Richard Williams, one of the greatest animators in the history of the art, has died at his home in Bristol. He was 86.
He had won three Oscars and BAFTA awards for his work. He was born in Toronto, Canada, and moved to Britain in the 1950’s. He was the creator of the characters Roger and Jessica Rabbit for the 1998 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. One of those BAFTA awards and two Oscars were won for that one film. (The film was based on the 1981 book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf .)
Williams also animated the title sequences for the 1970s comedy classics The Return Of The Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and worked on Casino Royale.
Williams has previously credited Snow White – which he saw at the age of five – as having made a “tremendous impression” on him.
“I always wanted, when I was a kid, to get to Disney. I was a clever little fellow so I took my drawings and I eventually got in,” Williams told the BBC in 2008. “They did a story on me, and I was in there for two days, which you can imagine what it was like for a kid.”
They advised him to go learn proper drawing, and Williams admitted he “lost all interest in animation” until he was 23, throwing himself into art. Animation still called to him, though. He said he was drawn back to the craft because his “paintings were trying to move”.
His first film, The Little Island, was released in 1958 and won a BAFTA award. He won his first Oscar in 1971 for his animated adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Williams became a recognized grandmaster of the animation arts, and wrote a book called The Animator’s Survival Kit, used by art and animation schools everywhere. The book is considered one of the essential, indispensible titles for every animator’s bookshelf (the others being Drawn to Life, volumes 1 & 2, by Walt Stanchfield, and Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston).
Williams had been teaching master classes in animation starting in 1995, and animating and writing until the day he died.
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