In 1988 director Robert Zemeckis asked the movie audience to believe in a world where humans and cartoon characters could co-exist together in 1947 Hollywood.
Released to theaters on June 22, 1988 “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” became an immediate success. Previous movies like Mary Poppins in 1964 have brought together live-action and animated characters together in movies before, but never to extent that was tried with “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.
Based on the 1981 mystery novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” by Gary K. Wolf. The novel features a lot of the same characters that are featured in the movie, but some of the characteristics and the basic plot are notably different. Where the movie is set in the 1940’s the novel was set in present day. Instead of animated cartoon characters the book featured comic strip characters, such as Snoopy, Beetle Bailey and Dick Tracy.
Disney purchased the film rights in 1981. Two drafts of the script had been written when Disney decided to bring in Steven Spielberg as an executive producer and Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg’s production company.
One of the great things about “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is that it begins with a looney tune style cartoon that featured who else, Roger Rabbit. Roger is left to watch after Baby Herman and in typical cartoon fashion the mayhem begins. Baby Herman who’s determined to get at the cookie jar sitting on top of the refrigerator will not let anything keep him from his destination. Meanwhile Roger who tries to stop Baby Herman is tortured in everyway possible a cartoon of that era can think of. When you stop and think about it, it was probably the best way to introduce the audience to movies main animated character.
Bob Hoskins stars as Eddie Valiant a private detective who’s hired by head of the Maroon Cartoons studio, R.K. Maroon. Maroon hires Valiant to take some pictures of Jessica Rabbit, Roger’s wife who is caught playing pattycake with Marvin Acme, owner of Toontown and founder of the Acme Corporation.
Valiant being hired by R.K. Maroon leads him to the Ink and Paint Club in order to try and find Jessica Rabbit. This is where the movie gives us our first big scene of humans and cartoon characters interacting with each other.
One of my favorite scenes takes place at the Ink and Paint Club after Eddie enters and takes a seat. We see Daffy Duck and Donald Duck facing-off in an epic piano battle and if you are an animation fan, as I am, then this is something to savior.
If you’re just an average animation fan then you may not realize at how special that scene is. At the time, uniting the two iconic animated ducks Daffy and Donald in the same scene was a historic first. Something that had never happened before and something that has not happened since. For that particular battle with Donald the animation team intentionally drew Daffy in his earlier years. By 1988 Daffy had been mellowed and the animators wanted the original psychotic Daffy, a duck who had escaped from an asylum.
It’s at the Ink and Paint Club where we get our first look at Jessica Rabbit. Voiced by Kathleen Turner, Jessica extends her very shapely leg past the nightclub’s curtain and all eyes in the nightclub, not to mention the theater are focused on just one thing, a very voluptuous, exaggerated red headed female who’s a sexualized cartoon character. Roger is one lucky rabbit.
When Marvin Acme is found murdered Roger becomes the primary suspect. Roger is found hiding at Valiant’s office that doubles as his apartment. Valiant reluctantly decides to help Roger find who killed Acme and Acme’s Will.
Roger, Jessica, and Eddie are characters that existed in Wolf’s novel, but the movies villain didn’t come from the book. The screenwriters created Judge Doom in an effort to create a more menacing antagonist.
Doom is the much feared, cruel and malicious judge of Toontown. Doom is totally without mirth and passes capital punishment on Toons who break the law by placing them in a chemical vat of turpentine, acetone and benzene better known as “The Dip”.
Christopher Lloyd, best known to most as “Doc Brown” from Back to the Future, played Judge Doom. Several other actors were considered for the role including Tim Curry and Christopher Lee.
Lloyd was cast because he had previously worked with Robert Zemeckis on “Back to the Future”. Lloyd compared his part as Judge Doom to a previous role as the Klingon commander Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, both were excessively evil characters, which he considered “fun to play”.
So what was Judge Doom’s entire motive? Doom wanted to build a freeway and in order to do so he needed to gain control over Toontown from Marvin Acme. Without Acme around or Acme’s Will, Doom would gain control over Toontown in order to destroy it, buy the Pacific Electric railway and shut it down allowing for his freeway to become a reality.
The big surprise about Judge Doom comes at the end of the movie when its revealed that Doom is actually a toon and not just any toon, but the toon that killed Eddie’s brother.
Lloyd has talked about playing Judge Doom in the past and had this to say about the character.
“Doom was such a dark character. I’ve had so many people come up to me over the years to tell me that when they were kids that movie scared the hell out of them really kind of terrified them. But I remember as a kid watching those original Walt Disney animated films that terrified me, and I think that is part of what makes those films so appealing. So it’s fun and a bit of sweet revenge to be the villain the fun, dark part of the movie. Also, Judge Doom turns out to be a toon, so I don’t think you can get too upset with a toon since they’re entertaining and fun.”
Donald and Daffy sharing a scene at the Ink and Paint Club wasn’t the only Disney and Warner Bros. creations to meet for the first and only time during the movie. While in Toontown, Eddie finds himself hanging off of a flagpole attached to a very tall building. After Tweety Bird runs out of “pity’s”, Eddie finds himself falling when none other than Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse appear along side Eddie while skydiving.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was made before computer effects was the norm in Hollywood. All of the animation was done using cels and optical compositing. Animators and layout artists were given black-and-white printouts of the live-action scenes to place their animation paper on top of. Post-production would last for 14 months.
Opening on June 22, 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit made just over $11 million in its opening weekend. By the time it’s theater run was over Who Framed Roger Rabbit would earn almost $330 million dollars world wide and would finish as the second highest grossing movie of 1988, right behind Rain man.
Does Who Framed Roger Rabbit still hold up thirty years later? That answer is by far and away an astounding YES. If you’re a huge fan of the old Warner Brother’s Looney Tunes shorts or Disney or just a lover of animation as a whole then this movie is for you.
Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant did an amazing job reacting and acting to nothing while filming. I’m not so sure another actor could of made it look as believable as he did. When it comes to the animated characters, Roger Rabbit is actually a fun character and Jessica Rabbit, well her looks say enough.
Two of my favorite lines in the movie come from Jessica Rabbit and Baby herman. The first one is from Baby Herman when he’s talking to Valliant outside his office.
Baby Herman: “The problem is I got a fifty year old lust and a three year old dinky.”
The other great line and probably the best one of comes from Jessica Rabbit herself, when she says.
Jessica Rabbit: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
Those two lines are actually the only lines that were taken directly from the book.
After re-watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit I realized that in a lot of ways it was done much in the way Pixar does their movies today. No, not with computers, but written and filmed for adults that just happens to be kid friendly.
Daffy and Donald, Bugs and Mickey are always fun to see. Eddie and Roger actually made a great comedy duo, even though they never acted together. Jessica Rabbit although animated is a woman no man can keep his eyes off. In the end Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a fun enjoyable movie for the kid in all of us young or old.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released on June 22, 1988
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Joanna Cassidy
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Synopsis:
Down-on-his-luck private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to investigate an adultery scandal involving Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner), the sultry wife of Maroon’s biggest star, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer). But when Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), Jessica’s alleged paramour and the owner of Toontown, is found murdered, the villainous Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) vows to catch and destroy Roger.
Animated Voice Cast:
Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety, and Sylvester (Roger Rabbit was one of the final productions in which Blanc voiced his Looney Tunes characters before his death the following year). Joe Alaskey voiced Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn (in place of the elderly Blanc), Wayne Allwine voiced Mickey Mouse, Tony Anselmo voiced Donald Duck (with an archival recording of Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald, used at the beginning of the scene, Tony Pope voiced Goofy (also partially voiced by Bill Farmer and the Big Bad Wolf, Mae Questel reprised her role of Betty Boop, Russi Taylor voiced Minnie Mouse and some birds, Pat Buttram, Jim Cummings, and Jim Gallant voiced Valiant’s animated bullets, Les Perkins voiced Mr. Toad, Mary Radford voiced Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia, Nancy Cartwright voiced the dipped shoe, Cherry Davis voiced Woody Woodpecker, Peter Westy voiced Pinocchio, and Frank Welker voiced Dumbo. Animation director Richard Williams voiced Droopy. April Winchell the voice of Mrs. Herman and the “baby noises”. David Lander voices Smart Ass, the leader of the weasels, Fred Newman voices Stupid, and June Foray voices Wheezy and Lena Hyena, a toon who resembles Jessica Rabbit and provides a comical role which shows her falling for Eddie and pursuing him.
Categories: Movie Anniversaries