Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Thief and the Cobbler: The Recobbled Cut (Review)

Director: Richard Williams

Company: Richard Williams Productions

Year: never released as intended / unfinished, fan restoration first released in 2006

Country: United Kingdom

Two silent protagonists interact with one another amongst trippy backdrops.

As mentioned earlier on this blog, The Thief  was supposed to be Richard William's ultimate labor of love, but never was released as it was intended to be. The Recobbled Cut gives us an interesting insight on what could have been. The plot follows two mute characters, a polite yet timid cobbler named Tack, and the world's most determined thief. They live in the Golden City which is reined over by the very inept and lazy King Nod. The city is protected by three golden balls atop the tallest minaret. If the balls are removed, the city is prophesied to fall into ruin unless it is saved by the "simplest soul with the smallest and simplest of things." 

One day, the Thief bumps into Tack causing him to accidentally spill all of his tacks onto the street. King Nod's Grand Vizier, the egocentric Zigzag, steps on the tacks and has the cobbler arrested. Luckily, the King's daughter, Princess Yumyum, takes a liking to Tack and convinces her father that she needs her shoes repaired. Meanwhile, the Thief attempts to steal the golden balls, but loses them in the process. Zigzag seizes the opportunity to steal the balls. After Nod refuses to allow him to wed Yumyum, Zigzag delivers them to the tribe of violent One Eyes. Thus Tack, the princess, and her nanny set off to try and seek help from a mad witch who lives in the desert. Trailing behind them is the Thief, never missing an opportunity to find treasure.

The films strongest point is, unsurprisingly, its art direction and distinctive character animation. It is easy to identify each character's personality just by the way they move and dress. For instance, Zigzag pridefully strides around as he walks and generally acts in an exaggerated manner. (Which is only fitting, since he was voiced by Vincent Price!) Tack, on the other hand, is very calm and collected. The fact that he never speaks and is primarily black and white in color, alludes to the actors of the Silent Era. The whole style of the film is very unique. It can be described as Disney crossed with The Yellow Submarine. Many of the backgrounds are drawn to resemble Persian miniatures and sometimes even resemble the works of Mc Esher. Since many, many years were spent on this film, it contains some of the most intricate and beautiful animation ever created. It's importance for preserving the skills of animators from the Golden Age can not be stated enough.

The most amazing chase scene in cinematic history.

The Thief and the Cobbler: The Recobbled Cut is not without its flaws. Being an unfinished film, it does tend to abruptly change scenes occasionally and certain scenes tend to drag on a bit too long, particularly the drawn out climax were the Thief tries to escape a burning war machine. (Some say William's spent too long on certain segments just to show off the animation, as opposed to focusing more on the story.) Still, the characters are very likable and there are many fun and funny scenes involving Zigzag's pompous airs and the Thief's ridiculous antics. It's really hard to be too harsh on this film, since it was never completed.

One can only imagine how years were spent working on this scene alone.

Vincent Price is Zigzag. I'm sold. 

 The Recobbled Cut is not a film that I would recommend to those expecting a stereotypical Disney / family oriented film. (There are a few slightly adult scenes, but this mainly because of the its somewhat unorthodox style and uneven pacing.) This film is one of the most unusual and strangely intriguing movies out there. Although definitely not perfect, this is a movie that any lover of animation or art should see. 

Rating: 3.5/5