Inside Encounters #2- Richard Williams opens Encounters with Who Framed Roger Rabbit

 

Those lucky enough to be at Watershed on Tuesday night witnessed a very humble Richard Williams introduce a double Oscar winning piece of work as if it was something he whipped up as a student filmmaker. A digitally re-mastered cut of the 1988 animation/live-action classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit opened Encounters 2013 alongside the South West Showcase – a special platform for the work of regional filmmakers.

Charming and self-effacing, Williams took to the stage with a few anecdotes about the making of the genre-busting film. Informing an expectant audience that he hadn’t originally wanted to make the film, Williams went on to talk about how the prospect of it terrified him. Indeed, it was only after director Robert Zemeckis explained how a sequence from Star Wars Episode III had achieved what they wanted that Williams was convinced that it could be done. Williams recounted that Zemeckis confided that other animators had struggled with the project’s scope – and that some had simply denied it was doable. In classic Williams style, he assured him, “The animators you’ve just been talking to are just a bunch of lazy bastards.”

“Start the film well, get put something good in the middle, then end it well”, advised Williams, whose films have demonstrated that he is a man who takes his own advice. Indeed, Williams worked so hard on the opening animation sequence that Zemeckis not-so-subtly threatened to “let [him] go” (they were terrified he would outshine the live-action to follow).

One-time colleague and protégé of Williams, Shelly Page, introduced him, explaining that he had constantly pushed her never to be satisfied, and to always strive for more. These sentiments are evidenced not only by his contribution to Encounters Festival, but in his modest presentation of such a defining piece of work. Even after twenty-five years on the shelf, the film is truly a rounded work. A perfect storm of comedy, snappy dialogue and strong acting collides with an animator at the peak of his career; it’s no surprise that Who Framed Roger Rabbit has been lauded as the catalyst of the Disney Renaissance.

As we shuffled out of the screening I overheard Williams say to a gushing fan, with not a trace of false modesty, “Oh no! The animation was just terrible!”. I respectfully disagree.

By Rory Gibson

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