Trivia / The Thief and the Cobbler

  • 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.
  • All-Star Cast: Richard went to great lengths to secure not only the greatest voice cast of all time for a cartoon (Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, Anthony Quayle to name a few, even Sean Connery has a role as the voice of Tack) but also the greatest team of animators:
  • 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 to 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 . 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 Aladdin note  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 .
  • No Export for You: The film has officially been released only in North America, Australia, and South Africa.
    • There have been some instances of the film being released in theaters in places like Poland.
    • There is an European Spanish dub, so it must have been released in Spain too.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Steve Lively was Tack's singing voice in the Miramax Films cut (though he performed both singing and speaking for the Calvert cut).
  • No Budget: The film started out as a budget title about Nasruddin before it entered into a thirty year Development Hell. By the time the movie was released the budget had ballooned up to $28 million.
  • Old Shame: It became this to Williams for a while, but he eventually made peace with the film when he wrote The Animator's Survival Kit.
  • The Other Darrin: Tack is voiced by Steve Lively in the Majestic Films cut, and Matthew Broderick in the Miramax one (but only for speaking).
  • 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.
  • Screwed by the Network: One of the ultimate examples.
  • Shout-Out: Several. For instance, Princess Yum Yum is named after The Mikado's main female character of the same name.
  • Troubled Production: Every example of Executive Meddling it could have had, plus a few extras... Just look at this entire page.
  • What Could Have Been: Considering the years of Development Hell, and what Richard Williams set out to do, the whole movie practically reeks of this trope...
    • 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".
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