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 Pleasance, Anthony Quayle to name a few, even Sean Connery has a role as the voice of Tack) but also the greatest team of animators:
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).
Creator Backlash: The amount of meddling the film received just before it was completed devastated Richard Williams so much, 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 time. However, around the time he wrote The Animator's Survival Kit, he finally made peace with the film, and on Dec. 10th 2013, he theatrically screened his own directors cut of Thief, saying he was finally satisfied with the film.
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: One of the longest and most difficult ones 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 warmachine 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. About half of the completed scenes were made during this period. Unfortunately, when Warner Bros. saw the almost-finished film (only fifteen minutes were left to be animated), they changed their mind and decided to back out. With the funding gone, the film was taken over by a completion bond, which fired Williams and put cheapskate Fred Calvert in his place. Under Calvert's direction, the film went under a great amount of Off Model animation and Disneyfication.
When asked about it, Richard said that Thief would be impossible to finish today; while he could have the actual remaining animation done in a year, all of the original artwork and film materials for the film are scattered and lost, and it would be unfeasable to track all of it down. And even if that weren't a problem, legal issues involving the film elements would keep a finished version of it from being released anyway. In other words, Thief will always remain "unfinished", and Willaims says he's satisfied with the work print edit as it is, and has moved on to making other personal projects.
Doing It for the Art: Oh yeah. You don't spend decades on a run-on-the-mill film: Williams fully intented this to be his masterpiece and a blockbuster.
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.
Sean Connery is the voice of Tack at the end of the Recobbled cut.
And in the Miramax cut, Matthew Broderick is Tack sounding a lot like a certain "King."
The Majestic Films cut uses Mona Marshall for some of the nanny's lines.
When the Thief gets a voice in the Miramax dub, all of his thoughts are voiced ala Garfield by Jonathan Winters.
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.
Magnum Opus: Richard Williams referred to this as such repeatedly during its production. Unfortunately, what followed led to it being an Old Shame for him instead, at least until recent years.
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 an overseas animation sweatshop and released in a handful of theaters.
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.
Early on, in the sixties, the film was supposed to be about 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 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".