Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Thief and the Cobbler

I watched plenty of animated movies as a kid, but only one has stuck with me for years and years: The Thief and the Cobbler. It wasn't a Disney movie, it wasn't any big-picture studio -- I always had the vague idea it was some small British outfit -- and it was totally surreal and artistic and unlike the other movies I was exposed to as a child.

Today, while talking with my friend Caroline who is heavily into animation, I learned that the version of the film released on video, as I saw it, was a cobbled-together, big-studio-driven money-recouping edit of a piece of handmade animation art that one guy worked on for years.

And as he has grown old, other animators have come together to realize, at least in part, the vision that he grew one frame at a time for more than 30 years, all by himself. This version, called the "recobbled" cut, can be viewed below, but note the following:

  • YouTube blocks some of the middle segments of the movie and you'll have to go to Vimeo to see them, or use a country-spoofing browser extension of some kind
  • for us the audio was about 15 seconds behind the video, so we opened two tabs and delayed the video in one, then muted it and ran audio from another copy of the video. Worked fine.

Go have a look, it's gorgeous. Completely gone are the songs they put in to make it a kiddie movie, and gone (as far as I saw) are the speaking portions for the main character. Try and remember as you watch that everything you see was hand-animated. Hand-drawn, one fraction of a second at a time.

And if you can't find twenty D&D-able ideas within this movie, you're not looking hard enough.

Final note: you can watch the documentary Persistence of Vision here. It is about Richard Williams and his quest to realize this film, his magnum opus. I have not watched it yet but I shall. And what a good title, too.

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