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Richard Williams (born on March 19, 1933 in Toronto, Ontario) is a Canadian animator. He is best known for serving as animation director on Disney/Amblin's Who Framed Roger Rabbit and for his unfinished feature film The Thief and the Cobbler. He was also a film title sequence designer and animator; his most famous works in this field included the title sequences to What's New, Pussycat? (1965), title and linking sequences in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). He also animated the eponymous cartoon feline for two of the later Pink Panther films.

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Career

He began his animation work at United Productions of America in the 1940s, where he apprenticed under notable artists from animation's Golden Age such as Chuck Jones, Ken Harris, Milt Kahl and Art Babbitt. He emigrated to Spain and then to England in 1955. In 1958 he produced the work that boosted his career, the BAFTA nominated The Little Island. In the Thames Television documentary "The Thief Who Never Gave Up", broadcast in the late 1980s, Williams credits animator Bob Godfrey with giving him his start in the business, "Bob Godfrey helped me...I worked in the basement and would do work in kind, and he would let me use the camera...[it was] a barter system".[1] After his noted work in the mid-1960s he went on to direct the Academy Award-winning A Christmas Carol (1971), the full-length feature Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977) and the Emmy-winning telefilm Ziggy's Gift (1982). He also served as director of animation on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), winning two more Oscars for his work. He has written an acclaimed animation how-to book, "The Animator's Survival Kit", published in 2000.

The Thief and the Cobbler

Richard Williams' magnum opus, a painstakingly hand-animated epic inspired by the Arabian Nights and with the production title The Thief and the Cobbler, was begun in 1968 and was initially self-funded. As a largely non-verbal feature meant for an adult audience, The Thief was initially dismissed as unmarketable. After over twenty years of work, Williams had completed only twenty minutes of the film, and following the critical success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Williams sought and secured a production deal with Warner Bros. in 1990. However, the production went over deadline, and in 1992, with only 15 minutes left to complete, The Completion Bond Company, who had insured Warners' financing of the film, feared competition from the similarly themed Disney film Aladdin and seized the project from Williams in Camden, London. Completion Bond then had the animation completed in Korea under the direction of animator Fred Calvert. Calvert's product was released internationally in 1994 as The Princess and the Cobbler. Miramax then acquired rights to the project and extensively rewrote and reanimated the film to include continuous dialogue and to add several musical interludes. Miramax's product was released in 1995 under the title Arabian Knight. In 2006, a fan of William's work named Garrett Gilchrist released a bootleg DVD with a restored version of the movie he made himself, mixing the original audio track, finished scenes, low quality images, pencil tests, and even pieces of the storyboard.

Personal life

Williams was one of a number of successful people in the entertainment industry to have come from Northern Secondary School in Toronto. Currently, Williams lives in Bristol with his fourth wife (Imogen Sutton) and two children (Leif and Natasha). Williams also has four children from two of his three previous marriages, including animator Alexander Williams and painter Holly Williams-Brock.

It's been said that Richard Williams is working on a top-secret animated film based on of the plays of Aristophanes. He himself has often said in jest that the title of the film is "I hope to finish before I die".

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