Location: Los Angeles, California

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Thief and the Cobbler

In animation circles, "The Thief and the Cobbler" is pretty much considered the Holy Grail. A project of love for animator Richard Williams (the 3-time Oscar winner who created the animation for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"), the film was in production off and on for 23 years (the longest production time ever for a movie).

Yet, when Williams missed his 1991 deadline, Warner Bros. snatched the film away from him. This was done partly because Disney was working on a similarly-themed movie called "Aladdin." Warner Bros. had animators in Korea finish Williams' film. Original scenes were cut, new song sequences were inserted, and a narration was added (all without Williams' approval). The film was then sold to Disney, who made further revisions and barely released the film in 1995.

I recall seeing the film in 1995, and while it underwhelmed on a story level, the animation was some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. You could clearly tell which scenes were animated by Williams' team, and which were quickly added in by the overseas production crew.

I bring this all up because now a guy named Garrett Gilchrist is attempting to piece "The Thief and the Cobbler" back together, trying to get it to match Williams' original vision. This is a testament to the passion of internet fans, who have been bootlegging lost films, adding fan subtitles to anime shows, and reediting butchered films for the past decade.

Here's the trailer (click Free and wait 30 seconds).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This version of The Thief and the Cobbler misses one of the most amazing scenes in the movie, which I saw on English television when I was visiting London in the fall of 1988. I suspect it was an episode of "The South Bank Show" hosted by Melvin Bragg. Anyway, the scene must have been an expanded version of the atmospheric but very short introduction that the recobbled version starts with. In it, one has the powerful, incantatory narration while looking from a distance at the golden city. The camera or shot moves into the city in an amazing, surreal, hallucinatory and spiralling way, as if created with the most complex dolly shot in all of history, although it's all done by animation, of course. It was absolutely magical. I thought the narrator for that scene was Vincent Price, which would explain the drawings of the wizard's hands which one sees in the recobbled version's opening.

If I had to review the film: First of all, it's great to see this masterpiece, or the remains of a masterpiece, in some sort of recognizable form. I saw the execrable American butchering in the 1990s, and every moment, every second of that made me squirm with displeasure. Here, I'd say that the best parts are the scenes of evil, with their deep, saturated colors and visionary power. The comical and heroic characters generally have a cutesy feeling, and a lot of the shots of the golden city, all candy-colored pastel and soft-focus drawing, look rather dated in a 1960s/1970s way. But the scenes of evil are undying classics.

If you are not burning a CD and you simply want to view the movie, you only need to download 4 .vob files from the numerous files in the bittorrent: vts_01_1.vob, vts_01_2.vob, vts_01_3.vob, and vts_01_4.vob. That should save you some on download time.

Then you might want to do what I did, which was to convert the .vob files to .mpg files. I used my free file conversion software from eRightSoft, and then watched the files with Windows Media Player, which all worked out fine.

If someone has better movie making software than I have, or is more skilled than I am, maybe it would be a good idea to make the four .mpg files, then splice them together and then post the film as a zipped file at Rapidshare.

3:04 AM  

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