Welcome to The Animation That Changed Me, a new series in which leading filmmakers and artists discuss one work of animation that has had a formative influence on their career. Our first guest is Tomm Moore, a co-founder and director at Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny, Ireland, where he has directed three features: the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, and the forthcoming Wolfwalkers. Moore has chosen Richard “Dick” Williams’s great fantasy epic The Thief and the Cobbler, which exists in many versions, none of them definitive — Williams was fired from the production before completing it. Over to Moore:
In my first year studying animation in Ballyfermot College [in Dublin], I started a deep dive into the lore of classical animation. One of my classmates had a VHS tape of the version of The Thief and the Cobbler that was released in South Africa [in 1993]. If I remember correctly, it didn’t have some of the annoying extra voices found in other versions, though it still had the awful added songs. But the good stuff really shone out and I was blown away. After Dick lost control of the project, it went to Dublin for work to be done at Sullivan Bluth Studios. At some point, one of our teachers, who was working in what remained of Bluth, told me there was a copy floating around of how the film was when it arrived there. I managed to track down a copy.
As amazing as it was to see the original storyboards and line tests, there was also a documentary on Dick on the end of the tape, dating from when the movie was still in production before all the sad events with the Completion Bond Company had transpired. It was a huge inspiration to me to try and do something similar: make a studio to do commercial work that might pay for a feature that was unashamedly independent and artistic.