Richard Williams dead: Oscar winning animator who created Roger Rabbit dies, aged 86

Alessio Perrone

Richard Williams, the acclaimed animator who worked on hit Hollywood films including Roger Rabbit and the Pink Panther, has died at age 86.

His family announced that he died on Friday at his home in St Andrews, Bristol, after he suffered from a form of cancer that his daughter Natasha Sutton Williams described as quite a swift illness.

“He really was an inspiration to everyone that met him,” Ms Sutton Williams, one of the animator’s six children said. “Whether they were animators, or from the top to the bottom of society.”

She described her father as “fabulous” and “An incredibly generous, warm-spirited person who really wanted to learn about the world.”

Williams worked on classics including the animation blockbuster Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), in which he was the animation director who created characters including Roger and Jessica Rabbit, Casino Royale (1967) and animated title sequences for the comedies The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) and The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976).

Throughout his career, he won a Bafta Award and three Oscars – two of which for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, one in the special achievement award category and one for special effects.

Williams was born in Toronto, Canada on 19 March 1933 and moved to Britain in 1955.

He has said in the past that watching Snow White when he was five had a “tremendous impression” on him.

On a visit to Disney at the age of 15, Williams waited at the gates and met all the lead animators who later taught him his craft and became his friends, Ms Sutton Williams said.

“I always wanted, when I was a kid, to get to Disney,” Williams told the BBC in 2008. “I was a clever little fellow so I took my drawings and I eventually got in.

“They did a story on me, and I was in there for two days, which you can imagine what it was like for a kid.”

But he said that he was advised to learn how to draw properly, and “lost all interest in animation” until he was 23.

He had thrown himself into art, but was drawn back into animation because his “paintings were trying to move”, he said.

His first film, The Little Island, was released in 1958 and won him a Bafta Award, while he won his first Oscar with his animated adaptation of Charles DickensA Christmas Carol in 1971.

During his lengthy career, Williams also wrote a how-to book called The Animator’s Survival Kit (2001).

His daughter described him as the “link between the golden age of animation from the 1940s to the golden age of CGI and digital animation of now”.

She said her father had two studios: one at his home where he had “several Disney animation desks”, and one at the Bristol-based Aardman Animations – the home of Wallace and Gromit.

Williams is survived by his wife Imogen Sutton. His daughter said he was animating and writing until 6pm on the day he died.

Additional reporting by PA