Richard Williams’s The Thief and the Cobbler is a legend in animation circles, both as a breathtakingly beautiful work of hand-drawn animation—a conscious attempt to better Walt Disney at his own game—and for its troubled production history. An Arabian Nights fantasy about a mischievous thief and a resourceful shoemaker who save a golden city from the clutches of a wicked vizier, the film entered production in 1964. As the scope widened and financiers came and went, production only reached an endpoint in 1992, when Williams lost control of the film and other animators were brought in to finish what was eventually released in the US, in a much altered version, as Arabian Knight. Luckily, Williams was able to make a copy of his work print as it existed on May 13, 1992, the last day of production, and the “moment in time” of the title. This print has been preserved and restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Academy Film Archive. MoMA and the Academy are proud to be able to present the film’s New York premiere. The Thief and the Cobbler will be shown with Circus Drawings, a 2010 short that brings to life the sketches of a Spanish circus made by Mr. Williams in 1953.
Mr. Williams, a three-time Oscar winner, will be present for a discussion hosted by the animation historian John Canemaker on September 24. The program will include a selection of clips from Mr. Williams’s work (including his brilliant animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit) as well as his (personally) hand-drawn 2015 short film, the Oscar-nominated Prologue.
Organized by Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film. Special thanks to Imogen Sutton, John Canemaker, and Patrick Harrison of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.