The Thief & The Cobbler: ReCobbled Cut

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The Thief & the Cobbler out on DVD tomorrow.

Post by GeorgeC » March 8th, 2005, 2:22 am

It's the theatrical release version (aka "Arabian Nights"), but it's finally officially out on DVD tomorrow -- and not in a Cereal box.

Oh, and 1.33 aspect ratio I'm afraid to report...

Thank you DVDToons for the Amazon.com ad plug!

(Still gonna skip this one, though. There are 2 anime titles coming out tomorrow I'd like to get plus an old Humphrey Bogart movie, Dead End.)

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Post by Randall » March 8th, 2005, 8:40 am

As I have the widescreen (2.35:1, I believe) laserdisc, there is no reason for me to get the DVD. There is some great animation there, though. Too bad the DVD buyers will only get to see about half of it.

...still hoping for a 2-disc set with more of the original animation.

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Post by Ben » March 8th, 2005, 10:28 am

Yeah, I'm with Rand on having the Laser and skipping the DVD.

A MUCH better option is to try and get hold of "The Princess And The Cobbler", a columbia/TriStar version of the film that came out in 1993 (prior to Miramax's 1995 redub).

This earlier edition still fumbles by adding the songs, but is closer to Williams' intention and includes a LOT more of the original animation (from putting the King's witch sister back in as well as the original mine-cart chase at the end and eventual landing of the Thief in the "airplane"-type contraption).

It's not a totally different film, but different enough! Unfortunately, it's only available on DVD in Australia, in a cropped (1.33) PAL version. Put out by Becker Entertainment/Manga Pacific Video, the best bet is eBay, which is where I got my copy.

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Post by ShyViolet » March 9th, 2005, 3:05 pm

Was this film started before or after Aladdin came out?
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Post by Randall » March 9th, 2005, 9:36 pm

It was started *many* years before Aladdin came out, which led to an accusation or two once Aladdin was released. Maybe someone has a good link for the background on this?

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Post by GeorgeC » March 9th, 2005, 9:49 pm

The story of "The Thief and the Cobbler" production is a long and tortured one.

Basically, Richard Williams started production on "Thief" in the mid- to late-1960s as an independent feature that he financed with his commercial animation work. Its production was fitful and began and stopped in fits.

In what is one of the dumbest moves by a professional animator, Williams NEVER BOTHERED TO STORYBOARD THE ENTIRE FILM FROM TOP TO FINISH BEFORE STARTING THE ANIMATION PROCESS! Basically, he did what beginning animation students do -- start to animate without having his story locked-down and hope that he can use the footage that results in some way that makes chronological sense.

Williams really didn't get into accelerated production on "Thief" until after he directed the animation for the smash hit, "Roger Rabbit." After that, Williams found it much easier to secure funding from third parties and agreed to a production schedule set by the bond company that funded his film.

Williams lost control of the "Thief" project when it became obvious to the financial principals that he couldn't finish the film on the schedule agreed to so they assigned another director the project.

The "Thief and the Cobbler" was finished by the new director, retitled "Arabian Nights" complete with songs NEVER intended for the original cut, and released internationally and in the US by Miramax Family Films. To say the movie flopped would be generous.

Besides the new dance numbers added to the theatrical version of "Thief," new vocals by Jennifer Beals, Matt Broderick, and Jonathan Winters (you know an animated film SUCKS when Jonathan Winters is part of the cast) replaced the original or temporary track vocals. Vincent Price's Zig-Zag vocals were always intended to be part of the movie (he recorded his lines long before he died), but Brodericks' and Winters' characters were intended to be mute!

While promises were made by Roy Disney to Richard Williams to finance a reconstruction of "Thief" to Williams' original vision, it's highly unlikely this will ever happen. Supposedly, a lot of the Williams' animation footage cut from the final version of "Thief" was sold to private collectors to pay off production costs on the film.

We can all feel some sympathy for Williams, but the fact is that no film of any kind should take 30 years to make! There's also the not-so-inconsequential fact that Williams never seemed to have a solid blueprint for "Thief" in the first place. Going into film production without a finished script or locked-down storyboards is NEVER a good idea.

******************************

One of the big controversies/conspiracies surrounding Disney's Aladdin is that it ripped off "The Thief and the Cobbler."

While there's almost no doubt Disney artists who worked with Williams and saw "Thief" were inspired by Williams' work, the end results of both films are so different that it's kind of ridiculous to suggest Disney stole Williams' ideas. While both films borrow from Arabian and Islamic design styles, the resulting characters and animation are very diffferent... It's apples and oranges growing from the same orchard, but definitely from different trees.

There's no big controversy here.

Also, as far as I'm concerned, Aladdin is by far the better of the two films. I can't judge Aladdin against Williams' workprint, but that's not the point... Against a finished film that Aladdin "supposedly" (in the minds of the usual conspiracy nuts) stole from, Aladdin has a much tighter story and isn't dull. The same can't be said for Arabian Nights/The Thief and the Cobbler.

I would suggest that the people who are still dead-set on believing Aladdin is a rip-off of "Thief" actually sit down and WATCH both films. If they still believe the conspiracy nonsense, I suggest they get their eyes checked and probably go see a psychiatrist to get treatment for delusions and hallucinations.

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Post by ShyViolet » March 9th, 2005, 10:16 pm

It's funny because Arabian Nights was actually the original title of Aladdin, or something like that. Of course I realize it's a coincidence, it's just funny to think about.

Does "The Thief and the Cobbler" bear any relation to the classic live-action film"The Thief of Baghdad"? "Aladdin" borrowed some themes/ideas from that movie.
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Post by Ben » March 10th, 2005, 2:16 pm

Yeah, but George...

The princesses in both films could have been sisters! And what about the Sultan?

And Zig-Zag isn't a million miles off from Jafar (they even have bird sidekicks).

Is Williams ORIGINAL intention anything like Thief in tone? No.

Style? Why certainly they borrowd from the same source, but Aladdin sure did get a big head start by watching Williams' flick.


By the way...

Miramax did not finance the completion and release of the film. As someone who has worked with people involved on Cobbler (and has seen the legendary workprint), I aksed a LOT of questions. Basically:


1968. Williams starts the film.

1982/03. Shows it to Spielberg and Lucas in hope of getting funding. S and L decide to go with Don Bluth as an animation partner, but don't mind ripping off Williams' climatic mine-cart ride sequence for Temple Of Doom.

1986. Williams is involved in Roger Rabbit. Disney gets to see The Thief And The Cobbler (or "Once" as it was known at that point).

1988. Roger comes out. "What are you doing next?", everyone asks Williams. "Finishing my movie" he says. Warner Brothers get interested and provide finance on the basis that the Completion Bond Company insures the production.

1992. Aladdin released. WB gets cold feet, worrying that Williams' film will look like an Aladdin rip-off (the reverse is true, obviously, however great Aladdin is). WB catch up with Williams, who is working at his usual perfectionist's slow rate, despite awe inspiring work (he had the same trouble meeting deadlines on Roger). He is not only behind, but re-animating stuff from the 1960s and 70s that he felt didn't pass muster at that point. WB pulls out, leaving the film to the Completion Bond Company, who now want to get a quick return on their investment. Williams is fired from his own movie. In a bid to try and capture Aladdin's success (the reason WB balked), the Completion Bond Company farm out the animation (to various Japanese companies and Don Bluth). Fred Calvert, a TV animation direction, is brought in to "edit" Williams' film, throwing out whole sections and having song squeezed in to try and make it more linear and commercial.

1993. "The Princess And The Cobbler" is released in Europe and internationally. This is a strange version of the film which features the MUTE Thief and a different music score. The voices switch between the originally recorded Williams talents and some American re-recorded voices.

1995. Miramax, who have bought the film for American release, have it re-edited again, making it shorter. They add voices to the Thief, the Cobbler and Zig-Zag's bird, changing other voices and the score. Characters and more whole sequences are deleted. The film is re-named Arabian Knight and put out in limited theaters, where it dies a death.

1996-2001. Williams goes into seclusion, only coming out to go on the road with his Animator's Survival Kit shows. The Arabian Knight version of the film, now re-named back to The Thief And The Cobbler, comes out on a widescreen (2.35:1) LaserDisc and pan-and-scanned VHS. Roy Disney is made aware that, through Miramax, the company owns the rights and could see that the film is re-instated to the original intent. Looking for a pet project after Fantasia/2000, he extends a hand to Williams, who is happy to meet about the project. Disney Company unofficially sees this as a way of announcing that they are "still the animator's friend". Word is put out that the project is looking for original artwork and sequences that could be used to upgrade the workprint to final release status.

2002-03. The project languishes on. Not a lot of material is forthcoming to the project. Rumor is that maybe the film could be released in a special edition with both released cuts and the workprint copy, but then Roy Disney leaves Disney Company and the project goes into unknown limbo.

2004-Present. The Arabian Knights version of Thief And The Cobbler comes to DVD, in the pan-and-scanned version (cutting off half of the image). Richard Williams is back in Canada, working on another film that he will not reveal to anyone until he is ready to.

Sad, sad end to what could have been a real one off and a truly special masterpiece, ruined by studio politics.


For many links and cut sequences from the workprint:
http://www.geocities.com/eddie_bowers/articles.html

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Post by ShyViolet » March 10th, 2005, 5:07 pm

Whoa.....that's quite a story. :shock:
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Post by ShyViolet » March 28th, 2005, 7:10 pm

One thing I don't get: What happened between 1968 and 1982?
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Post by Ben » March 30th, 2005, 3:24 pm

Between 1968 and 1982, the bulk of the animation on The Thief And The Cobbler was produced.

The concept changed a whole lot during these few years, but he was basically animating it through the 1970s with people such as Milt Kahl and Art Babbit, who he lured over from the States to train his animators - and they ended up staying for almost the whole decade! This is all documented in the brilliant Mentorn TV documentaries "I Drew Roger Rabbit" and "Animating Art", which feature behind-the-scenes at the Studio, as well as interviews and glimpses at scenes that would ultimately end up cut from the release print.

To fund the project, Williams' also farmed out his Studio's services to various production companies, mainly doing animated commercial work. His best known projects from this time were the Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967), for which he did the titles and some effects sequences, plus title sequences for The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1968) and Prudence And The Pill (1968), winning all this work on the back of his critically acclaimed featurette The Little Island (1958).

In 1971 he was director of the Oscar-winning featurette A Christmas Carol, and went on to produce and direct the movie montage animated opening titles for The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976, where Pink infuriates Clouseau in a movie theater). He made the mis-guided animated feature Raggedy Ann And Andy: A Musical Adventure in 1977, also animating the lead characters, and another featurette, though this time for TV, was Ziggy's Gift in 1982.

Hope that fills in the gaps! :)

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Post by ShyViolet » March 30th, 2005, 3:45 pm

Thanks! :wink:
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interesting site on Thief and the Cobbler

Post by ShyViolet » February 21st, 2006, 9:44 pm

I wonder if now that Roy Disney is back, will he keep trying to revive this film?

It would be very cool to see a director's cut. Those designs are amazing! Just goes to show how so much can be done with 2d or classical animation.

http://www.geocities.com/eddie_bowers/

The site is a bit out of date, however. It only goes up to 2002, before the whole crisis at Disney.
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Post by Christian » February 21st, 2006, 10:59 pm

"The GeoCities web site you were trying to view has temporarily exceeded its data transfer limit. Please try again later."

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Post by ShyViolet » February 21st, 2006, 11:38 pm

That's odd...it works O.K. for me. :?


?????
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