Groundbreaking animator Richard Williams passed away on Friday, August 16, 2019, at his home in Bristol, England, at the age of 86. Mr. Williams’ most widely-known work was as the animation director for Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where Bob Hoskins shared screen-time seamlessly with numerous iconic animated characters. His work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit earned him two Academy Awards: a Special Achievement Award for animation direction and a shared award for Best Visual Effects (alongside Ken Ralston, Ed Jones, and George Gibbs). Animators and animation fans know him from his iconic text The Animator’s Survival Kit, originally published in 2002 and updated in 2009 to cover the Internet, and for his incomplete magnum opus The Thief and the Cobbler. The Animator’s Survival Kit is an indispensable guide to the art of animation, showing “methods, principles, and formulas,” and extensively used within the animation industry both in print form and as a 16-DVD boxed set.
Mr. Williams began work on The Thief and the Cobbler in 1964 as a self-funded project, aspiring to produce an animated feature inspired by the Arabian Nights, featuring little-to-no dialogue and targeting an adult audience. He had completed 20 minutes of the film by the time he gained acclaim for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which allowed him to secure financing to finish the movie. However, the film had run over deadline by 1992, resulting in the financing company seizing control of the movie from Mr. Williams and completing it with the assistance of animator Fred Calvert, releasing it the next year as The Princess and the Cobbler. It was later re-acquired by Miramax, which extensively re-cut and edited the film to release it again in 1995 as Arabian Knight. A workprint of the movie titled A Moment in Time was screened in Los Angeles in 2013, remaining the only version of the movie that came close to his original intentions for it.
In addition to his Academy Awards for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mr. Williams won a Best Animated Short Oscar for 1971’s “A Christmas Carol” and nominated one more time in 2016 with his wife Imogen Sutton for “Prologue.”
(Additional Sources: Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database. Splash image of Richard Williams at the Annecy Animation Festival in 2015 via Wikipedia, Boungawa [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)])