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Trivia / The Thief and the Cobbler

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  • Acclaimed Flop: The "re-cobbled" cut, 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 Richard Williams's ultimate vision. For legal reasons, however, it cannot be released commercially and, therefore, can never make any money.
  • All-Star Cast: In addition to directing and animating extensive sequences, Richard Williams 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), but also the greatest team of animators:
    • Art Babbitt, responsible for Zeus and the Chinese mushrooms in Fantasia, and infamous for organizing the 1941 strike against Walt Disney. For Thief he drew King Nod and the vulture Phido, although only a small number of unaltered scenes (mainly King Nod proclaiming the 'destruction and death' he fears his kingdom to be fated to and several scenes with Zigzag and Phido in the former's tower) by him remain within the 1992 workprint and Recobbled Cut.
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    • Ken Harris, longtime number one animator in the Chuck Jones unit during production on the original golden-age era batch of Warner Bros. cartoons. Ken's animation of the Thief (albeit in a form largely reworked posthumously by Disney and Dreamworks alumnus Neil Boyle in the 1992 workprint and Recobbled Cut, despite the majority of the footage in question retaining visible hallmarks of Harris's style) is similar to his work on Wile E. Coyote.
    • Emery Hawkins, who worked for every single cartoon studio that existed in Hollywood between the 1930s and the '50s. It is not exactly known what he animated on Thief, although 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 Williams's workprint and Miramax Films's meddling couldn't even reach a million dollars in sales. The movie cost $28,000,000 to produce.
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  • Creator Backlash: Richard 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 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. He took some time away from the business to write The Animator's Survival Kit on a remote island in his native 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.
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  • Creator Killer: It was only a little while before the release of The Animator's Survival Kit when Richard Williams began working again.
  • Deleted Scene: Taken to ridiculous lengths. When Fred Calvert took over, about half of Richard Williams's 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 the history of animation. Richard Williams spent about three decades on this film, using money earned from various short films and commercial advertisements. At one point Saudi-Arabian prince Mohammed bin Faisal Al Saud became interested and funded ten minutes (the war machine scene) as a test. Sadly, Mohammed bin Faisal was scared away by missed deadlines and budget overruns. The project returned to its slow pace, until Richard 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's perfectionism caused him to miss the deadline and, fifteen minutes shy of completion, turned it over to the completion bond company and was replaced with low-budget animator Fred Calvert, resulting in a great amount of Off-Model animation and Disneyfication.note 
  • Doing It for the Art: Oh yeah. You don't spend close to thirty years on a run-on-the-mill film: Richard 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 Richard Williams's film, this has not been without controversy, though Williams himself said he never really minded.
  • Executive Meddling: A double victim. First, Richard Williams had the film taken away from him and finished under lesser hands. Then Miramax got its 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: Richard 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. However, it 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.
  • Image Source: Ambiguously Human
  • 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 Richard 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 Dissonance: This was the 30-year labor of love of Richard Williams, better known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Sadly, the copious Executive Meddling that the project received caused him to disown the film, including the highly praised Recobbled Cut, for 20 years.
  • Missing Episode: The rights were bought out by The Completion Bond Company with 15 minutes of the film incomplete after Richard Williams's bond-holder demanded to cease production. Disney had a competing production, Aladdin in the works, so the remains of the film were farmed out to third-rate overseas studios 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 cut (though he performed both singing and speaking for the Calvert cut). Ditto for Bobbi Page, whose singing voice for Yum-Yum was retained for the Miramax cut but her dialogue was dubbed over by Jennifer Beals, who sounds nothing like Page.
  • Old Shame: It became this trope to Richard Williams for a while, but he eventually made peace with the film twenty years later.
  • The Other Darrin: Tack is voiced by Steve Lively in the Majestic Films cut, and Matthew Broderick in the Miramax cut (but only for speaking).
  • The Other Marty: Almost all of the original voice cast carefully selected by Richard 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 voice 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 three decades, with Richard 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 Vincent 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.
  • Screwed by the Network: One of the ultimate examples.
  • Throw It In!: One that led to some Funny Moments on set. Richard Williams convinced a group of Irish voice actors to record for the Brigands after making sure they had plenty to drink and had them read the script. He kept the tape rolling as they got more and more drunk. Eventually they started fighting, with Williams getting it all on tape, using it in the film (which remains even in the edited cuts).
  • 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 entire film practically reeks of this trope...
    • Early on, in the '60s, 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 Yum-Yum had an identical twin sister, Princess Mee-Mee, 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. She was cut at a pretty late point in development, as she shows up in the bath scene in the Recobbled Cut (albeit only in two uncompleted shots, one of which has her saying "Maybe something died..." when Princess Yum-Yum smells the Thief's stench, indicating Yum-Yum and Mee-Mee were to share the same voice actress).
    • Sean Connery was intended to voice Tack's one line, but he never showed up to record it. Instead, a friend of Richard Williams’s wife performed the role.
  • 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 even "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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