Richard Williams

williams again and rupert

Richard Williams rightly deserves all the adulation he gets from animators. Sadly, the general public is less aware of his significance, though most have seen and admired his work in “Roger Rabbit” and all of us have seen the effect he had on the industry. Anyway, I am always amazed by Williams’ generosity. It was clear when he was presenting his cut of “the Thief” a few months’ back.


When I was a schoolboy, and later when I was at university, he gave up his time, had me visit the studio and talked for hours to me about the process of animation. On that second visit, he took me to a restaurant where I remember eating a plate of smoked salmon and otherwise hanging on his every word, none of which I have forgotten. “I think in colour” was the most amazing statement. I envy that. I think in lines, not colour at all, and I think I struggle with colour. I wrote an article based on what he said which was printed in an oxford magazine.

wilson article 1 wilson article 2

Afterwards, I had time to kill before getting a bus back to Oxford and I went to see a show called “Another Country”. Within a year, I was doing front covers for Amber Lane Press which printed the text of the play. (Here are some of them together with the programmes for Another Country)

kiss of the spider woman jj farr when she danced

colin firth 2 Daniel_Day_Lewis 2 rupert 2

I vividly remember Rupert Everett and Kenneth Branagh, and later went back to see their understudies, Daniel Day Lewis and Colin Firth. Day Lewis was the godson of a lady who lived in my house and sat in my room with the poodle chatting about the past. I lived in a converted conservatory: there was a swimming pool at the bottom of the garden.

It had only been a year or so since Mrs Thatcher had announced the identity of Anthony Blunt in the Commons as one of the Cambridge Spy ring. What had not been emphasised I suppose was the fact that most of the spys were gay and had been to the better Public schools. “Another Country” picked up these themes, of treason, homosexuality and espionage in the mid 1930s. The play began in Greenwich and transferred after stunning reviews there to a 19-month run at the Queens in the West End, almost unheard of for a straight play both then and now. Years later, I directed my own production of “Another Country”!

All the screams on the page above are copies of Richard Williams’ sensational “Christmas Carol” which I was watching while I was without a computer for the last few days: I have to draw a screaming face. As ever, Williams has already done it, and done it better than I could ever imagine doing. I have been sent lots of Roger Bacon paintings as reference.

Ah, here is a link to a youtube upload of Errol le Cain’s film “the sailor and the devil” Simply tremendous to see it after all these years. I was amazed to find Errol le Cain was working for Williams: two of my heroes in the same place. More on Errol le Cain later I think….


Nasruddin or Nasrudin


nasruddin pages

Nasruddin was the figure in the Richard Williams film  that I discovered in the early 70s. The film changed completely when it became the “Thief and the Cobbler” and the Nasruddin character disappeared. There are various stories about why this happened. Last Sunday Williams simply said that the original story and the original character did not work. Nasruddin, however, is still visible in a crowd scene riding on his donkey (which he rides backwards)… here are some drawings of statues in Turkey- one faintly comic and the other more respectful. He was a real character but he used humour and his stories are laced with unexpected incident and comment. however, Nasruddin turns up in Turkish legend as Nasreddin Hoja and then again in Albanian as Nastrudin Hoxha. I don’t know whether it is more appropriate to see Nasrudin as Turkish or Iranian: the oldest manuscript from 1571 suggests he was Turkish or active in Turkey. When we made the first version of “A torture Cartoon”, it made sense to add a version of Nasruddin because Necati is Turkish


and then later when we did “how to be Boss” we did a new design and told one of the many Nasruddin stories. You can find the sequence at about 2.39: “Have you told your wife who is boss in your own house? Don’t worry. She knows!”


There is a Pappas illustrated edition of stories which I would love to see. Otherwise, the best editions are those illustrated by Williams himself and the spectacular Errol le Cain



  • The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasreddin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams.


  • The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasreddin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams and Errol Le Cain

Here is a link to the “what is bread?” section in what is left of the Williams film with Kenneth Williams’ voice:


It is simply delightful to listen to Kenneth Williams, and Richard Williams version of Nasruddin is so elegant. The Williams character should be spelt “Nasrudin” of course. Apologies.