Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Thief and The Cobbler at Annecy

On stage at Annecy - Le Voleur et Le Cordonnier
Here at Bucks we encourage all our students to visit the international Animation Festival at Annecy at least once.  It's the world's biggest animation festival - everyone who is anyone in animation shows up, and there are more screenings, workshops and events than you could possibly attend in a whole year.  Friday 19 June was the last day of the MIFA marketplace at Annecy, and also a rare chance to see The Thief and The Cobbler (en Francais: “Le voleur et le cordonnier”) original director’s cut – presented by the director himself.  Dad got a standing ovation when he came on stage, and he dedicated the screening to the memory of Ken Harris, one of Chuck Jones’ top animators on the Looney Tunes series and the man responsible for much of the animation of The Thief himself.

Dick Williams on stage
Animators aren’t generally famous in the way that movie stars are – we’re more crew than cast, after all. But at Annecy it’s different – animators rule the roost. Dad got mobbed on a regular basis by clouds of adoring fans, especially students trying to get him to sign their well-thumbed copies of The Animator’s Survival Kit. And the big friday night screening of The Thief was completely sold-out.

Signing books at Annecy

Of course, the version of The Thief being screened wasn’t really a director’s cut. Dad calls it a “Moment in Time”, because it is in effect a partially-restored copy of the director’s work print. That is to say, it is the working copy of the film that was in being in May 1992 when the Completion Bond Company took over production. 

Crowds queue to see The Thief
It's a pretty rough cut, full of scotch tape and sticking plaster (remember these were analogue days – film really was film back then) plenty of story boards - and a few scenes missing altogether. What we saw was a “dirty dupe” of the work print, made overnight in a great hurry when production of the film came to an abrupt end. Dad got a standing ovation when he came on stage to introduce the film. 

Standing ovation
The Thief was the only film I actually got to see at Annecy, which was ironic because I have seen it many, many times already. But it was a huge pleasure to see Dad have his moment in the sun, applauded by an audience of student and professional animators that fully appreciates the sheer difficulty of pulling off a project of such scope and complexity.

Ticket for Le Voleur et Le Cordonnier
I couldn’t stay to the end because I had to catch a flight back home to London. On Saturday the festival closed out with a screening of Dad’s Prologue, a short film that, like The Thief, Dad has been working on for so many years that I can no longer count them. It’s a remarkable piece of work, and I wish I could have stayed to see the audience reaction.

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