Animated Comment – Ken Clark chats with Richard Williams – Page 4

K.C.: Except, perhaps, at G.B. Animation, Cookham?

R.W.: …whcre they tried to avoid the problem. From what I have heard of David Hand it would seem he was a ‘committee’ man. Walt really directed the films and used Hand and the other guys.

K.C.: What went wrong with your attempt to run open evening classes on animation in East Sheen?

R.W.: We were very disillusioned. We gave up fast because no-one wanted to work hard, they just wanted to talk about it. It was a naive attempt – we figured if we could establish a good school where they worked hard we’d probably be able to train people to the point where we could use them. But the talent and the interest wasn’t there. It was an honest try that failed.

K.C.: Where do you find your talent then – do they come from the Film Schools?

R.W.: I don’t think anybody has – I might be wrong. You see, the people who teach animation don’t know anything. Except, recently, a teacher in Bradford suggested we take one of his students for a month. I let him take the Babbitt Course and, unlike most of the people who come here, he actually did it – he did every lesson in the book and he was remarkable. He’s going to join us when he graduates. In general, animation teachers teach techniques, not character animation. They don’t know how to do it – professionals don’t know how to do it. It is getting better. I don’t know whether it is since Babbitt, Ken Harris and Grim Natwick were here but there is more animation knowledge now in London. Our competitors are good – they have a lot of very good people.

Oscar Grillo was invited to take Babbitt’s Course. We’d finished the “Christmas Carol” and Oscar had worked on it, but he went off on his own afterwards – well! I invited him on it anyway, and the results were quite startling. I saw a couple of his commercials afterwards and rang him up and said, “You swine! You’ve got it!” and he laughed. You know, the techniques are more alive here than in Hollywood.

K.C.: Yes. Arthur Humberstone told me it was almost impossible to find animators who could produce workable full animation for “Plague Dogs”. They were all of the Hanna Barbera standard.

R.W.: Yes … and a lot of the old ex-Disney men who previously worked on his shorts are now doing terrible work and can’t remember how to do good work, It’s all gone!

K.C.: That’s tragic. I was delighted when I read that you were attempting to rediscover and retain those early Disney techniques.

R.W.: Well … he says immodestly … I think we’ve done it. We’ve found it, but we haven’t yet the money to show people what we can do with it.

K.C,: I felt sure after “Christmas Carol” someone would come forward with an offer.

R.W.: No – not a peep!

K.C.: Do you think that was because so many cinemas are closing, there may not be enough showplaces left for your product?

R.W.: No – I think a lot of it was because I did not have enough good business people around me to consolidate our gains, while I was too busy working.

K.C.: What do you think of its prospects now?

R.W.: The movie business still expects the blockbuster – you cannot make a ‘little’ film. “The Thief” is a blockbuster, so all the time we have been doing the right thing. I think there arc only two markets for full animation – one is the commercial market where you are paid a lot of money to practice your craft technically well, even though you may not be able to ‘say anything. Or — you do a feature (and God help you!) Anything in the middle, like ‘Christmas Carol”, can be a disaster.

Richard Williams with Vincent Price. Vincent Price is the voice of the Grand Vizier in The Thief.
Zig-Zags Alligator sled from Richard Williams The Thief.

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