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How This 'Thief' Became a 'Knight' : Movies: Richard Williams lost his treasured project to a bond company in '92. His son is disappointed in the final version.

August 30, 1995|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I really didn't want to do it," Calvert said Tuesday, "but if I didn't do it, it would have been given off to the lowest bidder. I took it as a way to try and preserve something and at least get the thing on the screen and let it be seen."

When he got the project, Calvert said, it was only about 60% completed. "A lot that was left was in storyboard and rough pencil animation. The story wasn't there yet. So, we kind of restructured it."

Calvert said he asked a number of animators who had worked with Williams in London to help him finish the film. "It took us a year and a half to finish it," he said, estimating that 30% of the film was original work developed under his supervision.

Although Calvert said the decision to give the cobbler a voice came while he was supervising the project, it wasn't until he turned it in that he discovered that Miramax was going to give the thief a voice, too.

"I never conceived of putting a voice on the thief," Calvert said. "That was a surprise to me. Whatever is wrong with the film, I'm sure someone will blame me for it."

Miramax, he said, also added music to the production.

As for the story itself, Calvert confirmed that some of the additional dialogue in the film is credited to Bette L. Smith, who at the time was president of Completion Bond Co.

"She revised a few things," Calvert said. (Smith could not be reached for comment.)

Eberts, meanwhile, said he had his last contact with Williams "a couple years ago."

"We exchanged pleasant and polite letters," he said. "I invited him to finish the film. I have no hard feelings. . . . It's a great tragedy for him."

Alexander Williams said he does not think his father is bitter but wishes he had had a chance to complete the movie he set out to make.

"We were getting the film out," the younger Williams said. "They just chose to take it off to the States and finish it there. I think there was 15 minutes left to do. It would have taken about four months more."

Asked to sum up the experience, Williams said: "The idea was to make a film better than Disney in something that was not the Disney style. I was amazed when they took it away."

Williams added that the additional footage he saw made it look like "a different movie. . . . It looks like Saturday morning TV, the stuff I saw."

Even Miramax's marketing effort ran into trouble. Early print ads for the film called it the first wide-screen animated film since "Snow White," later changed to "Sleeping Beauty"--both, of course, classics from Miramax parent Disney.

The film opened poorly over the weekend, taking in only $319,723 on 510 screens.

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