|Art Director Roy Naisbitt at work|
Dick (as the director is known in the animation business) chose to call this screening “A Moment in Time” as this was the last day he worked on “The Thief”. Subsequently, the film was “finished” by various studios around the world, most significant of which was Premier films, a unit set up by principle cameraman John Leatherbarrow, key animator, Neil Boyle and key effects animation designer, John Cousins on “The Thief”. They attempted to maintain the high standards set by Dick. Unhappily, other studios took the budget issued by the completion bond company and rushed out sequences with small regard for quality.
|The Director at BFI. Photo: Pete Western|
|Art Director Roy Naisbitt. Photo: Pete Western|
It could perhaps be properly termed an epic ‘art’ film. But unlike many so-called art movies, this just happened to be conceived by some highly talented artists collaborating over the course of 30 years or more. It is at this juncture that mention should be made of a few of these highly creative originators. No disrespect is meant by the omission here of the names of literally hundreds of people who worked on the film, all of whom were utterly dedicated to helping Richard Williams to realise his vision.
|Selfie with Pete and the Director|
Rostrum cameraman, John Leatherbarrow was charged with the responsibility of getting this work onto film and he came up with exposures and lighting- effects, purely in camera, on film, with no access to computers at that time. The result of Roy’s and John’s technical film savvie is superior to what contemporary CGI films achieve, even today.
|Mad and Holy Old Witch|
Anything Dick learned from these masters of the medium, he would pass on to younger generations of animators, privately and in worldwide lectures. They, in turn, would pass on this received knowledge. Eventually Richard Williams published a book and DVDs called “The Animator’s Survival Kit” written and illustrated by himself and his protégée, Neil Boyle, of the principles of animation – everything he had learned from the masters of the medium. It may end up as Dick’s lasting legacy that he will be remembered by future generations of animators.
Although Dick claims not to have seen either of these works and does not want to as “it would bring back too many bad memories”, he did concede that the fact that they have created so much discussion may have led to AMPAS archiving his version. The fact that he can now talk about “The Thief” suggests closure of the whole business on his part.
When Richard Williams was chosen to direct “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in the 80s by Steven Spielberg and the Disney management, the subsequent worldwide success of that technologically- groundbreaking movie led directly to the funding of “The Thief” by the Hollywood powers-that-be.
|Rabbit storyboard panel by Williams|
|Early design sketch for ZigZag|
--- Pete Western
(Editor's note: You can see more of Pete Western's animation and story board work at www.peterwestern.com)