Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tom Sito Reviews Richard Williams' "Prologue"

A still image from "Prologue"
Animation director Richard Williams recently completed his long-anticipated short film Prologue, premiered at Annecy this past June and recently released in selected theatres in Los Angeles.  Tom Sito, Animator, Director, Historian and President Emeritus of the Animation Guild, wrote us a review of the film.  As a far as we can tell - this is the first review of "Prologue".

"Many artists as they gaze off and contemplate the Autumn of their careers, worry if their creative powers will fade as their physical abilities do.  Al Hirschfeld was still doing his weekly caricature for the NY Times the week he died, just shy of his 100th birthday.  Grim Natwick was still animating at 89.  Joe Grant died with a pencil in hand, at age 96.  Titian was painting into his 90s, and was only stopped by the Plague.

But such tales of heroes are the exception. Generally, most artist’s powers begin to fade by late middle age. Or their skills freeze into a stylistic era that quickly looks outdated. The normal process then is to channel one’s creative drive in other directions: supervision, instruction or writing (in my case, all of the above).

But Canadian/British animator Richard Williams never did things by the normal process. At the age of 82, the Master's drawing skill seems more in power than ever in his latest endeavor, the short film Prologue.
A still image from "Prologue" by Richard Williams

Meant to be an introduction to his eventual setting of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Prologue is anything but a comedy.  Greek warriors engaged in brutal graphic combat.  Children cry as the warriors spill their blood on the Field of Mars.  Warning: this is not for the squeamish, or for those expecting something more like Spongebob.

But we recognize the graphic effect is jarring all the more because of the superb technique in play. Here is Hand Drawn Animation in its purest form.  No distractions of color, effects or landscaping. The thick-thin, feathered pencil line as elegant as in any Chinese brush painting.  It is pencil art, alive for all to see.  For many of us who enjoyed Glen Keane or Milt Kahl’s rough animation tests even more than the finished film, this is a delight. For those who bemoan the loss of quality character work in mainstream animation as a consequence of the Digital Revolution, then rejoice. This film is your avenger.

Richard William showed us animators the way back in the 1960s with his film titles and commercials. He showed us the way in the 1970s with A Christmas Carol. He showed us the way in the 80s with Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

Now the Old Master shows us he is not done yet. After all these years, he is still taking us all back to school, and showing us how it is done.

Bravo Dick."

---Tom Sito


  1. I don't know if I will ever see the cartoon, but what a wonderful engaging artist and person with an amazing work ethic.

  2. This warms my heart to know that one of the greatest heros of all in animation brings deeper in content and extremely skilled animation that is based in its original art form, hand drawing.

  3. Brilliant Film! Well put Tom Sito! Pretty amazing work and definitely an inspiration and glimmer of hope for us traditionalists:)!

  4. Late to this, but totally disagree that most artist’s powers begin to fade by late middle age. It could be argued that some artists do peak early, but I believe most artists continue to do significant, even influential work late in life and are only stopped infirmity associated with aging or death.