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Persistence of Vision (2012)

Originally conceived in the 1960s, but only ever released in a heavily compromised version in the early 1990s (under different titles), The Thief and the Cobbler was animator Richard Williams’ ‘greatest animated film that was NEVER made’. The history of the film’s troubled production from script to ‘almost’ screen (over 28 years – the longest in the history books) is legendary and became the subject of Kevin Schreck’s 2012 documentary Persistence of Vision.

Williams’ film began life as an adaptation of the stories of Mullah Nasrudin, a wise fool from Middle Eastern folklore, but due to legal hassles ended up turning into the story of a shy cobbler who tries to win the affections of a distant princess who is also being seduced by the evil Grand Vizier, Zig-zag. When Zig-zag wages war on the princess’ peaceful Golden City, it’s an unspeaking local thief who sets things right by accident…

The Thief and the Cobbler

A host of famous names stars of stage and screen lent their voices to Williams’ original film when it was recorded in London in the early 1970s, including Kenneth Williams, Windsor Davies, Joan Sims, Anthony Quayle and Vincent Price (as Zig-zag). But when Miramax released their version in the US on 25 August 1995 (a different edit was also released in Australia two years earlier), many were dumped or replaced by the likes of Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Beals and Toni Collette.

The Thief and the Cobbler

Luckily, Price’s brilliant turn as the rhyme-speaking Zig-zag was not lost and remains a personal favourite of mine (he’s at his melliflous best). Courtesy of The Vincent Price Exhibit, this rare photo of Price (above) was taken in London in 1970 and shows the actor with director/animator Richard Williams working on character designs for the film. Below, courtesy of the Persistence of Vision Facebook page, are two screen grabs from a deleted scene (*) from the documentary, in which story development artist John Culhane reminisces about Price coming to the London studio to record his voice track.

Persistence of Vision is available for just £20.10, the DVD set is region-free and includes the workprint of Williams’ true vision of his incomplete masterpiece in its entirety. To order your copy, click here: https://www.etsy.com

The Thief and the Cobbler

HERE’S WHAT YOU GET
• Optional English language subtitles for Persistence of Vision
• Original 1992 workprint of Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler in its entirety
• Q&A with director Kevin Schreck recorded at DePaul University in Chicago
• Q&A with The Thief and the Cobbler animator Steve Evangelatos at the Vancouver International Film Festival
• Montage of pencil tests and rough animation from The Thief and the Cobbler
• 8 deleted scenes
• 4 international TV clips
• Original Persistence of Vision international festival trailer

* CLICK HERE to see that deleted scene from the film.

Watch the 1995 Miramax Cut here

About Post Author

The Curator

Peter Fuller is a award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.
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One thought on “Persistence of Vision | The untold story of the greatest animated film NEVER made – The Thief and the Cobbler

  1. […] It’s a tough watch at times, especially seeing Gilliam (who is fast approaching 80) struggling not only with the myriad of problems that arise while shooting but also the aches and pains of mortality. But not even the handicap of having a catheter fitted (that fills up with blood and urine) slows him down – despite the self-doubts and cynicism that occupies his state of mind. His determination is admirable, worrying and also inspirational (something only artists will understand – it also reminded me of another unfinished project, Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler (as detailed in Kevin Schreck’s documentary Persistence of Vision). […]

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