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: # 10121Post Garrett Gilchrist
Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:12 pm

"He worked up to six o’clock in the evening on the day he died ..."
https://lwlies.com/articles/richard-wil ... er-rabbit/

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

Post: # 10122Post Garrett Gilchrist
Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:39 pm

Richard Williams often told an anecdote about Ken Harris saying, in response to the Zigzag playing cards scene, "You could be an animator." (Including the addition that that didn't mean "good animator.") That sort of sums up Dick's personality - he wanted to be proud of his work but also keep himself humble, or at least that was the lesson he was trying to impart. He had animated a great (even classic) scene that he would be hugely proud of, but also had some self-doubt about that, at least in how he framed how he told the story to others. As if he was doing great things, but in the wrong way - or that they wouldn't be appreciated enough by people for the confidence he had about them. The typical artist thing, where he had a big ego balanced out by equally big self-doubt, and was always comparing himself to the animators who had inspired him. He seemed to feel both sides of that strongly enough that he turned them into a lesson. Ken Harris was pretty humble himself and was never proud of his own drawing skills, which made him a good match with Dick, who could always draw. Dick used to tell a story about how Ken Harris would say that Dick's beautifully-drawn "Charge of the Light Brigade" work "didn't move so well." Ken Harris' work moved well. So they combined their talents for A Christmas Carol and won an Oscar.

Officially the scene where Richard figured out the character of Zigzag. He often insisted on animating Zigzag himself during the 90s production, or at least having a pass at the scenes.

Dick was known as a technical animator rather than a character animator, but sometimes his fluid, hyper-focused style defines the character, as with Zigzag (and indeed Tack, The Thief, Raggedy Andy, the early Roger Rabbit, the Witch, etc ...). So much is said about the character in his movements.

Gene McGuckin asks: Do you know why Richard Williams didn't get back on it? Especially after his fame from Roger Rabbit.

Nicholas John Pozega: He didnt own the film by that point anymore.

Garrett Gilchrist: As far as I know he wasn't allowed to even discuss the film, for about twenty years, but he'd already retired for awhile. He became a teacher instead and never went back to mainstream animation. He needed a few years to recover from all that, and had mixed feelings about it til the end of his life. I heard a rumor that he tried to watch my version once, and I have to expect he was freaked out by the off-model footage he hadn't directed.

Gene McGuckin asks: What's different from [The Recobbled Cut] over the original release?

Garrett Gilchrist: Every single frame and it took 8 years of work.

Gene McGuckin: And we can't get this version on DVD or something?

Garrett Gilchrist: No, and we never will.

Gene McGuckin: Damn.

Garrett Gilchrist: To be clear, I am a well known expert on The Thief and the Cobbler. I spent 8 years restoring The Thief and the Cobbler. I can't watch the film which was released as "The Thief and the Cobbler" for more than a minute or so at a time because it's not any good, and most people agree with me.

Gene McGuckin: When you say "never," I can only hope that you are being pessimistic about it. But I'm sure you have big company fighting you on it. Such a shame.

Garrett Gilchrist: Probably, although I can't say anything concrete. No one's ever asked me about it directly, or told me anything. My version, which again took 8 years to create, would be impossible to release on home video, and inadvisable because better materials exist than I had, if there was ever budget for me to supervise an official restoration. Now that would take another year at least, and could even include some new art for fun, as our version did. The result would be one of the greatest animated films ever made, so it would be worth it (as indeed my restoration was worth the work). I was working from rare VHS and DVD materials for 2/3rds of the film, but 35mm elements of the ruined and incomplete versions exist somewhere. There seems to be a longstanding order on the books - I don't know on whose orders - to never release this film in decent quality that would allow it to be reappraised. I ignored that and created the best version possible under the circumstances.

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

Post: # 10123Post Garrett Gilchrist
Fri Aug 23, 2019 6:10 pm

THE DEVIL'S RADIO

The master animator Richard Williams was both well respected and a laughing-stock in the industry for about a decade after The Thief and the Cobbler's production was shut down, and before he released The Animator's Survival Kit. Richard needed time to recover after losing the film, and probably wasn't legally allowed to talk about it. Richard had been working on that film in other forms since the 1960s, and as a side project during the 70s and 80s, because he couldn't get it funded until 1989, when Roger Rabbit was so successful.

He considered it a badge of honor that he'd worked so long developing the film, and a mark of how high quality he wanted the film to be. Indeed the sequences he'd completed before the 1990ish production were incredible, including all of the Thief inside the War Machine. For him that was all a promotional tool, a statement of intent. He wanted to make a great film, when the money was there.

However, many people in the industry took the fact that he'd been working on the film so long as a sign that he'd just sort of been screwing around all that time, and was obsessed, with no intent to actually complete the film. A lot of people still believe that. To believe that, you have to ignore that this was a side project when he was winning hundreds of awards including three Oscars for other projects. People say he had no plan, but Margaret's script was in place with scene numbers by 1980. People say he had no storyboards until the 90s, but I've seen the storyboards he used before the 90s, drawn for earlier versions of the film. I've held them in my hands.

Most of what we actually see in the Recobbled Cut was completed during the 90s production (all but 20 minutes of it) and Richard was actually moving at a pretty good pace, typical of animated features of the time but with his same high quality standards. There are two transfers of Richard's workprint - one on U-Matic and Richard's own 35mm dupe "A Moment In Time." There's actually quite a bit more completed in "A Moment In Time" if you look carefully, and not much time separates the two.

Richard was good at accepting a budget that was just a little bit too low for his ambitious intentions, and finishing 90% of a masterpiece with it. Raggedy Ann, A Christmas Carol, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit all required finishing by other hands. The Thief was no different - he needed more time and more budget. Alex Williams says he needed four months. Let's be safer and say six months to a year.

To this day, people will say Richard was out of control. That he'd been screwing around with the same movie for decades and had no intention of completing it.

Every existing document we've come across suggests the opposite - that the 90s production of The Thief and the Cobbler was a fairly ordinary one, that Dick was perfectly in control and about as much on time/budget as he ever had been (which is to say, he was over budget).

George Harrison called gossip "The Devil's Radio." It's fair to say that The Devil's Radio was part of why Dick got fired from his own film. The fact that he'd been working on the film so long became a liability instead of a mark of the excellence that Dick intended. It was used - and still is used - as proof that Dick was working slowly, at a moron's pace.

It was used as proof, to the Warners executives, that Dick was out of control and would never finish the film. Fred Calvert said it. And animators who had worked with Richard in the 1970s and 80s would often say, "He's lying to you! We animated that scene back in 1978!" Well, yes and no. A lot of pencil-test animation was completed when the film was a side-project, used for training new animators. But "completed" is a strong word, as Richard's standards for animation - and the public's standards for animation - were higher in 1992 than they were in 1978. Those old pencil tests were very rough and not up to standard, the designs of the characters had changed, and material was reanimated for the final film.

Dick had not had funding for the film until 1989, outside of the War Machine sequence, produced as a test years earlier. When he got funding from Warners, he worked quickly enough to produce what you see in the Recobbled Cut- and it's one of the great animated films.

He wanted to finish it. He would have finished it. It's a shame he wasn't allowed to.

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

Post: # 10128Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sat Aug 24, 2019 4:07 pm

David T. Nethery writes-

I really appreciate what you wrote in those posts and I agree with you. I think that whole angle of "Dick's been working on this thing for 20+ years and he'll never finish it because it's just an obsession , it's not a real movie, it's his hobby" has been grossly exaggerated over the years. As you point out , it was a part-time project during years when he was very active running a very successful studio , doing brilliant animation for commercials and movie titles , then directing the animation for Roger , and finally he got some real money to make the film. I think he would have finished it , but someone got nervous and believed the gossip about "he doesn't want to finish it , he'll just keep spending money until it's all gone and you won't have a finished movie". But that spin never rang true to me.

One of my teachers at Sheridan had worked on the War Machine sequence and told me about the film , and I had seen the Thames documentary (The Thief Who Never Gave Up") , I had previously read the John Canemaker book on the making-of Raggedy Ann and Andy which had information about The Thief , so I was very aware of Richard Williams and The Thief and the Cobbler for years before I met him on Roger Rabbit . I was working on the second-unit in California under Dale and Jane Baer's supervision , but Dick visited us a couple of times. When The Thief was taken away from Dick , the Baer's were one of the studios who were asked to submit a bid to finish it. (I was working at Baer's at the time and was excited to think we might work on The Thief ... we saw a lot of the film on 3/4 video) Baer's turned in a realistic budget for finishing the film , so of course their bid was not accepted because it wasn't cheap enough. I think Baer's would have finished it with real integrity , but it was not to be ...


Garrett Gilchrist: Well put David. Unfortunately the brief was to finish it as cheaply as possible, just to fulfill the completion bond situation - and that was Calvert's only goal. He came up with a new workprint and gameplan for the film and never deviated from it much even when it was clear early on that it was going to be terrible.

David T. Nethery : I know it's been discussed a lot and it's all water under the bridge now , but I never understood Calvert's thinking in terms of the mandate to "get it finished as quickly and cheaply as possible" and yet he threw out completed footage from the Williams version and added new sequences with songs that had to be animated. That makes no sense to me.

Garrett Gilchrist writes: He hated Richard's version because it was "slow" - they all did - so he came up with his own version but it was incompetent.

I've read the writer notes - even at that point they had to follow Calvert's exact plan in terms of footage used.

Here's something I wrote elsewhere:

Because Richard had been talking about it as a masterpiece for so long, it had this reputation. And so Fred Calvert wanted people to think that he TRIED to do Richard's work as much justice as possible, but that there just wasn't a movie there to begin with, because Richard was crazy and out of control … it's all just bullshit. He wanted to make his own version of the movie. I have read the notes that the writers did for Fred Calvert, and a lot of thought was put into making Fred Calvert's version of the movie. And it was always going to be terrible, and he gradually realized that, I think to his own horror. He wanted to make it cheaply.

Calvert just had no respect for Williams' original, and it would have been a lot less work to finish the film in a more accurate way, even with inferior animation. He insisted on making these changes.

Early on, Warners and Calvert had tried to cut the movie down, but this is an animated film which mostly plays out in long shot. It's not like a live action film where you have other footage and you can cut to a closeup. So I have these versions that they tried, just seeing if they could cut it down, and it's all these illegal jump cuts in the middle of scenes, it makes no sense. Because you can't do it.

It's not even a long film, it's short, it's about 90 minutes in any incarnation. It's slowly paced, it's carefully paced, but you don't actually change that by cutting scenes. People probably think the scenes of the Thief climbing through pipes are really long and slow, but it's just a minute here, a minute there. They tried to cut it shorter, but there's no way to do that without just cutting the scene for no reason. You can't actually turn it into a different kind of movie than it is. You can break it, you can ruin it, but you can't make it better, you can't make it faster. The movie is already exactly the kind of movie it wants to be, and every cut you make, every change you make, just sort of breaks it.


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

Post: # 10132Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sat Aug 24, 2019 8:20 pm

Peter Western writes: Carl Gover was Dick's producer and very helpful to me in my fledgling freelance career, later on in the early 80s when he set up his own studio, Animation Partnership.

"We turn down between eight and ten jobs a week".

Carl handed out jobs to other studios, like the 'Busby' commercials for British Telecom when the Williams studio got overloaded.

Carl Gover writes: ...and consequently was accused of lowering the standards. But it was absolutely necessary for me to get work from all over the world in order to keep the studio afloat. Dick spent money like water but the studios capacity was limited - so unbeknown to our clients I subcontracted a lot of animation to avoid bankruptcy - and to keep production going on "The Thief", alongside commercials and title sequences.


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

Post: # 10168Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sun Sep 01, 2019 9:34 am

anonymous asked:

Will there be a Mark 5 of the Recobbled Cut?


I spent eight years creating the Mark 4. You can read about the huge amount of work that was over at my message board.

I have no idea how I was able to do that much work. I doubt I could do that again, especially without official resources at my side.

I would suggest being happy with the Recobbled Cut we’ve got!

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