Richard Williams, Who Brought Roger Rabbit to Life, Dies at 86

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When The Times reviewed a new print in 2016, Glenn Kenny compared it to Orson Welles’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” — “a staggering masterpiece that can never be seen in its ideal form.”

Mr. Williams was the author of “The Animator’s Survival Kit” (2001). The book, “a collection of methods, principles and formulas,” included a whole chapter on “runs, jumps and skips.” It became an essential industry reference, in print and as a 16-DVD box set. The film historian Kevin Brownlow called it “utterly riveting, even to a layman.”

Mr. Williams’s career advice was sometimes less than idealistic. “Persist,” he once told a screening audience. “Keep going. Don’t get stopped. Because they’re going to stop you if they can.”

Richard Edmund Williams was born on March 19, 1933, in Toronto, where he was brought up by his mother, Kathleen (Ball) Williams, an illustrator, and her second husband, Kenneth Williams, a commercial artist.

He liked to say that his mother was his inspiration, but she insisted it was Walt Disney. During a Museum of Modern Art interview in 2016, Mr. Williams quoted her as telling him, “You saw ‘Snow White’ when you were 5, and you were never the same.”

At 15, he ran away from home, traveling to California in hopes of meeting Disney, but his mother insisted he return. He took courses at the Ontario College of Art, and at 16 was earning a living as an illustrator. Then he had a change of heart.

Deciding that fine art was his real calling, Mr. Williams spent two years painting in Ibiza, Spain. He also played in a jazz band there. (That passion endured; as a cornetist, he went on to lead several bands.) When he returned to animation, he worked for an animation studio in London and then opened his own.


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