Richard Williams (1933 – 2019) was a Canadian–British animator, director, and title sequence designer, best known for his work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and his much-beleaguered film The Thief and the Cobbler (1993).
Born in Toronto, Canada, in 1933, Williams attended Northern Secondary School. In 1955 his family immigrated to London, U.K., and in 1958 he created his first short film, The Little Island, which he self-financed, produced, directed, and animated. It nabbed him a BAFTA Award, launching his career as an animator and director.
He went on to direct the Oscar-winning A Christmas Carol (1971), the full-length feature Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977), and the Emmy-winning TV film Ziggy’s Gift (1982). For 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit he was director of animation which earned him two more Oscars.
He was also a title sequence designer and animator, most notably for films What’s New Pussycat? (1965), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), Casino Royale (1967), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Prudence and the Pill (1968), and others.
The Thief and The Cobbler
In 1964, he began work on his magnum opus, an animated epic inspired by the Arabian Nights called The Thief and the Cobbler. Intended as a largely non-verbal feature film meant for an adult audience, the project’s development was stalled by investment and production problems, delays, and seizure by The Completion Bond Company, insurers for Warner Bros. Completion Bond hired animator Fred Calvert to supervise the completion of the animation and that version of the film was released in 1993 as The Princess and the Cobbler. The film was then acquired by Miramax, where it was retooled, re-edited, and released as Arabian Knight in 1995. A director’s cut of the film was shown at a screening in Los Angeles on December 10, 2013 with Williams in attendance.
He is the author of The Animator’s Survival Kit, a highly acclaimed animation how-to book, published in 2002.
He died aged 86 on August 16, 2019 in his home in Bristol, U.K.