The Genius of Richard Williams
In a bit of Oscar night counter-programming, I rewatched Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the first time in a few years in preparation for the next Ebert Cup match. Spoiler alert, it holds up extrmeemly well. Even 30 years on, it's still an astonishing piece of work, not just as a funny-page pulp-noir, but in the way the animated and live-action worlds meld so seamlessly in a pre-CGI world.
Key to that fusion of worlds is the work of legendary animation director Richard Williams. By 1988, he was already a legend in the field, winning an Oscar in 1972 for his adaptation of A Christmas Carol. By 1989, his work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit netted him not only two more statuettes, but a production deal with Warner to help finish his long-gestating magnum opus The Thief and the Cobbler. That particular story doesn't end well: Thief ends up being wrested from Williams' hands, and a compromized version dies an unmourned death in theatres, while his original cut becomes one of animation's great cause celebres.
That saga cemented Williams' status as a legend, but this video by Andrew Saladino of the Royal Ocean Film Society gets to the nuts and bolts of what makes Williams an all-timer. The short of it: it's all about the way his characters move through space. Dust off that VHS copy of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and watch that opening cartoon again. Notice how fluidly the perspective shifts, how the camera glides and warps the space. That's the work of a true master of the form.