"I once dated Jessica.
She dumped me for the rabbit."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 film, produced by Disney subsidiary
Touchstone and Amblin Entertainment, that combines animation and live
action. The film takes place in a fictionalized Los Angeles in 1947,
where animated characters (always referred to as "Toons")
are real beings who live and work alongside humans in the real world,
most of them as actors in animated cartoons. At $70 million, it was
one of the most expensive films ever at the time of its release, but
it proved a sound investment that eventually brought in over $150
million during its original theatrical release.
The film is notable for
offering a unique chance to see many cartoon characters from
different studios interacting in a single film and for being one of
the last appearances by voice artists Mel Blanc and Mae Questel from
animation's Golden Era.
live-action sequences were directed by Robert Zemeckis and mostly
filmed at Elstree film studios in Hertfordshire, England. The
animated sequences were directed by Richard Williams and produced at
his London animation studio. The film stars Bob Hoskins, Christopher
Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy and the voice of Charles Fleischer. The
screenplay was adapted by screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S.
Seaman from the 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K.
Wolf, and the music was composed by perennial Zemeckis film composer
Alan Silvestri and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. It was
released by Buena Vista Distribution under its Touchstone Pictures division.
The lack of question mark
in the title is allegedly due to a superstition that films with a
question mark in the title do badly at the box office.
plot of the film is derived from the infamous General Motors
streetcar conspiracy, in which General Motors, Standard Oil and
Firestone Tires allegedly formed the National City Lines holding
company that bought out and deliberately destroyed the Los Angeles
Red Car trolley system in the 1940s and 1950s. (Similarly, the Key
System trolley cars in the San Francisco Bay Area suffered the same
fate.) In the film, the real-life role of NCL is filled by the
fictional "Cloverleaf Industries," owned solely by Judge Doom.
Much of the cinematography
and several scenes of the film are a homage to Roman Polanski's Chinatown.
As many as 100 separate
pieces of film were optically combined to incorporate the animated
and live-action elements. The animated characters themselves were hand-drawn
without computer animation; analogue optical effects were used for
adding shadows and lighting to the Toons to give them a more
"realistic," three-dimensional appearance.
A slightly earlier draft of
the screenplay revealed Judge Doom also to be the hunter who mortally
shot Bambi's mother, thus providing more insight into his sadistic,
cruel, and calloused nature towards his fellow Toons. However, Disney
allegedly nixed the idea, most likely believing the idea to be
overkill and not wanting to scare younger audiences with the
character more than necessary for the emotional purpose of the movie.
In the graphic novel Roger Rabbit: The Resurrection of Doom, it is
revealed that Doom's real name was Baron von Rotten, and that he
played villains in old cartoons, until one day, he was knocked
unconscious and woke up thinking he was a real villain.
The film's credits run for
nearly ten minutes. At the time of its release, Roger Rabbit held the
record for having the longest end credits sequence in cinema history.
test screenings proved disastrous, Roger Rabbit opened to generally
positive reviews on June 21, 1988. Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert
included the film on their lists of ten favorite films of 1988, with
Ebert calling it "sheer, enchanted entertainment from the first
frame to the last - a joyous, giddy, goofy celebration" The
movie won four Academy Awards: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing;
Best Effects, Visual Effects; Best Film Editing; and a Special Award
for Richard Williams for "animation direction and creation of
the cartoon characters". The film received four further
nominations: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography
and Best Sound.
Rabbit's look was designed after Veronica Lake. Jessica even sports
Lake's trademark "Peek-a-Boo" hairstyle.
The film featured the last
major voice role for two legendary cartoon voice artists: Mel Blanc
(voicing Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and also Sylvester in a
one-line cameo) and Mae Questel (voicing Betty Boop, but not Olive
Oyl, as none of the Fleischer characters appear in the film). Blanc
(who would shortly pass away at the age of 81) did not do Yosemite
Sam's voice in the movie, done instead by Joe Alaskey. (Blanc had
admitted that in his later years he was no longer able to do the
"yelling" voices such as Sam's, which were very rough on
his vocal cords. There was a Foghorn Leghorn scene recorded but cut
which also utilised Alaskey for the same reason.) Blanc also does
Porky Pig, who gets the last line of the film, dressed as a
policeman. That last line, naturally, is "That's All,
Folks!" The Disney character Tinkerbell then brings the film to
a close with the wave of her pixie-dust splashing wand.
Despite being produced by
Disney's Touchstone Pictures division (in association with Steven
Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment), Roger Rabbit also marked the first
(and to date, only) time that characters from several animation
studios (including Universal, MGM, Republic, Turner Entertainment,
and Warner Bros.) appeared in one film. This allowed the first-ever
meetings between Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. A contract was signed
between Disney and Warner stating that their respective icons, Mickey
Mouse and Bugs Bunny, would each receive exactly the same amount of
screen time. This is why the script had Bugs, Mickey, and Eddie
together in one scene falling from a skyscraper; in this scene, the
mouse and the rabbit speak the same exact number of words of
dialogue, as per the contract. However, a split-second shot of Bugs
is seen just before the scene changes to the red car stopping. Also
the speakeasy scene features the first and only meeting of Daffy Duck
and Donald Duck performing a unique dueling piano act.
film was disliked by Chuck Jones, the famed animation director best
known for his work at Warner Bros. Jones himself storyboarded the
piano duel between Donald and Daffy Duck, but he felt that the
version of the scene in the final film was horrible. Jones also felt
that Richard Williams had become too subservient to Robert Zemeckis.
additional animated shorts featuring Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit,
and Baby Herman would be released. These shorts were presented in
front of various Touchstone/Disney features in an attempt to revive
short subject animation as a part of the movie-going experience.
These shorts include Tummy Trouble released in front of Honey, I
Shrunk The Kids (this was included on the original video release of
the film), Roller Coaster Rabbit shown in front of Dick Tracy and
Trail Mix-Up shown in front of A Far Off Place. They were all
released on video in 1996 on a tape called The Best of Roger Rabbit,
and in 2003 on a special edition DVD of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Tummy Trouble was produced at the main Walt Disney Feature Animation
studio in Burbank, California and the other two shorts Roller Coaster
Rabbit & Trail Mix-Up were produced at the satellite studio
located at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida.