Will I Live to Finish It?” Williams described Prologue as “the only thing so far in my career that I’ve ever really been pleased with.” In 2013 Williams told The Guardian, “All I need is some time and five or six assistants who can draw like hell.” The film was intended to be “grim but funny and salacious and sexy”. Like The Thief and the Cobbler, Prologue would never be completed. But, as Williams put it: “it’s the doing of it that matters. Do it for the love of it. That’s all there is”.
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Jessica Rabbit is a fictional character in Who Censored Roger Rabbit? and its film adaptation Who Framed Roger Rabbit? She is depicted as Roger’s human toon wife. Jessica is renowned as one of the best-known sex symbols in animation.
Author Gary K. Wolf based Jessica primarily on the cartoon character Red from Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood. The film version of the character was inspired by various actresses. Richard Williams explained, “I tried to make her like Rita Hayworth; we took her hair from Veronica Lake, and Zemeckis kept saying, ‘What about the look Lauren Bacall had?'” He described that combination as an “ultimate male fantasy, drawn by a cartoonist.”
The song Why Don’t You Do Right? is an American blues and jazz-influenced pop song written by “Kansas Joe” McCoy and Herb Morand in 1936. Both men are given composer credits on the original 78 record label, although Morand’s name is misspelled. A minor key twelve-bar blues with a few chord substitutions, it is considered a classic “woman’s blues” song and has become a standard.
In 1936, the Harlem Hamfats recorded Why Don’t You Do Right? Band member McCoy later rewrote the song, refining the composition and lyrics. The new tune was recorded by Lil Green in 1941, with guitar by William “Big Bill” Broonzy. The recording was an early jazz and blues hit.
The song has its roots in blues music and originally dealt with a marijuana smoker reminiscing about lost financial opportunities. As it was rewritten, it takes on the perspective of the female partner, who chastises her man for his irresponsible ways: “Why don’t you do right, like some other men do? Get out of here and get me some money too.”
One of the best-known versions of the song was recorded by Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman on July 27, 1942, in New York. Featured in the 1943 film, Stage Door Canteen, it sold over one million copies and brought her to nationwide attention.
Lee often stated that Green’s recording was influential to her music. In a 1971 interview she said, “I had the record, and I used to play it over and over in my dressing room, which was next to Benny Goodman. Finally he said, ‘I think you really like that song.’ I said, ‘Oh, I love it.’ He said, ‘Would you like to sing it?'” Lee said yes, so Goodman had an arrangement made of it for Lee to sing.
In 1988 Why Don’t You Do Right? was sung by Jessica Rabbit in a very provocative way.
The Thief and the Cobbler is an unfinished animated fantasy film directed by Richard Williams. Originally conceived in the 1960s, the film was in and out of production for nearly three decades due to independent funding and ambitiously complex animation. It was finally placed into full production in 1989 when Warner Bros. agreed to finance and distribute the film. When production went over budget and fell behind schedule, the film was heavily cut and hastily re-edited by producer Fred Calvert without Williams’s involvement; it was eventually released in 1993 by Allied Filmmakers under the title The Princess and the Cobbler. Two years later, Disney subsidiary Miramax Films released another re-edit entitled Arabian Knight. Both versions of the film performed poorly and received mixed reviews.
Over the years, various people and companies, including The Walt Disney Company’s Roy E. Disney, have discussed restoring the film to its original version. In 2013, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archived Richard Williams’s own 35 mm workprint. Williams himself acknowledged the film’s rehabilitated reputation, thanks to projects like the popular fan edit by Garrett Gilchrist The Recobbled Cut, and Persistence of Vision, a 2012 documentary from Kevin Schreck detailing the film’s production.
Garrett Gilchrist’s fan restorations mostly follow the workprint very closely, at least in their intent, using most of its original audio track and editing structure. In order to present a more complete film, Gilchrist added additional music (some from the released versions) and sound effects, and also included finished footage that does not appear in a finished state in the workprint, whether taken from the released versions or from other rare sources. Most of the story changes made by Fred Calvert and Miramax are not present, but it does include a few minor Calvert-only scenes or alterations, either as a side effect of using Calvert’s footage as replacements for unfinished scenes in the workprint or because Gilchrist felt these scenes were useful to the plot.
Garrett Gilchrist graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Cinema-Television Production in March 2005.
Garrett has been a regular staff writer for Cinemontage, The Editors Guild Magazine, since 2008, interviewing the editors of upcoming Hollywood films and television series. He has also contributed to ACE CinemaEditor. He has published one novel, Cratchit & Company, which focused on the characters of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Garrett is known for his restoration of Richard Williams’ unfinished animated masterpiece, The Thief and the Cobbler (The Recobbled Cut). The first Recobbled Cut was released in 2006. The fourth was released in HD in September 2013, after over two years of work.
He is also an artist, and from 2007 to 2009 he created Whosprites, a project designed to animate lost episodes of Doctor Who.
In 2005, Garrett released a popular fan documentary titled Star Wars: Deleted Magic, which focused on the difficulties encountered during the production of the 1977 film, and how these were fixed in editing.
In 2007 and 2008 he wrote, directed, and edited a feature titled Shamelessly, about a female superhero.
Still my favorite animated adaptation of my favorite classic Christmas tale, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol, based on the Classic 1843 novel written by Charles Dickens, was directed by Richard Williams and its visual style is also largely due to Ken Harris, credited as “Master Animator”. It starred Alastair Sim as the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge — a role Sim had previously performed in the 1951 live-action film Scrooge. Michael Hordern likewise reprised his 1951 performance as Marley’s Ghost in the same film. Michael Redgrave narrated the story and veteran animator Chuck Jones served as executive producer. Williams’ son Alexander Williams, then aged four, provided the voice for Tiny Tim.
This adaptation of A Christmas Carol has a distinctive look, created by multiple pans and zooms and by innovative, unexpected scene transitions. The visual style, which is unusually powerful, is inspired by 19th century engraved illustrations of the original story by John Leech and the pen and ink renderings by illustrator Milo Winter that graced 1930s editions of the book. The intended audience does not include young children, and the film’s bleak mood and emphasis on darkness and shadows lead some to consider it the most frightening of the many dramatizations of the Dickens classic.
Originally produced as a 1971 television special, A Christmas Carol was considered so well done that it was subsequently released theatrically, thereby rendering it eligible for Oscar consideration, and the film did go on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for 1972. Some industry insiders took issue that a short originally shown on television was given the award, and the Academy responded by changing its policy, disqualifying any future works initially shown on television.