Monday, April 25, 2011

Preview Trailer - The Cobbler and the Thief Documentary

I've written before about Kevin Schreck, a student at Bard College in upstate New York. He's working on a documentary on the making of Richard Williams' The Cobbler and the Thief and he used Kickstarter in order to finance the project. It's now complete for his course and the preview trailer is above.

Kevin will continue to refine the film. As I am an investor ($25), I'll be receiving a DVD when it is finished and will be reviewing it here.

(I recognize Greg Duffell at 1:33 in the trailer, but not the other interview subjects. If you know who they are, please identify them in the comments.)


billburgnyc said...

I love the title, and the subject. I hope the film is not hagiographic; I'm very interested learning about the factors--both internal and external--that kept this film from being completed. The parts of "Thief" that I've watched look technically remarkable, but didn't seem to add up to much of a movie (of course, it wasn't finished...). I'd consider driving up to Bard to catch the screening in May.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I've seen the Richard Williams version of the film (with Richard Williams) and will say I'd rather have seen HIS version completed. But that doesn't mean I think it's a "great" or even very good movie. It isn't. Fascinating? An achievement? Technically remarkable? Yes. Emotionally engaging? Paced well from a story, character, and visual pov? Clear? Hell no. Even Williams' calls it his "Mammoth Ego Trip." That it is. Most people who praise this film as something more than it ever was haven't really looked at it. The animation is masturbatory, serving nothing but the animator. And it lacks any character at all--which is compounded by the fact that most of the characters move precisely the same.

The fact that Williams' is responsible for the film being taken away from him is also something I hope the film covers. He agreed to complete the film on a schedule and a budget provided him. When he couldn't, the film was taken away. Same as Ren and Stimpy. Cries of "But I'm an ARTIST" and "My film was stolen!" are sad last resorts of neurotic people with no self respect.

I'm looking forward to this. Here's hoping it's NOT a "love fest." The film and it's history deserves more respect than that.

Thad said...

Where else but in animation could an unfinished film receive so much praise and adulation?

Fuzzy Duck said...
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Fuzzy Duck said...
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Anonymous said...

I hope you interview some members of the Insurance bond company, Warner Brothers, and Miramax who were involved in the films "transition." As well as interviews with the multitudes of L.A. animation artists who helped "complete" the released matter how bad it was.

Mark Mayerson said...

Hey Thad, are you familiar with Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico or Welles' It's All True? Welles, unfortunately, has other unfinished films that are subjects of interest like The Other Side of the Wind. And then there's Von Sternberg's version of I, Claudius.

I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface.

Thad said...
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Fuzzy Duck said...
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Kevin Schreck said...

Thanks for posting this, Mark!

To anonymous: Don't worry, it won't be a love fest. Richard Williams is an important figure in animation and a fascinating personality, but this will not be a black and white "little guy vs. Hollywood" story. Things are far too complex, and interesting, to limit the real-life story to that.

Anonymous: I approached some people who were involved with the film after Williams lost ownership of it, but virtually none of them wanted to go on record or were available.

Also, for those who are interested, here are the interviewees featured in the trailer (in order of appearance):

-Philip Pepper (a leading technical animator on the film when it was being made in Camden)
-Antonia Dewhurst (rendering artist from the same era)
-Brent Odell (leading animator)
-Howard Blake (story development artist for Williams' feature and a composer at the studio)
-Greg Duffell (worked as an inbetweener at the studio from 1973-1974)


Thad said...

Let me add that regardless of my own feelings, I look forward to seeing Kevin's documentary ('the greatest animated film never made' is a bit of a turnoff though), as it seems to be much needed. And I completely sympathize with, understand, and appreciate his approach to making it.

Thad said...

Hey Mark, I'm only familiar with the Welles material, not the others. I need to clarify, I don't have a problem with the research and fascination of unfinished films, but the artistic martyrdom mindset applied to things like "Thief and the Cobbler" gets on my nerves. That may explain why Welles has never done much for me, ever.

Laukku said...

Anonymous: I have to disagree about the animation being completely devoid of character. I find that to be a ridiculous exaggeration.

For one thing, all of the characters have very different body proportions, which makes it hard if not impossible to make them move 100% the same. They also have recognisable mannerisms: ZigZag uses his hands to express himself a lot, and Tack tends to hold things very delicately. The two titular characters manage to convey different personalities without any spoken words.

There are also a lot of inventive facial expressions that I like. ZigZag and the Witch in particular go off-model in an almost John K. -type fashion.

That said, the film does have parts that leave a lot to be desired in terms of acting, but so do all animated films. None of them is perfect.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous: I have to disagree about the animation being completely devoid of character. I find that to be a ridiculous exaggeration."

Not at all an exaggeration. Body proportions aside, the characters all move as the animator chooses (and are, in fact, the same), in a rather maturbatory fashion. They do not move in a way that reveals character, and are not driven by the individual character's motivations. It's animation for animation's sake, not "character animation."

Anonymous said...

I was glad to get animation work on this as it saved us when Bluth went bellyup.It's also the film that got me interested in animation as a teen because my granparents' neighbhour was an old college friend of Dick Williams and would receive his famous annual 3d xmas cards and she would show them to me knowing i had an interest in art.
when i was working on it ,i got an entire "original" Ken Harris scene
to use as reference(i kept one drawing for myself...shhhh!)