THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES presents RICHARD WILLIAMS
By Scarlett Stahl
Famed animator and three time Oscar winner, Richard Williams gave a crash course in Animation on the evening of October 4, 2013 at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California. This lecture/class/ seminar, entitled This Amazing Medium, was part of the Marc Davis series at the Academy.
The evening began with the arrival of invited guests and members of the Academy to a cocktail reception with lavish hors d’oeuvres. While enjoying the delicacies that were offered at various food stations, friends and business acquaintances mingled and visited. Among some of the celebrities spotted there and pictured were: Richard Williams himself, Charles Fleischer (Voice of Roger Rabbit), Alice Davis (Disney Legend and hostess of the event), Andreas Deja (animator extraordinaire), Howard Green (VP of Communications for the Walt Disney Animation Studios) with his beautiful wife Steinunn, Fabrizio Mancinelli (composer), David Derks (Fox producer and Board member of ASIFA- Hollywood), Burny Mattinson (producer, director, animator and Disney Legend), Jerry Beck (animation critic), Rick Farmiloe (well known animator), Leonard Maltin (animation critic), Eric Goldberg ( prominent animator), John Musker (producer and director) and Mindy Johnson (author). Also present were June Foray (well known voice artist), Tony Anselmo (voice of Donald Duck) and Charles Solomon (animation critic).
Tickets had been available for pre-purchase of the theatre portion of the evening to the general public and this was a sold out event. There was an area cordoned off in the theatre for the invited guests, while the public filled the other seats in the auditorium.
Instead of a panel discussion, this was a one man show teaching about his love, Animation. Williams was emotional, irreverent, humorous and thoroughly entertaining, while being enlightening. He began the event by telling the audience that as a child when he saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his life changed forever as his mind opened and has never shut since. Williams had two parts to his lecture… first showing significant moments from films that inspired him, while discussing their particular appeal and ending with his own animation process.
First shown was the charming and lovable clip of Snow White dancing with the Dwarfs, which evidenced the incredible character animation. Next was Pinocchio’s escape from the whale Monstro, with its impossible realistic and dramatic water sequence. Particularly striking was the pink elephants on parade in Dumbo, which was sheer genius. However Disney wasn’t the only studio represented in Williams tribute. He showed clips of Tex Avery’s King Size Canary and also a Chuck Jones classic cartoon.
John Hubley had been honored in a previous Marc Davis event at the Academy, along with his wife, Faith. A sequence from his Oscar nominated adult Rooty Toot Toot short, based on the song, Frankie and Johnny, was shown.
Williams paid tribute to The Jungle Book and his mentor, Milt Kahl, who created the sequence between the tiger and the snake. When they finally met, Williams said that he began shining Kahl’s shoes. Finally Kahl said after seeing Williams’s paintings “Well you can stop shining because you draw better than me. On the other hand, keep shining, because you can’t animate worth s***.” Of course over time this changed as Williams grew in his craft.
He also admitted that he had originally believed that computer animation could not possibly compare to hand drawn animation. However Toy Story changed his mind with its warm sensitive approach to the characters and their human responses, which everyone could relate to.
The second part of the event was a retrospective tour of his body of work. Williams had taken a hiatus and disappeared to the Mediterranean to draw and paint before continuing in animation. He worked on credit sequences for The Charge of the Light Brigade and did additional animation on the film. After that he worked on the unique animated titles for The Return of the Pink Panther. In between the two, he worked for Chuck Jones on a Christmas Carol for ABC for which he won an Academy Award.
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was his most important effort and earned Williams a Special Achievement Award as well as an Oscar for Visual Effects. There had not been anything seen like it before or since. It was a combination of live active mixed with animation and was a milestone in animation history.
Williams promotional trailer of The Thief and the Cobbler, which he never completed nor released but worked on for many years, was shown to the appreciative audience.
At the end of the event, Williams allowed the audience to view his recent creation, Circus Drawings, which included his drawings begun 57 years ago. He acknowledged his wife, Imogen Sutton, who was in the audience and who had worked on this with him. Lastly he showed a bit of his present work, which has two names…Prologue and with his typical tongue in cheek humor, Will I Live To Finish This? Through his master classes, his book and DVD set, The Animator’s Survival Kit, Williams is helping a new generation of animators learn his craft.
After the event, hostess of the evening Alice Davis, whom he had acknowledged earlier, retired backstage to congratulate him. Meanwhile, downstairs in the Lobby, the audience gathered to discuss the evening and view the Academy’s current exhibition, Richard Williams: Master of Animation, which is currently on public display through December 22nd.