‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Animator Richard Williams Dead at 86
Oscar-winning artist also helmed ‘The Thief and the Cobbler,’ worked on two Pink Panther films
Richard Williams, the Oscar-winning animator who served as animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has died at the age of 86.
Williams’ family announced Saturday that the Canadian-born animator died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, the Guardian reports.
Williams won three Oscars over the course of his career, first a Best Short Subject, Animated Films Academy Award for 1973’s A Christmas Carol, then a pair of Oscars – for Best Visual Effects and Special Achievement Award – for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a 1989 comedy that seamlessly blended Robert Zemeckis’ live-action sequences with animation directed by Williams.
After working as an animator at Disney as a teenager, Williams won a BAFTA for his first animated film, 1958’s The Little Island. From there, the animator would go on to create the memorable title sequences for 1965’s What’s New Pussycat?, 1967’s James Bond spoof Casino Royale and a pair of Pink Panther films, 1975’s The Return of the Pink Panther and 1976’s The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
Williams also served as director, screenwriter, lead animator, producer and voice actor on 1995’s The Thief and the Cobbler, an animated film that Williams spent over 30 years making; it was footage from this long-in-the-works film – Williams began work on it in 1964 – that convinced Zemeckis and producer Steven Spielberg to recruit the animator for their similarly gestating Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Williams took the Roger Rabbit job in order to finish financing The Thief and the Cobbler.
“You film the live action first, which is the work of the director of the film Bob Zemeckis. He’d shoot the live action and I’d say to him ‘just leave me a hole, mark an X on the floor and we’ll draw a rabbit,’” Williams told the BBC in 2008 of working on the film. “So you would then print up each frame of the film in a big photograph and then we’d put a piece of paper down and draw a rabbit.”
Williams’ last worked as animator on the 2015 short Prologue, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animated.