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Richard Williams (1933-2019)

The animation community has lost another giant this week, as it's been announced that the great Richard Williams has passed away. Williams is best known as the animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the author of the indispensable The Animatior's Survival Kit, a book which is considered required reading for all animators. He even dabbled in voice acting, providing the voice of Droopy on a number of occasions.

Born in Canada, Williams later moved to the US where he worked for Disney in Burbank, California. His time there was influential on his later work but creatively stifling, and in 1955 he moved to the UK to work for George Dunning's TV Cartoons Ltd. He worked mainly on commercial work, but also produced his first animated short film The Little Island,  bagging a BAFTA for Best Animated Film. His next short Love Me, Love Me was successful enough for Williams to found his own studio.

He produced animated title sequences for several live-action films, including the later of the original Pink Panther films, and directed a number of TV specials inlcuding A Christmas Carol and Ziggy's Gift.

But the film that would cast the biggest shadow over his career was The Thief And The Cobbler.  Inspired by The Arabian Nights and intended for adults, Williams began work on the feature in 1964. It took 20 years to complete just 20 minutes of footage, and it was only after the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (for which Williams won two Oscars) that he was able to secure funding for the rest of the film. However in 1992, Williams was fired from his own film and it was eventually released in 1995 extensively recut, rewritten and reedited as Arabian Knight.  William's vision of the film was sadly never completed, but a workprint of his version of the film screened in 2013, and there's also an unofficial not-for-profit cut known as The Recobbled Cut from Garret Gilchrist.

In his later years, Williams moved to Bristol, England and had an office at Aardman Animation's studio and completed two more animated shorts- 2010's Circus Drawings and the Oscar and   BAFTA nominated Prologue in 2015.

Although it's sad that the piece of work that consumed so much of his time was never completed, he had an undoubtedly amazing career nonetheless. His work on Roger Rabbit alone is enough to earn his place in history. But thanks to the Animator's Survival Kit he has also played a huge part in mentoring new generations of animators. Right up until near the end he was offering tips and advice to animators on twitter, but the book ensures that he will continue to inspire for many more years to come.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.

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