Last Saturday was something of an historic event in the animation world, as the Edinburgh International Film Festival hosted a major retrospective of the career of master director/animator Richard Williams, timed to coincide with his 80th birthday this year.
Organised by the ever-energetic Iain Gardner, the programme pulled together nearly two hours of animated excellence from Dick's fifty-five year film career, work that earned him hundreds of awards, including two BAFTAs, an Emmy, and three Oscars.
Included were his first short film 'The Little Island' (1958), the winner of his first Oscar 'A Christmas Carol' (1971), and other shorts including 'Love Me, Love Me, Love Me' (1962) and 'Circus Drawings' (2011). Then there were title sequences, among them 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' (1968), 'The Return of the Pink Panther' (1975), and 'The Animator's Survival Kit - Animated' (2008). Also included were the opening scenes from 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' (1988) and the original trailer for 'The Thief and the Cobbler' (1993). Peppered throughout were a handful of the 2500 commercials produced at the Williams studio over the decades, including 'Mini Cheddars', 'Shell Oil' and 'Long Life Cat'.
The screening was rounded off with a quick interview hosted by Iain Gardner, and a short Q&A session with the audience.
Wonderful to see all this work up on the big screen - and all in the correct aspect ratios, with the EIFF technical crew up in the projection booth swiftly segueing from 4:3, to Widescreen, to anamorphic Cinemascope between reels, reflecting the changing shape of screens over the course of Dick's long career.
I was joined in the audience by Dick's long-time associate Roy Naisbitt (who, as regular readers of this blog will know, designed the Underground tunnel sequence for me in The Last Belle) and Dick very graciously acknowledged our contributions to some of the work on screen, and the support of his long-time producer, and wife, Imogen Sutton. In a happy final word, Dick pointed out he is not the retiring type and is busy working on his next film project, producing animation he feels is by far the best he has ever achieved. As the event came to a close, the audience rose spontaneously and delivered a standing ovation.
|Neil Boyle, Imogen Sutton, Richard Williams, Roy Naisbitt and event|
organiser and host, Iain Gardner.
I had a rather jolly time in the bar afterwards, talking with people from the audience: film fans, animation fans, students and professionals; some familiar with the work, some seeing it for the first time, all seemingly inspired by it.
|Later that evening, a surprise birthday cake is presented to Dick at the|
post-show dinner (photo courtesy Fraser MacLean).
Congratulations to Iain Gardner for organising and choreographing the event so smoothly (and my personal thanks to all the EIFF staff for being wonderful hosts). But most of all, congratulations to Richard Williams on his eightieth birthday, and for continuing to be such an inspiration for a whole new generation of animators and film-makers.