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The Thief and the Cobbler

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Before reading what I have to say about the film, here are some clips to give you an idea of the film that was supposed to be made...


And the film that actually got made...


Yes, "that's my nanny you're sitting on." That is a line in this version of the film. If you would like to see a clip of one of the horrible songs in this version of the film, go here: http://youtu.be/42CqthpfuQo ... I'm not embedding that one. Go watch it. If you dare.

The Thief and the Cobbler (AKA Arabian Knight, AKA The Princess and the Cobbler) was supposed to be the labor of love, the lifetime achievement of Richard Williams, the animator responsible for directing the animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and also the designer of the character. Thief was never finished, but what remains is beautiful. The film that actually got made is another story.

Richard Williams worked on the film with several legendary animators from Disney, Warner Bros, and other notable studios. The film was in production for over 20 years, due to Williams's perfectionist nature. The unfinished film was shown to various people, and is part of how Williams got the job working on Roger Rabbit. It is believed that when the workprint was shown to Disney and Amblin, that some people at Disney "borrowed" many of the film's ideas, which later became the basis for the film Aladdin. This lead to many people believing that The Thief and the Cobbler was a rip-off of Aladdin, when it is in fact the other way around.

When they finally found a distributor, Williams failed to meet a deadline, and the project was taken out of his hands. What was eventually released was a butchered version from Miramax. Much of the animation was inferior, cheesy songs were added, the original score was botched, and the two main characters (the Theif and the Cobbler) were, for whatever reason, voiced by Jonathan Winters and Matthew Broderick. The original characters were supposed to be mute. The idea was to take advantage of the animation medium and have these characters be communicative and engaging without any voice acting. Winters and Broderick do not sound like they're into their roles. They sound like they're just doing a job and getting a paycheck.

The Miramax version of the film retains some of the animation and humor of the original, but it is mostly pretty bad and unwatchable. However, there is another version on YouTube and Google Video, called the "Recobbled Cut." It is the effort of filmmaker Garret Gilchrist to piece together what the film may have looked like if it had been finished. It is comprised of the original workprint (which can also be found on YouTube), botched versions of the film (there are a couple), rare pencil tests and bootleg footage. Some of the original animators even supported the project.

I actually have no idea if you can really do anything with this for an episode. The Miramax version is certainly a bad movie, and the story behind it is very tragic. Also, the lyrics in the songs that were added are horrible, and so is the animation during those scenes. The parts of the film that have been salvaged are truly beautiful, though. Much of it was animated in a way that played with perspective, and achieved a 3D look without any use of CGI. The film also retains the voice of Vincent Price, who speaks entirely in rhyme. He was great in this film. There is also a preoccupation in the original film with balls, which is hilarious. Oh yeah, and the original has an appearance by Sean Connery.

I don't know if it would really make for a funny episode, but it could. It feels like there's a lot to work with. I thought I'd throw the idea out there, even if it doesn't go anywhere. I am a fan of the film, and an admirer (or perhaps fanboy?) of Richard Williams, and I just want more people to know about it.

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