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Animation Advertising

Remembering influential animator Richard Williams: Roger Rabbit, Pink Panther and other ad icons

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By Kyle O'Brien, Creative Works Editor

August 19, 2019 | 4 min read

Celebrated animator Richard Williams died over the weekend at age 86. He left a legacy of award-winning work, including his three Oscars for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and A Christmas Carol, and the Bafta, Emmy and other international accolades he received throughout his impressive career.

Richard Williams

Richard Williams and his Clifford character

But aside from his feature and short films – along with his master class Animator’s Survival Kit – Williams also made a name and career for himself by animating numerous commercials. The Canadian-born Williams, who moved to the UK in the 1950s, animated commercials for a diverse batch of brands, from Tic-Tac breath mints, to Jovan scents, to breakfast cereals and tobacco products. All the ads carry Williams’ and his studio’s signature sense of whimsy and hand-drawn precision.

The Drum reviews some of his more memorable and standout ads.

‘Clifford the Dragon’, Listerine

Lazy dragon Clifford came along in the mid-1980s, intent on turning his bad habits into fresh breath. In the spot, Clifford is seen in his lair, with a maiden tied to a post. He smokes, drinks and picks knight’s armor from his fangs. Unfortunately, that leaves him with bad breath, which turns off the maiden. After a swish of Listerine, he becomes “much more approachable” according to the voice-over, winning over the maiden. The now-dated ad was an animated wonder for the time.

‘Roger Rabbit and Friends’, Diet Coke

Several years later, in a cross-promotional ad for the animated film, the main characters – both live and animated – come together. In it, Jessica Rabbit slinks across a stage while Bob Hoskins and an under-cover Roger look on. Roger states that he’s juts there to see Jessica and drinks a Diet Coke.

‘Animated Couple’, Rolo

This is one where the animation is seen in what appears to be real time. A young man is drawn on a bench. When he is complete, he asks where he is. The voice-over states that he is on television, and that the girl being drawn next to him is his girlfriend. She is drawn eating Rolo candies. He asks for one but it is her last. Still, she gives him the final chocolate. The spot ends with “Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?”

‘Snow White’, Eye Dew

The Evil Queen from Snow White is styled into a pitch queen with this ad for eye drops. As she asks the Magic Mirror who is the fairest, it says, “Snow White, of course.” This sends the Queen into a rage. But then, she puts a couple of drops of Eye Dew in and returns to the mirror, with a comic, branded twist.

‘Old Man Winter’, Owens-Corning

The Richard Williams studio animated two Pink Panther films, and the affably cool panther also became a spokes-animation for pink insulation company Owens-Corning. In this ad, Old Man Winter is depicted blowing cold air on the panther’s snow-covered home. The wily panther installs the brand’s Attic Blanket to keep the storm at bay.

More Williams ads

Check out these compilations of ads from Williams to see the diversity of his work. Some are dated, some could be seen as sexist, and some are for products no longer seen on TV, like cigarettes. However, the quality and range of his work can be seen in each effort. His influence on current animators continues today.

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