Acclaimed Flop: The "re-cobbled" version, a veritably holy grail for animators and critics alike who have praised it to the high heavens, if only for allowing them a glimpse at Williams' ultimate vision. For legal reasons, however, it cannot be released commercially and, therefore, can never make any money.
Emery Hawkins, who worked for every single cartoon studio that existed in Hollywood between the 30s and the 50s. It is not exactly known what he animated on Thief (many animation buffs guess he drew the ogre-prince who isn't in the Recobbled Cut).
Box Office Bomb: The original version that was cobbled together from Richard's work and Miramax Films's meddling couldn't even reach a million dollars in sales. The movie cost $28,000,000 to produce.
Creator Backlash: Williams was so devastated by the experience of being fired from his own pet project, not to mention exhausted from having tried so hard to get it going for so many years, that for years he absolutely refused to talk about the film to anyone, and refused to take part in the Recobbled Cut restorations of the film, since he just wanted to move on from it at that timenote During a tour for his famed lecture series, he hired security guards to personally exhume anyone who dared ask him about it.. He took some time away from the business to write The Animator's Survival Kit on a remote island in Canada (the book makes two subtle allusions to it, referencing scenes with Vincent Price and animation of the witch, but does not mention it by name) and twenty years later, finally made peace with the film, screening his own director's cut of Thief which he says is the most satisfied he's ever been with it.
Creator Killer: It was only a little while before the release of The Animator's Survival Kit when Williams began working again.
Seeing as a better part of his career was intended to fund this film, one might argue that whether or not he saw it through to the end, with nothing to work towards, he'd have left the animation business anyway.
Deleted Scene: Taken to ridiculous lengths. When Fred Calvert took over, about half of Williams' painstakingly made animation was deleted. A small amount of these were fortunately displayed during the end credits of Calvert's version. Then Miramax bought the film and axed even more scenes, including the end credit ones.
Development Hell: The longest and, arguably, most difficult example in cinematic history. Richard Williams spent about three decades on this film, using money earned from various short films and advertisements. At one point a Saudi-Arabian prince became interested and funded ten minutes (the war machine scene) as a test. The results were awesome. Sadly, the prince was scared away by missed deadlines and budget overruns. The project returned to its slow pace, until Williams gained funding from Warner Bros. after his success on Who Framed Roger Rabbit under the agreement that the film be completed for a specific date and amount of money. About half of the completed scenes were made during this period. Unfortunately, Williams' perfectionism caused him to miss the deadline and, fifteen minutes shy of completion, was fired by the completion bond company and replaced with low-budget animator Fred Calvert, resulting in a great amount of Off-Model animation and Disneyfication.
Doing It for the Art: Oh yeah. You don't spend close to thirty years on a run-on-the-mill film: Williams fully intended this to be his masterpiece and a blockbuster. It's humbling, to say the least.
Dueling Movies: With Disney's Aladdinnote This film had a considerably shorter timetable to completion, even with a Reset Button forced on it by Jeffrey Katzenberg 18 months before release, and then managed to reach video at about the time The Thief and the Cobbler's Miramax cut hit theaters. Considering that this movie had been in production approximately 24 years before Aladdin had been conceived, not to mention many themes and ideas borrowed from Williams's film, this has not been without controversy, though Williams himself said he never really minded.
Executive Meddling: A double victim. First, Williams had the film taken away from him and finished under lesser hands. Then the Weinsteins got their hands on it and almost Macekred it to death.
There are sequences in the original film which took the better part of a decade to animate, and which the studios nonchalantly cut out.
Harpo Does Something Funny: Williams didn't use storyboards, and instead encouraged his animators to invent stuff themselves. He did have a script, which he only followed very loosely. Ken Harris, the main animator of the thief, was so fast in animating that Williams constantly made up very rough ideas and situations for the character in order to keep him working. Williams finally created storyboards for the whole film in 1992, when he was forced to make a workprint.
This ultimately may have been the film's downfall, as the lack of planning lead to Williams being unable to complete it on time and having it turned over to the completion company.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Fans of this film have done this to VHS copies of the original workprint for years. The workprint was made by Williams just before he lost rights, and was the only way to see the true version of the film. Now you can just download the Recobbled Cut, or watch it on YouTube.
Missing Episode: The rights were bought out by The Completion Bond Company with 15 mins. of the film incomplete after Williams' bond-holder demanded a halt to production. Disney had a competing production, Aladdin in the works, so the remains of the film were farmed out to a third-rate overseas studio and released in a handful of theaters note Bonus points for Aladdin finishing production before Thief, running in theaters to the tune of $200 million, and then moving on to VHS and Laserdisc by the time Thief was "finished". (Aladdin moved into the Disney Vault by the time Thief made it into American cinemas).
The Other Marty: Almost all of the original voice cast carefully selected by Williams were replaced once Fred Calvert took over. Most of the scenes had already been animated to the old voices, but were redubbed anyway. A little bit of Anthony Quayle survived in the finished versions, notably in the scene where he gives a speech to his subjects; some of Joan Sims as the Witch also remains. Some notable actors who thankfully weren't dubbed over include Vincent Price as Zigzag and Windsor Davies as Chief Roofless.
Saved from Development Hell: The film languished in production for decades, with Williams steadfastly refusing to give up on it. In fact, pretty much every job he took in the interim was done purely for the money so he could continue working on his labor of love (which certainly explains the likes of Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure). By the time the film was finally released in a severely compromised form in 1995, the hero had several lines and Price had been dead for two years. Fortunately, there now exists a fan-created version of the film, which uses both footage from the compromised release as well as the animators' own rough animation tests, to better suit the original vision of the story.
Early on, in the sixties, the film was supposed to be about the tricky Arabian folk tale character Mullah Nasruddin. The idea had to be dropped because of disagreements of the rights to the character. Many of the supporting characters were taken from the Nasruddin film.
At some point princess Yumyum had an identical sister, princess Meemee, who had fallen in love with a man who had been turned into an ogre. The witch's original purpose was to provide a cure for his beastliness.
Working Title: Before becoming The Thief And The Cobbler, the film had such titles as "The Thief Who Never Gave up", "Once...", simply "The Thief", or the wildly different and creative "The Cobbler And The Thief". The film was released after Executive Meddling under two names, "The Princess And The Cobbler" and the punny "Arabian Knight", before being released on VHS by Disney/Miramax as "The Thief And The Cobbler".
Not to mention the early period when it was about Mulla Nasruddin, and has names such as "Nasruddin!", "The Majestic Fool" or "The Amazing Nasruddin".