A few years ago, I met the great animator Richard Williams at the prestigious Annecy Film Festival. He seemed to know my work and was a fan – so we became good friends and talked intimately about his career and great animation.
I knew he didn't want to discuss his long-lost feature “The Thief and the Cobbler” so I delicately avoided that contoversial topic. However, there is now a wonderful documentary about that lost epic, it's called “Persistence of Vision” by Kevin Schreck. I saw it last week at the DOC NYC Festival.
Even though the reclusive Richard refused to be interviewed for the film, there are a lot of interviews with artists and friends of the Oscar-winning director. Plus, there are wonderful vintage interviews of Mr. Williams as he's in the process of making the film, and he talks about his frustration in raising the money to finance this masterpiece. Also, there are great interviews with Hollywood animation legends Ken Harris and Art Babbitt.
The consensus is that Mr. Williams was robbed of his magnum opus by Warner Brothers and the Completion Bond Company. Yet I don't believe it's that simple. I feel that Richard must share some of the blame. He promised to finish the film by a certain date, and he knew that if he failed to deliver, he would lose his masterwork. Those are the rules of Hollywood and he chose to play by those rules.
I've heard rumors that he may be receiving money soon to restart his production.
I do hope that's true, because the version released by Miramax, called “Arabian Knight”, was a travesty.