Guest post by Melanie Woods
Communications/marketing professional, adjunct Communications professor, NFL junkie - GO COLTS, art collector, and proud Indy resident.
The average moviegoer isn’t likely familiar with the name Richard Williams – “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” fans aside – but they’ve undoubtedly experienced his impact on the filmmaking industry. Lauded as one of the greatest animators of all time, Williams’ intensity and passion for his craft is inspiring. But it also might be what prevented him from completing a film 30 years in the making that was supposed to be his masterpiece.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION follows the ups and downs of Williams’ journey to produce a full-length animated feature film that promised to be like nothing anyone had seen before. Williams refuses to speak about the film himself so the documentary relies on old footage of him discussing his work and interviews with various animators who drew for him over the years.
If you enjoy the process and the mastery behind animation and filmmaking, you will really enjoy this documentary. It’s incredible to see snippets of shorts from the 1950s that were groundbreaking back then but still magical and captivating to watch today. And you also get a sense of just how much work goes into every single second of every single frame. For example, one animator spent three months on a single scene that involved a deck of cards. Williams took one look at it, didn’t like the work and made the animator start over again.
Williams was not an easy person to work with but he brought out the best in his animators by pushing them to pay attention to detail and to attempt things no one else had done. To this day, he lives and breathes the craft and works hard to be unique and non-traditional. Early on, Williams was terrified of selling out and going too commercial, but he had to take on more mainstream work to fund the art he really wanted to make.
This all sets the stage for his ultimate passion project and the focus of the documentary: “The Thief and the Cobbler.” The film ran into financial issues early on and was pushed to the side but never forgotten by Williams. It also became somewhat of an urban legend among animators wondering if the film would ever be finished. But those who saw the initial scenes and artwork felt that it needed to be finished, that the work he was doing on this film would reinvent animation.
It wasn’t until the 90s that the film caught a break and seemed like it might actually be completed. Building off the success of “Who Killed Roger Rabbit,” Warner Brothers put some serious cash behind the film and promised to help promote it in theatres. It seemed like a lucky break but in the end it would be Warner Brothers who finally laid the project to rest. They pulled the plug on Williams and his crew but went on to complete the film, adding in a love story, musical numbers and other elements Williams despised about the typical Hollywood animated films of that time.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION is the untold story of the greatest animated film never made. And it’s one you won’t want to miss if you are at all interested in the creative process, the art of animation or the filmmaking industry in general.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for PERSISTENCE OF VISION.