An evening with Richard Williams

I would’ve had this up earlier, but I accidentally left my camera at a friend’s place over the weekend.  Last week, Dave filled me in on a special event in promotion of next week’s 2D or Not 2D Animation Festival held at the Digipen Institute of Technology.  It was a talk given by legendary animation whiz, Richard Williams.  The guy wrote the book on animation, literally!  Pardon my geeking-out, for those who aren’t familiar with him, he is one of the best animators in the biz.  Some of his best known can be seen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (director of animation), intros for The Pink Panther, and The Thief and the Cobbler, etc.

Williams receives the Roy E. Disney award from Digipen professor and former apprentice Tony White.

The evening was basically Williams promoting his infamous animation book, The Animator’s Survival Kit, in DVD form.  This book is practically in the library of every animator, animation student, animation professor, and animator’s dog (ok, maybe not)!   I have a copy of my own and went through it a couple times.   But I guess a book about animation isn’t really a book about animation unless there’s real animation shown.  It was pretty cool to see some of the old sequences from the book in motion.  A lot of “so that’s what it looks like!” moments for me.  He even acted out some sequences himself despite being 75.

While the animated clips were cool, the best part for me was during the Q&A time when he would tell stories of his days working with some of the old time animators.  Williams had learned much of his craft from great animators such as Milt Kahl (one of Disney’s Nine Old Men), and Ken Harris (Warner Bros.).  Many of the stories he told left the crowd roaring.  It’s kinda funny to think about a group of grouchy old men yelling and cursing at each other as they spend hours upon hours drawing cute little animals.

Richard Williams, animation stud.

Afterwards, I got a chance to have my book signed and to chit chat with him a little bit.  (I’m facing one of the top animators in history and all I can say is, “So this is your first time to Seattle?”  I might as well ask if he’s been to Pike’s Place and had Starbucks coffee.  *Insert giant forehead hand-slap.*)  My brain also had another hiccup when, despite all the pictures I took that night (including these), I forgot to take a picture with the man.

Anyways, it defintely was a treat to have met someone so revered in this industry.  The man’s a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and is one of the few links remaining that bridge us to the Golden Years of Animation.  I could see how passionate he was about animation and how he loved to share that with others, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand.

UPDATE:  There’s a recap of the event on the festival’s site here.