The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

Post: # 10092Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:59 pm

"The Recobbled Cut is a valuable and sensitive attempt at restoration that hints at the extraordinary work that The Thief and the Cobbler could have been if Williams had been allowed to complete it ... The remarkable and singular look of the film would have adequately papered over the narrative cracks. It’s a fun adventure romp blessed with some of the most eye-wateringly beautiful animation you could ever wish to see."

https://eofftvreview.wordpress.com/2019 ... bler-1992/

Note: Nothing from Howard Blake's short script was used, and it's weird that anyone talks about it now. Margaret French wrote the film, in roughly final form before 1980, and deserves all that credit.

She's the credited screenwriter in all released versions of the film, which is accurate. I have a 1980ish script by her which is either titled The Thief Who Never Gave Up or Once -- there's a sticker of the latter over the former -- and it matches the final film exactly, including the scene numbers which appear on the artwork and cels. It is talkier- there's more dialogue and a few scenes and characters which were later cut. I wasn't aware this was controversial or needed to be said, but there it is.

(I've also read the musician Howard Blake's short "Tin Tack" treatment, absolutely none of which was used or resembles the film in any way.)

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

Post: # 10093Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:01 pm

"Gilchrist’s assemblage hints at how monumental a finished Thief and the Cobbler might have been. It combines Williams’s jaw-dropping use of simulated camera movement, his love of smooth character animation, and so many other wonderful talents to create one of the great might-have-beens of film history and a tribute to an exacting and demanding animator who kept creating stunning work — all drawn by hand — right up until his twilight years."

https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/8/20/2 ... nk-panther

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

Post: # 10096Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:09 pm

"He was — and this is not an exaggeration — the greatest animator in the world and had been for decades. Over the course of his career, he conjured unreal visions solely with pen and paper, resisting almost all use of computers (toward the end of his life, digital entered his process for the final compositing stage, but never for the actual animation). A notoriously exacting boss at his company, Richard Williams Animation, such attention to detail produced a singular style and beauty rarely matched and even more rarely exceeded in the form."

https://hyperallergic.com/513949/richar ... -obituary/



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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

Post: # 10100Post Garrett Gilchrist
Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:21 am

While legally distinct, The Thief and the Cobbler was developed out of material already developed for the overcomplicated Nasrudin film (1960s-1972). Nasrudin was simpler in terms of animation but was episodic with vastly more characters and too much story, to fit its satirical tone in which authority figures were nonsensical. Williams used some of the same storyboards (for decades!) and had a simpler story written (by Margaret French Williams) which used many of the same ideas, expanding on the stuff Williams had particularly liked (like the Thief character, the King, the Brigands, the dying messenger, the golden city, the invading army, and several characters who became Zigzag). It's not clear whether the material animated for the Nasrudin film still exists anywhere - very little of it has turned up. (Yes, the "Majestic Fool" Nasrudin script is online at my site somewhere.)

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Re: The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

Post: # 10101Post Garrett Gilchrist
Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:05 am

In a 1995 Los Angeles Times article about the release of Arabian Knight, producer Jake Eberts claims that Richard Williams was obsessed with the Thief character and only animating him at the expense of the rest of the picture. I wonder if he really believed that or if he was trying to place blame for the film's failure on the fired director, who wouldn't speak about the film publicly for another 20+ years and may not have been legally allowed to speak about it.

That may have been how the Warner executives saw the workprint - that it was mostly material of The Thief, and that the Cobbler and Princess were very underrepresented. Indeed in the familiar VHS workprint especially, The Thief's material is almost entirely finished as color sequences, while most of Tack and Yum Yum - and therefore the main storyline - is merely storyboards.

The truth is not that Richard was obsessed with The Thief character above all else. The truth is that The Thief came together as a character well before any other main character in this film. About 50 minutes of 35mm film exists in the hands of an unnamed animator, and most of the reels predate the Warner production by several years. They are full of completed footage of The Thief, including the finished, colored climactic sequence of The Thief inside the War Machine in its entirety. There is also the opening and the scene where The Thief steals an Emerald, which has a cruder art style and is clearly left over from production in the 1970s.

This amounts to about twenty minutes of the finished film. It's mostly Thief footage, and it was all complete and ready to go a decade before the Warner Bros production ended.

Ken Harris, who was animating The Thief early on, was also a famously fast animator who created a vast amount of footage. Williams kept feeding him scenes to work on, and his old pencil tests were almost all useable in the final film, once The Thief character had been redrawn a bit and the animation made a little fancier-looking. For the Warners production, other animators like Holger Leihe stepped in for new and improved Thief scenes, but Harris had very clearly defined the essence of the character decades earlier and there was no confusion about how exactly to complete the character's part in the film.

Art Babbitt had been assigned to Zigzag to an extent in the seventies, and to King Nod. Babbitt was a great teacher but he was aging, and often only drawing stick figures at that point, or simple television-type animation of the Courtiers. His King Nod and Phido the vulture are more interesting, with some very full animation, but also look a lot more like Disney characters than Richard intended. Most of Art Babbitt's work was not useable in the final film. Most of the King Nod scenes seemed to go in a different direction, and everything with Zigzag was discarded. His work on Phido was considered useable, but was heavily redrawn with a different design for the final. They had to evolve a lot more than The Thief.

Dick had defined the character of Zigzag well before production began at Warners with the famous playing cards scene, plus a few other scenes, including one with King Nod looking worried, which made it to the final film and defined the look of King Nod himself. King Nod's design, like the design of the Witch, would be updated from these older designs but not hugely so.

Grim Natwick had done animation of the old witch which was useable only when redrawn. Emery Hawkins, who was aging out of his ability to animate, animated many strange scenes of the witch and the transforming Meemee and Bubba, none of which was useable and which was cut from the script at Warners' request.

The Brigands largely kept their designs from the Nasrudin days, though this was updated and improved over time. The old storyboards and layouts were used for decades, giving them a shaggy 70s look.

Eventually, one test shot each was done of the Cobbler and the Princess, both of which made it to the final film in some form. The Cobbler got a shuffling, silent-comedy walk based on Babbitt's animation (Zigzag is leading him around in the final). Princess Yumyum's test shot is seen when Zigzag says "Oh rose of the land" and she walks backward into shadow. Based on footage from a Bollywood film, the Princess has more realistic proportions in this shot than in the film otherwise. The famous checkerboard chase scene between the Thief and the Cobbler provided Tack the Cobbler's final model.

Warners executives may have gotten bored during the final workprint screening, and decided that Dick had been obsessively animating "only The Thief," whose scenes are mostly complete in the film. That requires a biased viewing of the workprint, but the truth is that the finished footage of each character in the workprint is based, to an extent, on when their character designs actually came together, and the Cobbler and Princess were still being designed and redesigned when the Warner production began. A whole lot of The Thief's footage existed in some form already at that point, and Richard had figured out what he wanted to do with Zigzag, who he often animated himself. King Nod and the Witch had just been redesigned but not vastly so.

The Cobbler and the Princess, on the other hand, were still a bit tentative and new. Their designs in the famous "Once" brochure aren't quite right, or in their test shots. Tack has more of a 60s "Hawaiian Punch" design in the early work before 1989 and the Princesses are not very distinctive compared to the sexier final Yum Yum design. (Tissa David's earlier animation of the Princesses is interesting though, some of which survives in the bath scene in the Recobbled.)

Nothing of the Princess in her familiar model was animated until the 90s, and Dick was looking at live-action and working with female animator Alyson Hamilton among others to figure her out.

Richard had still been using the old Nasrudin storyboards for decades, and getting away with it when this was just a side project that wasn't fully funded. This doesn't pose a big problem for characters who were largely the same in the 70s. The Brigands could use the old boards for a shaggy 70s look, and so could Zigzag to an extent, and King Nod.

The Cobbler and Princess required new storyboards more than any other characters, and Richard didn't draw those boards until the 90s Warners production. They're gorgeous storyboards which almost function as layouts on their own, but it also means that Tack and Yum Yum got a late start as characters, and it shows in the workprint.

On the bright side, this means that they're the most modern-looking characters in the film, looking more 90s than the rest of the designs, and very appealing.

What footage of them is finished is gorgeous, but pretty much limited to the beginning of the film, and you can't help but wish there was a lot more of it to define these characters. Instead they're largely defined, in the Recobbled Cut, by lackluster Calvert animation.

There are several shots which don't appear in the familiar VHS workprint but do appear, mostly as pencil test, in Richard's "A Moment In Time" workprint, which was made slightly after (when Dick was fired). Other shots have turned up partially as cels, or were clearly finished based on what appears in Calvert's cut. Many of these shots turn up in the post-Williams attempt to cut down the film which we call the Keramidas Cut, or in Calvert's Work In Progress of Princess and the Cobbler. They are therefore in the Recobbled Cut, but in low quality.

So these are the last shots Dick managed to complete before being fired, and the vast majority of them are of the Cobbler and the Princess. Those characters had become a priority and footage was being created at great speed - too late for Warners' liking I expect.

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Re: The Thief and the Cobbler: Recobbled Cut Mark 4

Post: # 10102Post Garrett Gilchrist
Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:37 am

(I'm writing these because people are asking me questions about things they don't understand about the production, and I'm writing down what happened as far as I understand it.)

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