Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Thief and The Cobbler - A Moment in Time - by Andreas Wessel-Therhorn

The Golden City - part of the newly restored Director's Cut of The Thief
Last night on Tuesday December 10th Richard Williams introduced - for the first time ever - a newly-restored director's cut of his lost masterpiece The Thief and The Cobbler.  Titled The Thief and the Cobbler – A Moment in Time, the long-awaited screening took place at The Academy's Los Angeles home, the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. Animator, director and Academy member Andreas Wessel-Therhorn was there to tell us what we missed.

When Richard Williams announced a few weeks ago that he would screen ‘The Thief’ at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, many people were surprised and excited. Last night was the night.

The clans gather in Beverly Hills

The program opened when Randy Haberkamp, who had worked for years to make this event possible, introduced the 1972 best animated Short winner, 'A Christmas Carol’ , directed by Dick. What a treat to see this seasonal classic on the big screen, featuring animation by Ken Harris, the master layouts by Roy Naisbitt and the vocal stylings of a very young Alex Williams as ‘Tiny Tim’.

Tiny Tim
Then Dick took the stage and introduced the main attraction. He explained that what we were going to see was not a finished film, but a "dirty" or "slash dupe" made in great haste overnight after the infamous shut down of production in May 1992.

Dick talked about the film's main contributors, such as Ken Harris and Art Babbit, about Errol LeCain’s backgrounds, Roy Naisbitt’s layouts and his ingenious contraptions for the War machine - and the many people who helped to bring Dick’s vision to the screen.

The Animator Who Never Gave Up

Thanking Randy and his college pal Carl Bell for pursuing a public showing, a visibly moved Dick stood aside to present his unfinished masterpiece: The Thief and the Cobbler- A Moment in Time.

The capacity crowd, peppered with Animation professionals such as Eric Goldberg, John Musker, James Baxter, David Silverman, June Foray and many others, laughed at the antics of the Thief, marveled at the wonders of the Persian miniature come to life and watched in awe at the intricate destruction of the war machine.

One-Eye War Machine

Dick once again took to the stage to an enthusiastic and earnest standing ovation.

The evening concluded after a brief Q & A, where Dick once again thanked his crew and the Academy for making this screening possible.

On a personal note, this event brought back many memories: the good, the bad, and the over-worked. I couldn’t help but feel a deep gratitude to the man who gave me, like so many others, the opportunity to enter into this crazy business of Animation.

Taking on someone with virtually no experience other than a reasonable ability to draw and sharing his vast knowledge, giving someone a chance… this is something that does not happen anymore. Without Dick Williams and his pursuit of mastering a craft, learning from the people who came before him and passing their knowledge on to friends and competitors alike, there would not have been the thriving British animation industry of the 80s and 90s.

Andreas wears a hard-earned crew jacket
And I could not have been happier for him last night.

---Andreas Wessel-Therhorn

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