I was saddened to learn that Richard Williams has died.
He was the Richard Williams of Cartoons.
Proper real cartoons with animators drawing the sequences on celluloid just like the Disney bods did back in the day before CGI.
I found out about this when a friend who worked at Richard Williams’ studio in Soho got me a temporary job there as a cell (celluloid) painter.
My only qualification was that I had an A in “A” level art and could handle a paintbrush and paint.
My first day at work was the usual stuff.
Being shown what to do.
The cells would arrive and we, the painters, would have to bring the animators’ beautiful, black crayon outlines on celluloid to life.
These guys were the real artists and, as a woman, I have to say that they were brilliant.
They were all men and they had an ability to visualise motion pictures by drawing their visions on celluloid sheets thousands of times
with just the merest tweak and after the schleps like me did our job, it all became rather wonderful.
The cell would be placed over a lightbox and the painting process, using acrylic paint, would begin, starting from the back, waiting for the paint to dry which didn’t take long due to the heat rising from the lightbox and then applying the next layer as the solid old fashioned cartoon was built.
The Richard Williams studio didn’t start with Jessica Rabbit oh no, when I got my job there, it was strictly adverts.
Does anyone remember the TicTac ads where the guy who stole the pearls raised his hat and the pearls fell out and bounced all over the floor, if anyone does remember that, I painted some of those cells, layer after layer from back to front.
Hours and hours of layering paint from back to front to create realistic pearls to sell mini mint sugary sweets.
At least I was getting paid. Not a lot but enough to get by.
I also worked on a Ribena advertisement.
Endless cells painted, layer after layer, from back to front to get that shine of light on to the front of the blackcurrants.
Later on, in another job, I worked with a girl who had discoloured teeth and she told me that her dentist had told her mum that this had been caused by giving her daughter Ribena for years, thinking that it was full of vitamin C and beneficial.
I have to say that this was one of the most exacting jobs I’ve ever done as it had to be perfect and working over a lightbox is pretty gruelling on the eyes but far, far worse was that we worked while music was played and it wasn’t just what was on the wireless.
I guess it was a little bit like a chicken coop and there was the inevitable pecking order and I was a mere temp.
I could do the work perfectly well and enjoyed seeing the results of my labours, the Tic Tac and Ribena ads when they aired but what I really couldn’t stand was that the head honcho of that cell painting studio had the ghastly Van Morrison playing on a loop.
For me, the grating voice and interminable dullness of Van Morrison was unbearable and I quit that job but it was a really interesting experience while it lasted.
© Barbican 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file