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SYFY WIRE animation

Roger Rabbit creator Richard Williams dies, age 86

By Alexis Sottile
Richard Williams Screen grab

The groundbreaking animator Richard Williams, whose work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Pink Panther, and more earned him three Oscars, died Friday at the age of 86. His family reports to The Guardian that he passed away at home in Bristol, England.

Born in Toronto, Canada, in the 1930s, Williams moved to England in his 20s. In addition to his three Oscars, Williams was a three-time winner of England's prestigious BAFTA award, once for his work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit: the film for which he won two of his Oscars after having served as its animation director and visual creator of the iconic animated-couple-to-watch in 1988: Roger and Jessica Rabbit.

It cannot be overstated to say how revolutionary Who Framed Roger Rabbit was for audiences at its debut in 1988. Never before had animation and live-action film been blended so seamlessly, and the story itself (written by Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, and Gary K. Wolf), of a cartoon character named Roger Rabbit who gets framed in a film-noir-style setup that hinged on friction between humans in Hollywood and the animated denizen of nearby Toon Town, was a genius vehicle for that particular breakthrough in film technology. As reported by Vulture on the occasion of the 30-year anniversary of the film in 2018, three specific techniques developed by Williams and his colleagues are still in use today as a means to blend the ever-increasing use of CGI into live-action storytelling.

Prior to his work on this trend-setting, and eminently enjoyable, film, Williams animated the title sequences for The Return of the Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and also worked on Casino Royale. The Guardian reports that Williams was working on projects and animating all the way up to the day of his death.