The Thief And The Cobbler DVD REVIEW

The ruins of a legend

Animated adventures in The Thief And The Cobbler.

The mystery of who Pat Butcher willed her earrings to was finally solved.

Release Date: 13 February 2012
1995 * U * 70 minutes * £19.99
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Richard Williams
Vincent Price, Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Beals, Jonathan Winters, Clive Revill

The Thief And The Cobbler is a cartoon legend, a massively ambitious film decades in the making. Even in this butchered, cretinously dumbed-down version, its incredible hubris shines through.

It’s an Arabian Nights romp, set in a Baghdad protected from barbarians by three gold balls atop a tower. The Thief is a slinking, flea-bitten fall guy, a human Wile E Coyote, who goes through mad escapades to get the balls. The gentle Cobbler befriends a princess and ticks off an evil Vizier (voiced by Vincent Price on hammy, rhyming form).

The fantastically ornate animation and design are full of intricate movements and Escheresque backgrounds. The Thief and Cobbler race through abstract mosaics and rollercoaster down mathematical figures. The finale sees the Thief being hurled through the innards of a self-destructing steampunk war machine.

Originating in the late ‘60s, Thief was still being made in London until the ‘90s, its creator Richard Williams using generations of crack artists. Then his insurers took the film away from him, unfinished. In the subsequent hacking and hashing, sappy sub-Disney songs were added and crappy “comedy” voices overdubbed. As a last outrage, the DVD is in cropped 4:3 format.

And yet, the ruins of Thief are worth watching. There are wondrous and hilarious moments, and glimpses of a darker, wilder film. Take the lead barbarian; it’s a one-eyed Orc, its mouth bursting with teeth, who reclines on a mound of live women!



Andrew Osmond

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