Richard Williams, Roger Rabbit’s Animator, Dies at 86
You may not know the name Richard Williams, but you almost certainly know his work. Williams is the man responsible for animating Roger Rabbit and Jessica Rabbit in the classic animation/live-action hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Sadly, Williams passed away at his home in England on Friday, according to his family. Williams was 86 years old.
Before Roger Rabbit, Williams had a long career as an animator, mostly doing commercials as well as opening titles for movies. Here’s his animated credits for The Return of the Pink Panther:
Williams won his first Oscar for his 1971 animated short of A Christmas Carol. He won two more for Roger Rabbit, one for Best Visual Effects and a Special Achievement award for "animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters.” Roger Rabbit’s combination of animated characters with live-action actors was groundbreaking in 1988. Below, Williams talks about how he got the job as the animation director on the film — basically no one else thought they could make the animation the way Robert Zemeckis wanted, using moving cameras. Williams was the guy who figured out how to do it, and helped make one of the most visually dynamic films of its era.
Williams also directed one of the most famous “lost” films in animation history, The Thief and the Cobbler, which spent decades in production under the auspices of various studios and was eventually released without Williams’ consent, with his work finished by other animations. Williams did managed to make a copy of his workprint on the film, which has been screened occasionally since its digital restoration in 2013.
Williams remained busy through the years; his 2015 short film “Prologue” was nominated for Best Animated Short at the Oscars. Although his work has made him a legend in animation circles, he probably deserves much more attention for his imaginative and beautiful work — if, for nothing else, helping figure out how to make Roger Rabbit a reality, and creating one of the most beloved animated movies of all time.
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