The Thief and the Cobbler was 30 years in the making, was released in a couple of different chopped up forms, then someone took all the footage they could find to try and create a version of the director's original vision, called the Recobbled Cut. There are a few versions of this fan-edited version; I saw the most recent, Mark 4, and that's the version I'm reviewing.
The film is made up of finished animation pulled from video, some 35mm finished footage, some work prints, test animations, half done sequences, and still sketches. In spite of this miscellany, the story of a kingdom under threat from a thief, a one-eyed warlord, and Vincent Price, has a fairly coherent and engaging story.
The quality varies from moment to moment. Some scenes are fully finished, but many look like there are details missing, and color and quality vary from moment to moment. But much of what is there is truly stunning. There are wonderfully clever effects, like a top down, shot of a chase over a tiled floor that reveals an optical illusion. Parts have a Fleischer Brothers surrealist aspect, while the finale, the wildly elaborate destruction of a vast war machine, would have been one of the greatest animated sequences of all time had it been fully finished. Even in its current form it's incredibly impressive.
It's hard to know how the final film would have looked. The director was apparently constantly changing and reanimating sequences (which lead to cost and time overruns that got him thrown off the project), so even the "finished" parts might not have been final. But I salute the guy who put this together and hope that someday he or perhaps Disney (who may have more footage in a vault) will create something even closer to the director's vision.
Well worth watching for animation fans who can deal with the flawed presentation.
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