LOST FILMS: “Sailor and the Devil” by Errol Le Cain

I’ve wanted to watch Errol Le Cain’s Sailor and the Devil ever since I saw these stills on Hans Bacher’s website a few years ago. Animation research Garrett Gilchrist recently unearthed a copy, which although incomplete and poor quality, offers a tantalizing glimpse of this masterful short.

Le Cain made Sailor and the Devil in 1966 while working at Richard Williams’ studio in London. He had been working there for only a year when Williams invited him to direct the film under his supervision. Williams explained the idea behind the project in a documentary: “[Le Cain is] doing everything so he’s getting ten years’ experience in one, and we get a film.”

The results are refreshingly original. Le Cain invents an idiosyncratic style of movement that combines jittery bursts of motion with visually pleasing dance cycles. When the storm arrives in the film or the skeleton wave threatens to overwhelm the sailor, we encounter a world of pure graphic art. Le Cain uses the full range of color, movement, design, and cinematic devices to create an exciting universe that could exist nowhere but in an animated film.

Le Cain made significant contributions to the production design of The Thief and the Cobbler, and afterward became a well known children’s book illustator. He died in 1989 at the age of 47.

Among the many projects he did with Richard Williams, Le Cain designed these titles for The Liquidator (1965):

There’s a clip of Le Cain and Williams working on Sailor in this documentary from 1966:

(via Michael Sporn)


  • Alex Printz

    wonderful short! While very limited, it is exciting and fresh to see animation being so tightly combined with catchy music that the product is quite infectious to watch. Love it!