×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Persistence of Vision

This fascinating slice of film history could have a life on cable and in home formats once rights issues pertaining to the material excerpted are resolved. Further fest play is guaranteed.

With:
With: Howard Blake, Richard Burdett, John Culhane, Antonia Dewhurst, Greg Duffell, Julianna Franchetti, Chris Knott, Ramon Modiano, Brent Odell, Philip Pepper, Michael Schlingmann.

A tale of artistic obsession run amuck, Kevin Schreck’s micro-budget, low-tech docu “Persistence of Vision” pieces together the story behind “The Thief and the Cobbler,” the epic, nearly 30-years-in-the-making animated feature that Richard Williams (Academy Award-winning animation director of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) never completed. Combining rare archival footage with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Williams’ former employees, this fascinating slice of film history could have a life on cable and in home formats once rights issues pertaining to the material excerpted are resolved. Further fest play is guaranteed.

A Canadian by birth, Williams came to London in the mid-1950s, where he formed his own production company. Specializing in meticulous, hand-drawn 2D work, Richard Williams Animation soon earned a reputation for quality and innovation with visual sequences such as the titles for “What’s New Pussycat” and the segues for “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Young talent from all over the world sought to work there.

One of Williams’ early producing partners, Omar Ali Shah, introduced him to the Middle Eastern fables featuring Mullah Nasruddin. Charmed by the characters, Williams provided illustrations for a book translated by Shah’s brother, and as early as 1964 he started animating sequences based on the stories. But when Williams and Shah parted ways, Shah claimed the rights for the Mullah character; this setback was just the first of many to dog Williams’ pet project.

Key animators and artists who worked for the company wryly recount the intense, exciting atmosphere of the studio, albeit noting that workaholic, perfectionist Williams could be mean and thought nothing of requiring 80-hour weeks. Their work on the feature, provisionally titled “The Thief and the Cobbler” continued in between high-profile commercial projects (including 1971 animated adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” and the title sequence of “The Pink Panther”).

Always more of an artist than a businessman, Williams poured his own money into the feature. His subordinates observe that he was his own worst enemy, fond of making material he liked even longer, and throwing out months of work by others if it didn’t meet his standards.

In 1990, after the success of “Roger Rabbit,” Warner Brothers put up $25 million to finish “The Thief and the Cobbler,” with another $25 million for P&A. But with the big money came deadlines and budgets that Williams, who had never even storyboarded the pic, couldn’t meet. As one interviewee remarks, what Williams had was merely a bunch of sequences in search of a plot.

Although Williams has refused to speak about his labor of love since the completion bond company seized it in 1992, 23-year-old writer-helmer-lenser-editor Kevin Schreck incorporates public-domain interviews of him talking up the project over the years. Schreck also obtained salvaged footage and line tests from some of the animators and private collectors, giving viewers a privileged view of the evolution of the project’s style and design.

Although the assembly would benefit from futher tightening, as a whole it reps an ambitious first work. The interviews were shot with standard-issue video equipment from Bard College, where Schreck was a film major, with another student recording sound. The archival materials are of variable quality, with considerable footage downloaded from the Internet.

Persistence of Vision

Production: A Kevin Schreck Prods. production. Produced by Kevin Schreck. Executive producers, Peter Esmonde, Kit Prendergast, Bill Prendergast, Izak Rappaport. Directed, written, edited by Kevin Schreck.

Crew: Camera (DV), Schreck; music, Adi Yeshaya; sound, James LeBrecht; associate producers, Margaret Bracken, Vanessa Dayton, Tony Hudson, Tamara Pierson. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Nonfiction Features), Oct. 4, 2012. (Also inDoc NYC.) Running time: 83 MIN.

Cast: With: Howard Blake, Richard Burdett, John Culhane, Antonia Dewhurst, Greg Duffell, Julianna Franchetti, Chris Knott, Ramon Modiano, Brent Odell, Philip Pepper, Michael Schlingmann.

More Scene

  • Cara Delevingne attends The Trevor Project's

    Cara Delevingne Recalls Producers Saying That Being Queer Will Hurt Her Career

    Hollywood may be celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month with displays of the rainbow flag and lots of talk about supporting diversity and inclusion, but Cara Delevingne says there’s still work to be done. “Behind closed doors, we are still being told, as I have, by powerful Hollywood producers that we can’t make it if we’re queer,” [...]

  • Kiernan Shipka and Ross LynchMTV Movie

    MTV Movie & TV Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

    Many of the biggest stars in movies and television — including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kiernan Shipka, Sandra Bullock, Tessa Thompson and Brie Larson — came together to present and receive honors at the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards, hosted by “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi. And while non-attendees are able to enjoy [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

  • Anthony Anderson LADF

    Why Anthony Anderson and Billie Jean King are Giving Back with the Dodgers Foundation

    Celebrities and athletes came together at the Dodgers Foundation Blue Diamond Gala to celebrate the team’s commitment to supporting youth and to catch a glimpse of the event’s headliner: Bruno Mars. Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss were honored at the fifth annual event, which raised over $3 million for programs benefiting Los Angeles youth. [...]

  • Shia LaBeouf poses at the premiere

    Shia LaBeouf to Host Birthday Fundraiser for Slauson Rec. Theater Company

    Shia LaBeouf is celebrating his 33rd birthday by giving back. The actor, who turned 33 on June 11, will host a fundraising concert later this month for the Slauson Rec Theater Company, a 10-month-old free performing arts program he co-founded in downtown Los Angeles. The night will also include a preview of the Slauson Rec [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content