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The Little Island by Richard Williams

Little Island

Richard Williams’s epic first animated short The Little Island (1958) has been posted online. Highly stylized, dialogueless, serious themes, and over half an hour long, the film definitely takes some effort to sit through. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating–and surprisingly offbeat–early work by a contemporary animation legend, and well worth a view.

(Thanks, Patrick McCart)

  • Ryan

    Thanks Amid/Patrick, I’ve been wanting to see this ever since reading about it in Jerry’s Animation Art book. It didn’t disappoint the waiting, that’s for sure, and I can see how it may’ve influenced the likes of Yellow Submarine, Twice Upon A Time and Osamu Tezuka’s early work. Seems like a nice alternative to Allegro Non Troppo if you’re looking for a further alternative to Fantasia.

  • Lucy

    YES! :) Thank you for finally posting this! Thanks to Cartoon Brew, I’ve become a massive Richard Williams fangirl. And now, to be able to see some of his earliest work… Thanks, again!

  • This cost a bit of money to transfer from a 35mm print donated by a certain collector. Well worth it, a very good little film. We were doing some other obscure Williams stuff at the time too.

  • This movie was great! It’s great to see where Richard Williams made his start, and it was quite a spectacular one. It reminds me of early UPA and Zagreb Films animation, and just as beautifully animated and designed. (Imagine if Jim Henson made a film like this with muppets!)

    Thanks, Amid and Patrick! This was worth the wait.

  • I love this film! Dick was 25 years old when he did this. It’s interesting how his career path went in the opposite direction of John Hubley’s for example. While Hubley moved from mainstream animation at Disney into more stylized personal work, Dick started of with the stylized stuff and then gravitated more and more towards mainstream.

  • slowtiger

    After all these years it was quite an interesting experience to finally see it. I only knew 2 drawings and 1 short clip from this – and I expected something completely different. I didn’t expect the subject – it wasn’t mentioned in any of my books.

  • Ed

    Williams did this entire film by himself. Took him around a year, unless what I’ve read is incorrect.

  • Tristram Cary, who had just scored “The Ladykillers” a few years before, did the music and sound effects. I think he did a terrific job. Check him out on Wikipedia.

  • Holger,

    I’d think there’s a reason Richard Williams went the opposite route of John Hubley: Simply, Dick was not in America, where animation was just looked down at as kids’ material (Europe and Japan, for example, understood animation as an art form, whereas American acceptance of animation as an art form was in gradual decline). Also, he was not blacklisted by the ubiquitous McCarthy movement like Hubley was.

  • This is a great find. First introduction to William’s work for me. This particular piece reminded me a lot of certain contemporary trends in character animation – I’m thinking of Pictoplasma and people like Joel Trussel. It’s whacky too but in a meaningful way.

  • Marcus

    Anyone know what Richard Williams is up to these days?

  • Marcus: rumour says that he’s living in Canada and quietly making another feature film based on of the plays of Aristophanes.

    But you won’t find any more information than that.

  • Josh Kaell

    What this posting does not show, is that the film was originally anamorphic. Most of it played exactly as posted, i.e in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but with vertical black bars at the sides. When the action reaches the point where the aggression becomes too great for the smaller screen to contain, the black side bars diminish, and the picture expands to fill the full 2.55:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio. There is some very rapid cutting back and forth in this sequence in the “flat” version which did not exist as such in the original. I don’t know whether the flat version was shot that way, or panned and scanned using traditional practice.

  • Ogg

    Are you sure? There’s a Thames documentary on Richard Williams that has clips from many of his films. All of the stuff shot in Panavision was kept widescreen (The Thief, The Return of the Pink Panther opening, Charge of the Light Brigade sequences), but The Little Island is 1.33:1 for even those clips. The transfer was from 35mm, so I guess Williams shot two versions: one for flat 35mm and one for CinemaScope?