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The Thief and the Cobbler (1993)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Oh boy.

Where do I start I don’t even?

Movies, as a general rule, do not happen overnight. Making a film is a long, laborious, expensive process and can take years. Even so, some movies just take this to ridiculous extremes. The longest production time on record for a live action film is the twenty years it took Leni Riefenstahl to finish Tiefland. That record is surpassed by only one other film, our subject for today, Richard Williams’ legendary, famous, infamous, infamfamous unfinished crapasterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler. Thirty one years. In the same length of time it took this movie to see theatres, I went from a sperm to a person writing these words. Thirty one years. And, keep in mind, at least Riefenstahl had the excuse of the SECOND WORLD WAR happening in mid-production.

"I honestly could not give two fucks yada yada etc and so forth."”

“I honestly could not give two fucks yada yada etc and so forth.”

So what’s Williams’ excuse?

Alright, so time for backstory.

While he doesn’t have anything like the name recognition of animators like Don Bluth or Ralph Bakshi, Richard Williams is serious business in the world of animation. He emigrated from his native Canada to Britain in the fifties and helped himself to a Bafta for his animated short The Little Island. He was twenty five. That launched a long and often highly acclaimed career in animation with Williams’ picking up an Emmy and a couple of Oscars.

The Bafta was lonely.

The Bafta was lonely.

In 1964, Williams began work on Nasruddin! the movie that would eventually become The Thief and the Cobbler. Williams was not humble in his goals. This film was going to be his masterpiece, and raise the bar for animation as an artform. Instead it turned into a logistical nightmare that dragged on for decades, with story and characters being dropped and re-written and backers pulling out. Williams had a vision for the film; animation for adults with very little dialogue. But the various investors he found over the decades also had a vision; they wanted to make money. Williams refused to commercialize the work and for long periods of the production had to fund it himself with the proceeds from various animation gigs. A breakthrough finally came when Williams showed some footage to his friend and mentor, Disney animator Milt Kahl. Kahl, realising that his apprentice had indeed become strong in the ways of the force, showed the footage to Stephen Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis and before long they were sidling up to Williams and asking questions like “Sooooooo…how do you feel about rabbits?”

Williams’ agreed to do the animation chores for Roger Rabbit in exchange for help distributing Thief. After Roger made enough money to buy one of the nicer continents and got so much critical adoration that everyone just started feeling a little embarrassed, Warner Bros agreed to bankroll the project and Williams got to work. He recruited some of the hottest young talent from the animation schools of Europe to replace the original animators, most of whom were now gone. And I don’t mean gone as in “moved on to other projects” I mean “they were taken by the icy hand of death which comes for us all in the end.” Which is what happens when your movie takes longer to complete than, I dunno, a pyramid. But at last Williams was ready to finally finish the film. He had the money. He had the talent. What could possibly go wrong?

"He went craaaaaaazy..."

“He went craaaaaaazy…”

Yeah, so as well as being a phenomenal animator Williams was kind of an insane crazy person. He was a fanatical perfectionist and any animator who wasn’t able to meet his insanely high standards was kicked to the curb. According to one source, literally hundreds of animators were pink-slipped. Making matters worse, Williams…

I’m sorry, this is hard for me to even say.

Williams…Williams didn’t believe in using storyboards. Because he felt they were “too limiting”.

Alice Facepalm

Alright, so imagine you have two architects, okay? One sits down, draws a blueprint for a building, decides it’s crap and then throws it away. The other just starts building. And by the time he’s built twenty stories he realises that the building is crap and has to be torn down. Both architects failed to create a building. But one of them has a rolled up ball of paper, and the other has several million quids worth of wasted time and building material. Williams is the second guy.

Because he didn’t use storyboards and basically allowed his animators to improvise scenes on the fly, the only way to figure out that a particular scene wasn’t working was when it was already at least partially animated. Fail to plan, plan to fail etc.

So by 1991 the movie’s still not finished and is massively overbudget (please, no shrieks of astonishment) and Disney are prepping Aladdin for release, a movie that some might say is rather suspiciously like Thief and the Cobbler. Some might say that. I wouldn’t. I say, yeah, you take thirty one years to make a movie someone somewhere will make a movie like it. Law of averages, baby. Warner Brothers finally threw up their hands and said “Screw this, we got superheroes to ruin” and pulled out. And then The Completion Bond Company stepped in which is never a good day.

"We are the ones people call when things go wrong."

“We are the ones people call when things go wrong.”

Animation producer Fred Calvert was appointed by the bond company to hack the movie into something marketable. Calvert renamed the movie The Princess and the Cobbler and tried to make it as close to Aladdin as possible. Miramax bought the rights on behalf of Disney and then did their own hatchet job on it, casting celebrity voices and releasing it under the title Arabian Knight before finally letting it limp to video under its original title of The Thief and the Cobbler. Part of the problem with reviewing this movie is that there are so many different versions of it, the first Calvert cut, the Miramax edit and the (at time of writing) four Recobbled cuts, which are filmmaker Garret Gilchrist’s attempts to restore the film to William’s original vision or as close as possible. For clarity, I’ll be reviewing the Miramax version because that’s the one I have on DVD and it features Matthew Broderick who I haven’t made fun of recently. Come my friends, let us gaze upon the beauty and the carnage.

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The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 31

 

CHAPTER 31: THE FIRST LESSON

 

“Now that’s a question, isn’t it?” said Virgil with a grim smile “Would you kill someone to prolong your own life? And I know what you’re thinking: “Course not. I’m a good person. I could never do that.” Well. Lot of good people find that when they’re really up against it that they’re not so good after all. So don’t be so sure you wouldn’t. Because the greatest man I ever knew took that test and failed.”

“So. You wiped out these “Lepers”?” Eamonn  asked.

“You killed them?” Marie asked.

Virgil looked at her. She had gone quite pale.

“Yeah.” he said quietly “’Fraid we did.”

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The Hangman’s Daughter-Chapter 30

CHAPTER 30: DROP IN THE OCEAN

 

 

He was flying, and in front of him, black as ebony, was a mountain to dwarf Olympus.

He could feel himself speeding towards it at great speed, but the mountain didn’t change size. It simply rested, irrevocable.

Flying? Why was he flying?

He fell asleep for a few seconds.

No, not a dream. The mountain was still there. He was still flying.

He was cold. The air was freezing.

He couldn’t breathe.

(more…)

"Get this guy outta my face Mouse."

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

I hate to open a review with such a cranky, old man line as “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore”.
So I won’t.
Good to be back everyone! Missed you all and your sweet, ego-affirming pageviews.
Now then.
My hairy BOLLOCKS but they don’t make them like this any more, do they?
Fittingly,given its dual nature, Who Framed Roger Rabbit occupies a special place in both the history of mainstream Hollywood blockbusters and American animation. It’s a central text in what was something of a golden age of the big summer tentpole picture (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future). But it’s as an animated movies that Roger Rabbit has its real significance. Chances are, if not for this movie a whole load of the films I’ve reviewed here would never have happened. Firstly, let’s take a look at the state of American animation in the late eighties. Theatrical shorts have gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage and the wireless-polisher. Disney feature animation is in a creative rut, and only Ralph Bakshi and a few others, working furtively from a secret rebel base, keep the full length animated film alive as an artform. The vast bulk of animation is now on television, rushed, cheaply produced, schilling for the toy industry and stifled by increasingly conservative broadcast standards for whom anything harder than the Smurfs is pushing the envelope. Large packs of feral dogs roam the landscape, and cannabalism is rife.
Bad times, is what I'm sayin'.

Bad times, is what I’m sayin’.

Disney snapped up the rights to Gary K. Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? in 1981 as soon as it hit the bookshelves. Apart from sharing a few character names and some very broad plot points, the book and film aren’t even on speaking terms. The book is set in the present (well, the eighties) and Roger and his fellow toons are newspaper cartoons (with Hagar the Horrible, Dick Tracy and other characters making cameos). I haven’t actually read the book but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the movie vastly improves on the source material. For one, having cartoon characters working in the old Hollywood studio system just feels much more organic and setting it in the forties makes it feel more like a film noir. I’m not the only one who thought so either, Wolf’s later novels in the series went out of their way to tie themselves more closely to the movie, even retconning the whole first novel as a dream of Jessica’s.
And if that scene did not involve her stepping out of the shower a lá Bobby Ewing then there is no God.

And if that scene did not involve her stepping out of the shower a lá Bobby Ewing then there is no God.

Robert Zemeckis was attached to direct as early as 1981 but was given the boot by Disney when two of his films tanked at the box office. The project then kicked around the studio for a few years until Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzanbur…Katzenbar…(dammit just once I am going to spell his name right) KATZENBERG stepped in and applied the paddles. Eisner and Herr Skull were united in their belief that Roger Rabbit was going to be the movie to relaunch Disney as the pre-eminent force in American animation. Initially, the idea was that the film’s animated sequences would be done by Disney’s own in-house animation team. Then Eisner took Katzenberg down to the basement where the debased remains of that once great cadre of animators was kept.
“What…what are they?” Katzenberg asked in a strangled whisper.
Eisner simply stared ahead and said: “They were once men.”
Clearly, some fresh talent was going to have to be brought in to pull off what was going to prove to be one of the most technically challenging feats in the history of animation. Canadian-British animator Richard Williams was brought in along with a crack-team of international animators (many who would later be brought in to work on the Disney movies of the renaissance). Williams didn’t want to go to Los Angeles, like any sane person, and insisted on working in London resulting in the entire production being moved to England to accommodate him, hence why most of the live action cast are British.
Zemeckis was also brought back on to direct since in the intervening years he’d gone from “failed director” to “man who can just stand in a room and cause money to rain down at will”.  The international shoot and pioneering special effects combined into the most expensive production for an animated movie that there had ever been, with costs so high that Katzenberg had to talk Eisner out of pulling the plug. When the movie finally rolled into theatres $40 Million dollars over budget there was a whole lot riding on it.

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The Hangman’s Daughter-Chapter 29

 

CHAPTER 29: THE LEPER COLONY

 

“So.” said Milo “Mabus recruited you into the Nine to fight these mutated Temporals.”

“That’s right.” said Virgil “But then, you knew that, didn’t you?”

“I knew a little.” said Milo. For all his mild nebbishness, there was a warning in Milo’s eyes.

They don’t know I’m one of the Nine. Let’s keep it that way.

Virgil’s seemed to respond; Or else what?

“So. What happened?” Kathy asked gently “Did you go to Stalingrad?”

“Yes.” said Virgil “More fools we.”

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The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 28

CHAPTER 28: A MEAL IN PARIS

“Ah, the great warrior rises.” said Mabus as Virgil and Jeda came downstairs.

The house which he had been brought to was a pleasant, unassuming semi-detached  in a leafy Berlin suburb circa 1970. It was this innocuous dwelling that Mabus had selected as the base for a war spanning all of space and time.

“How are you feeling, my boy?” the old man asked kindly.

“Well.” said Virgil “Very well. I owe you my life.”

“I will not be slow to collect the debt, you can be sure of that.” said Mabus, and although he wore a half smile, it was clear he was quite serious.

The kitchen was bright and attractive, and around the varnished wooden table sat Aodh and a tall Ugandan who was introduced to Virgil as Baako.

(more…)

Coonan

The Unshaved Mouse debates Noel Coonan, TD for Tipperary North

Today in the Dáil, a debate took place between Mr Noel Coonan, TD (Fine Gael, Tipperary North) and the Unshaved Mouse (Independent, Internet) on the subject of the recently introduced water charges and the public unrest and mass protest that have followed. Footage of the debate can be seen at the end of this article. Unfortunately, as Mr Mouse is a small rodent approximately 3 inches in length and has tiny, tiny little lungs, the Dáil’s recording apparatus were not sensitive enough to record his contributions to the debate. A transcript of the debate now follows.

"Because the people of Ireland have now seen what they are up against. Particularly the socialist led protest that was up there..."

“Because the people of Ireland have now seen what they are up against. Particularly the socialist led protest that was up there…”

"CRIUSH OBAMACARE! Sorry, sorry, when you use the word "socialist" it sets off my programming, I follow a lot of American politics, please continue..."

“CRUSH OBAMACARE! Sorry, sorry, when you use the word “socialist” it sets off my programming, I follow a lot of American politics, please continue…”

"The disgraceful scenes that went on, what they did to people in power..."

“The disgraceful scenes that went on, what they did to people in power…”

"Look, Im not denying that guy throwing a brick at a police car wasnt the single worst thing to every happen in the history of the Republic but that was an isolated incident..."

“Look, I’m not denying that guy throwing a brick at a police car wasn’t the single worst thing to ever happen in the history of the Republic but that was an isolated incident…”

"I come from the town of of Templemore where we train every Garda in the country?"

“I come from the town of of Templemore where we train every Garda in the country.”

"You do? Awesome. Could you train them not to bang womens heads against lamposts? And if youre already doing that, maybe some kind of refresher course to brush up on the fundamentals...?"

“You do? Awesome. Could you train them not to bang women’s heads against lamposts? And if you’re already doing that, maybe some kind of refresher course to brush up on the fundamentals…?”

"And the people round there and right across the country that Ive met across the country."

“And the people round there and right across the country that I’ve met…”

"Well in fairness, you do stretch across the country.""

“Possible, you do stretch across the country.”

"And they are now concerned by what they see as elements and socialists led by  the so-called wealth socialist party led by the Murph and company."

“And they are now concerned by what they see as elements and socialists led by the so-called wealthy socialist party led by the Murph and company…”

"Ah the Murph. M,y favourite Dr Seuss character. Oh wait, you mean Paul Murphy, the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD. Well, he does come from a wealthy background. But are you saying we shouldn't trust him ebcause he's rich? 'Cos that sounds kinda socialist. DEATH PANELS! Godammit..."

“Ah the Murph. My favourite Dr Seuss character. Oh wait, you mean Paul Murphy, the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD. Well, he does come from a wealthy background. But are you saying we shouldn’t trust him because he’s rich? ‘Cos that sounds kinda socialist. DEATH PANELS! Godammit…”

"And aided and abetted by extremists in our colleagues in Sinn Féin."

“And aided and abetted by extremists in our colleagues in Sinn Féin.”

"Political parties with their origins in violent revolutionary movements?! HOW COULD THIS COME TO PASS!? HOW, GOD?!"

“Political parties with their origins in violent revolutionary movements?! HOW COULD THIS COME TO PASS!? HOW, GOD?!”

"And the people have given us the signal that that needs to be nipped in the bud."

“And the people have given us the signal that that needs to be nipped in the bud.”

(more…)

The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 27

CHAPTER 27: THE LEPERS OF ST ROCHELLE

 

It was in in the autumn of 1627 that Virgil, Vicomte de Aurais, arrived in La Rochelle to partake in the great siege being conducted by His Majesty, Louis XIII and his noble eminence, the Cardinal-Duc Richelieu against the Huguenot insurgency.

And he was loving it.

Finally out from under the boot of his father, Virgil proceeded to enjoy himself as much as one could enjoy themselves during a savage military campaign. Which, as it turned out, was a great deal, and when not on duty Virgil was rarely found far from the taverns or gaming houses of the garrison. Virgil would never want for friends; he had wit and courage, which endeared him to men, beauty and charm, which endeared him to women, and a great deal of money, which endeared him to both.

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alice-in-wonderland-classic-disney-7662567-720-480

Video Reviews Shall Return!

So after a long, long wait the search is finally over and we have someone to do video reviews.

And that person was right here the whole time (and when he took off his glasses…I realised he was beautiful.)

Erik Copper is now going to be doing the audio and the visual for the videos as he slowly and inexorably replaces me as the one true Mouse.

I’ve already seen the early version of the Make Mine Music review and they are gonna be goooooood, people.

Speaking of reviews, the audio for Alice in Wonderland is now up so get listenin’ and, oh yeah, Mouse finally got off his tail and posted the latest chapter of the Hangman’s Daughter. (Sorry guys, week has been kinda crazy.)

Be good, I watch you always.

Mouse.