Saturday, December 1, 2012

Film Review - Persistence of Vision; The Untold Story of the Greatest Animated Film Never Made

FLIP invited animator and storyboard artist Michael Schlingman to review Kevin Schreck's new documentary film Persistence of Vision - The Untold Story of the Greatest Animated Film Never Made, about the making of The Thief and The Cobbler. Michael worked on The Thief, and was also interviewed for Persistence of Vision. He went to a special screening of the film in Leeds last week.

Michael Schlingmann at work on The Thief

FLIP: You worked on The Thief and The Cobbler. How did you feel about going to see Persistence of Vision?

MS: I was slightly apprehensive about the movie, not because I doubted it would be interesting, but because I was interviewed for it 2 years ago and just wondered what sort of nonsense I may have spouted.

FLIP: Did you enjoy the film?

MS: For anyone who knows little about The Thief, this film must be a real mind-blower. For starters it is a competent introduction to the general work of Richard Williams, spending the first hour concentrating on the rise of his business in London, commercial work and finally his involvement in Who framed Roger Rabbit?.

Interwoven through all this is the tale of Dick and the two Shah brothers, the development of the Nasruddin illustrations and their transition into the film medium. All this is peppered with soundbites from Ramon Modiano, Richard Burdett, John Culhane and Howard Blake, recounting their time in the studio long long before any of us arrived for the final sprint.

When the film kicks into Thief gear, the arc of : "takeoff, flight and crash" becomes palpable, and even though you know the outcome, you still find yourself rooting for the film-maker.

FLIP: Does the film take sides?

MS: Both sides of the struggle between artist and financier are told by people who themselves had no stake in the affair, so instead of trying to find out who was to blame for the crash, it points out the basic incompatibility between the investors and the guy with the vision. And while I fully understand that Mr Williams did not want to talk about it, and though it would have been interesting to hear his angle, I think it has not really been to the detriment of this documentary.

Dick certainly comes out smelling of roses. After all, who would have wanted to see a film about a financially successful artistic compromise?

The end of the movie concentrates on what The Thief turned into and the influences, the material had on Disney's Aladdin. There are some amusing comparisons.

Michael Schlingmann on The Thief
FLIP: It must have brought back a lot of memories.

MS: What struck me most of all was the footage of the impromptu wrap party, that happened when the Completion Bond Company closed down production. Because I left the film some 2 months prior, I was not there at the very end, and seeing the lost look on Roy Naisbitt's face when the camera inadvertently catches his eye sent shiver down my spine.

FLIP: How did Kevin Schreck get involved in The Thief?

MS: Kevin Schreck said, that he had a lifelong fascination with The Thief. Lifelong indeed; when Dick signed the production deal with Warner Bros in 1988 Mr Schreck presumably wasn't yet born.

Film-maker Kevin Schreck

FLIP: Do you recommend the film?

MS: To sum it up, Persistence of Vision is a love letter to the stamina and artistry of an animation icon, and without any attempt at sycophancy and saccharine coating, rings true about the creative struggle facing people with real ideas in a "big money industry". There is even a touching moment when one of the Nasruddin stories is told to emphasize a particular point.

I hope it gets a wider release, if copyright issues will or can ever be resolved. And if it plays at a festival near you... go and see it.

Editor's note: Persistence of Vision - the Story of the Greatest Animated Film Never Made is currently playing in limited release in selected venues.


  1. certainly want to see it and compare how it lines up with what i remember of that exciting time

  2. I would love to see it as well...but I don't really know how when or where! Michael's review was the first I had heard of it.... --- Alex

  3. Having see it now, I think michael's review is spot on