Richard Williams, the animator known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and two “Pink Panther” films, is dead, his family told PA Media, the UK national news agency.
He was 86 years old.
Williams, who was born in Toronto but moved to the UK in the 1950s, died Friday at his home in St. Andrews, Bristol.
His daughter Natasha Sutton Williams told the PA her father had been suffering from cancer. He was animating and writing until 6 p.m. on the day he died, she said.
“He really was an inspiration to everyone that met him,” Williams’ daughter said. “Whether they were animators, or from the top to the bottom of society.”
Williams had won three Oscars, three British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards and more than 250 other international awards, according to his website The Animator’s Survival Kit.
“During his more than 50 years in the business Williams has been one of the true innovators and serves as the link between the Golden Age of animation by hand and the new computer animation successes,” his biography reads. “Perhaps even more important has been his dedication to passing along his knowledge to a new generation of animators so that they in turn can push the medium in new directions.”
The making of an acclaimed animator
After Williams at age 5 visited a movie theater with his mother to see the animated “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” his mother claimed he was never the same again, he recalled.
“It just knocked me out,” he told The New York Times in 1988. “I said, ‘That’s what I want to do; that’s what I have to do.'”
Williams would go on to become the director of animation for the hit film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and be credited, along with director Robert Zemeckis, as a trailblazer of live-action integration with cartoon characters.
But Williams initially was reluctant to take the job, according to Southam News. At the time, he was working on “The Thief And The Cobbler” and would have to put all of his other projects on hold to focus on Roger Rabbit.
“I feared if I did this picture it would stop everything,” he said in 1988. “It would destroy my commercial business for certain. And then I thought this might not be such a bad idea if it was lucrative enough to allow me to concentrate on just movies in the future.”
Ultimately, he said yes. He later won two Academy Awards for the Walt Disney/Steven Spielberg blockbuster.
Some of Williams’ other work is featured in the movies “The Return of the Pink Panther,” “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” and 1967’s “Casino Royale,” as well as the 1971 TV short “A Christmas Carol.”