A wonderful afternoon was spent last Sunday at the British Film Institute, watching the first ever UK screening of the assembly cut of 'The Thief and the Cobbler', digitally restored and archived by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The print is a copy of how the famously 'unfinished' film stood on a single day in May 1992, when production was shut down by Warner Bros and the Completion Bond Company: a mixture of finished full colour footage, line tests, storyboards, 'missing scene' captions, final music, temp music, and the original character voices. It's an insight into what the final film might have been, but also an insight into how an animated film is constructed, the very workings of its birth.
It is 22 years since I saw any of that footage up on the big screen, and it brought back a flood of memories. Despite the struggle I remember going through on some of those shots, it all sailed past effortlessly on the screen - which hopefully means we got it right!
Considering the sad fate that befell the film, the event was an actually a very happy and uplifting day. As Richard Williams pointed out after the screening, the legendary animation artists who worked over so many years on this film - many of them now long dead - would have loved the audience reaction to their work, the laughter, the engagement with this intricate hand-crafted world shining up on the screen. Thanks to this preservation print, The Thief and the Cobbler is now no longer simply a film, or even an unfinished film, but a unique preservation of a craft, and its craftspeople, captured in time.
Here are some pictures from the post-screening reception, all taken by 'Thief' FX animator Simon Maddocks (with thanks):
|Neil Boyle, Rebecca Neville, Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton|
Layout and design maestro, Roy Naisbitt
|Richard Williams, Heidi and Brian Stevens, 'Thief' DoP John Leatherbarrow|
|The party continues late into the evening... John Leatherbarrow and|
'Thief' FX animator Mark Naisbitt