Rest In Peace, Richard Williams

An animation influential has passed, leaving one of Earth’s most valuable art forms less alive than before.

Not that Richard Williams was a name most animation fans could recognize on first viewing, despite the fact that his style and work remain immediately recognizable. Borrowed by Disney, Williams’ epic masterpiece The Thief and The Cobbler remains unfinished, except in the history books where it reigns as the longest continuing production on record. His breathtaking iteration of A Christmas Carol is routinely crowded out of a capitalized holiday market, although it is the greatest animated adaptation of Dickens’ dystopian novella yet made. Who among us even knows if Williams’ more destabilized, challenging work, like Ziggy’s Gift or Raggedy Ann and Andy, are even easily within reach anymore, online or off?

And while so many of us may remember the pathbreaking Who Framed Roger Rabbit, how many of us remember the relentless Richard Williams himself, the iconoclastic animator who influenced so many, while somehow remaining a secret? There is so much work that Richard Williams made yet to discover that even his most dedicated students and growing fans may find something they have never seen before.

And that includes what they find of him in their own work, as it awakens new generations to his iconoclasm.

“I think there should be a statue built for Richard Williams somewhere,” Song of the Sea director Tomm Moore once told me. “It’s interesting because while he never got to finish The Thief and the Cobbler, he did leave behind a legacy of teaching and understanding. He collected all that knowledge from the Golden Age and carried it forward. In animation circles, he inspired so many of us to see that animation could be an art form.”

“Williams said animation could do Rembrandt but just hasn’t yet, that the height of animation wasn’t Disney, that the height of animation hasn’t even been reached,” Moore added. “Now that we are living in such a graphic and visual society, where animation is basically everywhere, including our phones, there’s an opportunity to do what Williams was talking about, and was struggling to do in a much more limited era.”

Up until the end of his decorated, productive life, Richard Williams continued to push the boundaries of art and animation, directing the intensely realistic Prologue, which added another Oscar to his legend. But he still had more plans within plans, because as Ralph Bakshi once told me, “Richard Williams could never let anything go.”

Sadly, it is time for all of us to let Richard Williams go. But not his work. Not ever.

Richard Williams Joins Twitter, Animation World Rejoices

Cli-Fi: Director Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea