Who Framed Roger Rabbit
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Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Theatrical release poster depicting filmstrips shaped like Roger Rabbit. The title "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and a text "It's the story of a man, a woman, and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble." are shown at the left top of the image.
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed byRobert Zemeckis
Produced by
Screenplay byJeffrey Price
Peter S. Seaman
Based onWho Censored Roger Rabbit?
by Gary K. Wolf
Starring
Music byAlan Silvestri
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited byArthur Schmidt
Production
company
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • June 22, 1988 (1988-06-22)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$50.6 million[nb 1]
Box office$329.8 million[5]

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 American live-action/animated mystery comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, produced by Frank Marshall and Robert Watts and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Loosely based on Gary K. Wolf's 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, it stars Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, and Joanna Cassidy. Set in 1947 in a version of Hollywood where cartoon characters and people co-exist, it follows Eddie Valiant, a private detective who must exonerate "Toon" (i.e. cartoon character) Roger Rabbit, who is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman.

Walt Disney Pictures purchased the film rights for the film's story in 1981. Price and Seaman wrote two drafts of the script before Disney brought in executive producer Steven Spielberg and his production company, Amblin Entertainment. Zemeckis was brought on to direct the film while Canadian animator Richard Williams was hired to supervise the animation sequences. Production was moved from Los Angeles to Elstree Studios in England to accommodate Williams and his group of animators. While filming, the production budget began to rapidly expand and the shooting schedule ran longer than expected.

The film was released through Disney's Touchstone Pictures banner on June 22, 1988 to critical and commercial success, becoming a blockbuster hit. It brought a renewed interest in the Golden Age of American animation, spearheading modern American animation and the Disney Renaissance.[6] It won three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects and received a Special Achievement Academy Award for its animation direction by Williams. In 2016, it was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Plot

The film is set in 1947 Los Angeles, where "toons" act in theatrical cartoon shorts as with live-action films. They regularly interact with real people and animals and reside in Toontown. Private detective Eddie Valiant and his brother, Teddy, once worked closely with them on several famous cases, but after Teddy was killed by a toon while the duo were investigating a bank robbery, Eddie lapsed into alcoholism, lost his sense of humor, and vowed never to help toons again.

R.K. Maroon, head of Maroon Cartoons, is anxious about the recent poor performances of one of his biggest stars, Roger Rabbit. He hires Eddie to investigate rumors about Roger's attractive wife, Jessica, being romantically involved with businessman Marvin Acme, owner of both Acme Corporation and Toontown. After watching Jessica perform at an underground nightclub, Eddie secretly photographs her and Marvin playing patty-cake in her dressing room, which he shows to Roger. Roger aggressively declares that he and Jessica will be happy, and flees.

The next morning, Marvin is discovered to have been killed by a falling safe at his factory, and evidence points to Roger being responsible. While investigating, Eddie meets Judge Doom, Toontown's creepy superior court judge, and his police team, the Toon Patrol, a gang of toon weasels hired by Doom to find and arrest Roger. Doom has formulated a solvent mixture called "Dip" that is capable of killing a toon. Eddie later runs into Roger's toon co-star, Baby Herman, who believes Roger is innocent and that Marvin's missing will, which will give the toons ownership of Toontown, may be the key to his murder. In his office, Eddie finds Roger, who begs him to help exonerate him. Eddie reluctantly hides him in his sink when the weasels storm into his office to search Eddie, and then later in a local bar, where his girlfriend, Dolores, works. Jessica approaches Eddie and says that Maroon forced her to pose for the photographs so he could blackmail Marvin.

Doom and his weasel henchmen discover Roger at the bar, but he and Eddie escape with Benny, an anthropomorphic taxi cab. They hide in a movie theater, where Eddie sees a news reel detailing the sale of Maroon Cartoons to Cloverleaf, a mysterious corporation that bought the city's Pacific Electric streetcar system shortly before Marvin's murder. Eddie rushes to the studio to challenge Maroon, leaving Roger to wait outside, but Jessica incapacitates him and stows him in the trunk of her car. Maroon tells Eddie that he blackmailed Marvin into selling his company so he could sell the studio, then tearfully admits he only did so out of fear for the safety of the toons. Maroon is killed by an unseen assassin before he can explain the consequences of the missing will. Eddie witnesses Jessica fleeing the scene and, assuming she is the culprit, chases her into Toontown. Once he catches her, she reveals that Doom killed Marvin and Maroon and that the former gave her his will for safekeeping, but she discovered that it was blank. She and Eddie are then kidnapped by Doom and the Toon Patrol.

At the Acme factory, Doom reveals that he has learned of the city's plan to build a freeway and intends to profit from it. As the only stockholder of Cloverleaf, he bought the streetcar system in order to shut it down and will use a machine loaded with Dip to destroy Toontown, allowing him to sell the land to roadside businesses. Roger unsuccessfully attempts to save Jessica, and they are tied onto a hook in front of the machine's hose. Eddie performs an impromptu vaudeville act, causing the Toon Patrol to die laughing; he kicks their leader into the machine's dip vat, killing him. Eddie battles against Doom, who is flattened by a steamroller, but survives, exposing him as the very toon who killed Teddy. Eddie uses a toon boxing glove mallet that causes the machine to empty its Dip onto Doom, melting him.

The empty machine crashes through the wall into Toontown, where it is destroyed by a train. Toons run in to see Doom's remains, and Eddie discovers that Roger inadvertently wrote a love letter for Jessica on Marvin's will, which was written in disappearing/reappearing ink. Roger shocks Eddie with a joy buzzer, and Eddie gives him a kiss, having regained his sense of humor. Eddie happily walks to Toontown with Dolores, Roger, Jessica, and the other toons.

Cast

Bob Hoskins played the role of Eddie Valiant

Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, and Sylvester. The film was one of the final productions in which he voiced his Looney Tunes characters before his death the following year. Joe Alaskey voiced Yosemite Sam (in place of Blanc), Wayne Allwine voiced Mickey Mouse, Tony Anselmo voiced Donald Duck, Tony Pope voiced Goofy (also partially voiced by Bill Farmer[7]) 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 (imitating Andy Devine), and Jim Gallant (imitating Walter Brennan) voiced Eddie's toon bullets, Les Perkins voiced Mr. Toad, Mary Radford voiced Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia, Nancy Cartwright voiced the toon shoe, Cherry Davis voiced Woody Woodpecker, Peter Westy voiced Pinocchio, and Frank Welker voiced Dumbo. Animation director Richard Williams voiced Droopy. April Winchell voiced Mrs. Herman and the "baby noises". David Lander voiced Smart Ass, Fred Newman voices Stupid, and June Foray voiced Wheezy and Lena Hyena, a toon who resembles Jessica and provides a comical role which shows her falling for Eddie and pursuing him.

Characters

The main characters of the film are Roger Rabbit, a cartoon rabbit, his cartoon-human wife, Jessica, and human detective Eddie Valiant and Toon (in human disguise) villain Judge Doom.

Other characters in the film include the following:

Baby Herman is Roger's major co-star in the animated shorts in which they appear. He is Roger's best friend. His "mother", Mrs. Herman (voiced by April Winchell), makes an appearance at the beginning of the film and its spin-off short films, but she is only shown from the waist down.

Baby Herman and Roger Rabbit comprised an Abbott and Costello-like comedy team for the fictitious Maroon Cartoons studio in the 1940s. A typical Roger/Baby Herman cartoon consists of Roger being given responsibility for Baby Herman's well-being; Baby Herman immediately begins crawling through a number of dangerous situations from which Roger must rescue him. In the process, Roger suffers inventive physical injuries and humiliations reminiscent of those in classic Tex Avery cartoons, while Baby Herman remains unscathed. For both book adaptations, Baby Herman was murdered, leaving behind a doppelganger for Eddie to help solve the crime.

In the film, Baby Herman's role was downplayed. In one scene, he tells Eddie that Roger did not murder Marvin and tips him off that Marvin had a will that promised to leave Toontown to the toons, which is the reason why Marvin was killed. Baby Herman later appears at the end of the film, expressing his frustration that Marvin did not leave his will where it could easily be found.

Despite his name and appearance, "Baby" Herman is actually a middle-aged, cigar-smoking toon who looks like an infant. While filming "in character", he speaks baby talk in a typical baby boy's voice provided by Winchell; off-camera, he has a raspy, deep voice provided by Lou Hirsch. Animation director Richard Williams loved the character of "adult" Baby Herman so much that he personally animated all of the scenes of the character in the film. When he loses his cigar and finds himself unable to reach it, he starts crying like a baby (albeit with his voice still sounding like a middle-aged man).

Benny the Cab is a taxi cab that services the Los Angeles area. He is voiced in all appearances by Charles Fleischer. In the original story, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, a different character named Bennie is an insect who deals in second-hand items at the junkyard. The character was expanded for the film, as an anthropomorphized colorful yellow Volkswagen Beetle-style taxi cab.

The Toon Patrol is a group of five anthropomorphic animated tailless weasels who serve as henchmen to Judge Doom. They serve as the secondary antagonists of the film. In the film, they comprise the "police officers" of Toontown, but they behave less like law enforcers and more like gangsters and thugs. Judge Doom hires them to capture Roger Rabbit for the murder of Marvin Acme. They drive around in a black Dodge Humpback paddy wagon labeled with the Los Angeles city seal like with cruisers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The Toon Patrol enjoy laughing at the misery of others, including each other. Like all the other toons in the film, they are invincible to physical body harm except for the Dip. However, prolonged laughter is also shown to be lethal to them. Eddie jokes around in front of them during the climax of the film, causing all but Smartass (who is thrown into the Dip) to "die" from laughing at him, after which their toon souls rise to Heaven in angel forms. According to Judge Doom, they once had hyena cousins that died in the same manner.

While being designed, the Toon Patrol and their fondness of weapons were modeled after the weasels in the 1949 Disney cartoon The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. They make an appearance in the Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin attraction located at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.

Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) is Eddie's girlfriend who works as a waitress in a bar. She is involved in helping Eddie solve the case against Judge Doom.

R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) is the owner of Maroon Cartoons. He paid Eddie $100 to photograph Jessica and Marvin Acme, which eventually led to the latter's murder. Maroon later admitted that he was trying to blackmail Marvin into selling Toontown to Cloverleaf Industries so that he could sell his studio as well, since Cloverleaf wanted to buy both properties at once. Before he could reveal who was behind the plot, he was shot and killed by Judge Doom.

Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) is the owner of Acme Products and Toontown. He is known around Hollywood as "the gag king" for the prank items he makes his living selling. Among his top sellers are Disappearing/Reappearing Ink and a hand buzzer. In a blackmail scheme by R.K. Maroon, he has an "affair" with Jessica which Eddie (who briefly meets him) photographs. He is murdered later that night by Judge Doom, who drops a safe on his head and frames Roger.

Lt. Santino (Richard LeParmentier) is a lieutenant with the LAPD, and Eddie's best friend. He accompanies him to the Acme factory, where Marvin has been murdered and everyone suspects Roger. Here they are introduced to Judge Doom who explains the ingredients of the Dip. When Doom demonstrates the Dip on a cute toon shoe, Santino turns away in disgust, too uncomfortable to watch the shoe die. Santino is present with several officers when Eddie discovers that it was Doom who killed Marvin along with Maroon and Teddy.

Theodore "Teddy" J. Valiant (Eugene Gutierrez) is Eddie's deceased brother. He was killed by a piano dropped onto him by a toon, later revealed to be Judge Doom, while investigating a robbery in Toontown. Due to his death, Eddie, with whom he had cracked many a case and helped toons who were in trouble, vowed never to work for a toon again and wouldn't for many years. To honor Teddy, Eddie left his desk the way it was the day he died and refuses to allow anyone to sit at it. Eddie avenged his death when he destroyed Doom with the Dip.

Angelo (Richard Ridings) is a client of Dolores' bar. Eddie hates him, as he makes fun of Eddie for his detective work. Eddie regards him as the kind of guy who would sell someone out at the first opportunity, but he helps Roger avoid Judge Doom's search after Roger makes him laugh. When asked by Doom if he has seen a rabbit, he mocks him by gesturing to a patch of empty space and saying, "Say hello to the Judge, Harvey." - a reference to the 1944 play of that name by Mary Coyle Chase.

Bongo (voiced by Morgan Deare, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin voiced by Marcelo Vignali) is a toon gorilla bouncer of the Ink and Paint Club. The password that Eddie uses to get in was "Walt sent me" and Bongo lets him in. He also throws Eddie out when he catches him spying on Jessica and Marvin in the former's dressing room.

Lena Hyena is a toon Hag that resembles Jessica. When Eddie was looking for the latter, he saw what appeared to be her in an apartment building. When he entered the room, he encountered Lena who developed a crush on him and chased him around parts of Toontown. He was able to get rid of her by tricking her into running into the wall of a building.

The Toon Bullets are a group of six bullets with personalities similar to those of characters in western movies. They were a present from Yosemite Sam, thanking Eddie for "springing him from the hoosegow".

When Eddie decides to enter Toontown in pursuit of Judge Doom, he discards his pistol in favor of an oversized toon revolver and loads the bullets into it. He fires at Doom, but the bullets become confused as to where he went and turn in the wrong direction. "Dum-dums," Eddie says sarcastically.

Production

Development

Walt Disney Productions purchased the film rights to Gary K. Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? shortly after its publication in 1981. Ron W. Miller, then president of Disney, saw it as a perfect opportunity to produce a blockbuster.[8]Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were hired to write the script, penning two drafts. Robert Zemeckis offered his services as director in 1982,[9] but Disney declined as his two previous films (I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars) had been box-office bombs.[10] Between 1981 and 1983 Disney developed test footage with Darrell Van Citters as animation director, Paul Reubens voicing Roger Rabbit, Peter Renaday as Eddie Valiant, and Russi Taylor as Jessica Rabbit.[11] The project was revamped in 1985 by Michael Eisner, the then-new CEO of Disney. Amblin Entertainment, which consisted of Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, were approached to produce Who Framed Roger Rabbit alongside Disney. The original budget was projected at $50 million, which Disney felt was too expensive.[12]

The film was finally green-lit when the budget decreased to $30 million, which at the time still made it the most expensive animated film ever green-lit.[12]Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg argued that the hybrid of live action and animation would "save" Disney's animation department. Spielberg's contract included an extensive amount of creative control and a large percentage of the box-office profits. Disney kept all merchandising rights.[12] Spielberg convinced Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz Productions to "lend" their characters to appear in the film with (in some cases) stipulations on how those characters were portrayed; for example, Disney's Donald Duck and Warner's Daffy Duck appear as equally talented dueling pianists, and Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny also share a scene. Apart from this agreement, Warner Bros. and the various other companies were not involved in the production of Roger Rabbit. Unfortunately, the producers were unable to acquire the rights to use Popeye, Tom and Jerry, Little Lulu, Casper, or the Terrytoons for appearances from their respective owners (King Features, Turner, Western Publishing, Harvey Comics, and Viacom).[9][10]

Terry Gilliam was offered the chance to direct, but he found the project too technically challenging. ("Pure laziness on my part," he later admitted, "I completely regret that decision.")[13] Robert Zemeckis was hired to direct in 1985, based on the success of Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Disney executives were continuing to suggest Darrell Van Citters to direct the animated sequences, but Spielberg and Zemeckis decided against it.[12] Richard Williams was eventually hired to direct the animation. Zemeckis wanted the film to imbue "Disney's high quality of animation, Warner Bros.' characterization, and Tex Avery humor."[14]

Casting

Harrison Ford was Spielberg's original choice to play Eddie Valiant, but his price was too high.[15]Bill Murray was also considered for the part, but due to his idiosyncratic method of receiving offers for roles, Murray missed out on it.[16]Eddie Murphy reportedly turned down the role, which he later came to regret.[17] Several other actors were also considered for it, including Chevy Chase, Robin Williams, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Wallace Shawn, Ed Harris, Charles Grodin, and Don Lane.[18] To facilitate Hoskins' performance, Charles Fleischer dressed in a Roger Rabbit costume and "stood in" behind camera for most scenes.[19] Animation director Williams explained Roger was a combination of "Tex Avery's cashew nut-shaped head, the swatch of red hair...like Droopy's, Goofy's overalls, Porky Pig's bow tie, Mickey Mouse's gloves, and Bugs Bunny-like cheeks and ears."[9]

Kathleen Turner provided the uncredited voice of Jessica Rabbit, Roger Rabbit's wife.[20]

Christopher Lloyd was cast because he previously worked with Zemeckis and Spielberg on Back to the Future. He compared his part as Doom to his previous role as the Klingon commander Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, both being overly evil characters which he considered being "fun to play".[21] He avoided blinking his eyes while on camera to perfectly portray the character.[10]Tim Curry originally auditioned for the role, but afterward, the producers found him too terrifying for it.[22]Christopher Lee was also considered for it, but turned it down.[18] Several other actors were also considered for it, including John Cleese, Roddy McDowall, Eddie Deezen, and Sting.[18]

Fleischer also voiced Benny the Cab, Psycho, and Greasy. Lou Hirsch, who voiced Baby Herman, was the original choice for Benny the Cab, but was replaced by Fleischer.[19]

Writing

Pacific Electric Logo
The plot incorporated the actual closing of Pacific Electric.

Price and Seaman were brought aboard to continue writing the script once Spielberg and Zemeckis were hired. For inspiration, the two writers studied the work of Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Cartoons from the Golden Age of American animation, especially Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. The Cloverleaf streetcar subplot was inspired by Chinatown.[9] Price and Seaman said that "the Red Car plot, suburb expansion, urban and political corruption really did happen," Price stated. "In Los Angeles, during the 1940s, car and tire companies teamed up against the Pacific Electric Railway system and bought them out of business. Where the freeway runs in Los Angeles is where the Red Car used to be."[10] In Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, the toons were comic-strip characters rather than movie stars.[9]

During the writing process, Price and Seaman were unsure of whom to include as the villain in the plot. They wrote scripts that had either Jessica Rabbit or Baby Herman as the villain, but they made their final decision with newly created character Judge Doom. Doom was supposed to have an animated vulture sit on his shoulder, but this was deleted due to the technical challenges this posed.[10] Doom would also have a suitcase of 12 small animated kangaroos that act as a jury, by having their joeys pop out of their pouches, each with letters, when put together would spell YOU ARE GUILTY. This was also cut for budget and technical reasons.[23] The Toon Patrol (Stupid, Smart Ass, Greasy, Wheezy, and Psycho) satirizes the Seven Dwarfs (Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey), who appeared in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Originally, seven weasels were to mimic the dwarfs complement, but eventually, two of them, Slimey and Sleazy, were written out of the script.[10] Further references included The "Ink and Paint Club" resembling the Harlem Cotton Club, while Zemeckis compared Judge Doom's invention of the Dip to eliminate all the toons as Hitler's Final Solution.[9] Doom was originally the hunter who killed Bambi's mother.[23] Benny the Cab was first conceived to be a Volkswagen Beetle before being changed to a taxi cab. Ideas originally conceived for the story also included a sequence set at Marvin Acme's funeral, whose attendees included Eddie, Foghorn Leghorn, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Heckle and Jeckle, Chip n' Dale, Mighty Mouse, Superman, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Clarabelle Cow, and the Seven Dwarfs in cameo appearances. However, the scene was cut for pacing reasons and never made it past the storyboard stage.[23] Before finally agreeing on Who Framed Roger Rabbit as the film's title, working titles included Murder in Toontown, Toons, Dead Toons Don't Pay Bills, The Toontown Trial, Trouble in Toontown, and Eddie Goes to Toontown.[24]

Filming

Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) threatens Roger Rabbit before introducing him to the Dip. Mime artists, puppeteers, mannequins, and robotic arms were commonly used during filming to help the actors interact with "open air and imaginative cartoon characters".[19]

Animation director Richard Williams admitted he was "openly disdainful of the Disney bureaucracy"[25] and refused to work in Los Angeles. To accommodate him and his animators, animation production moved to England where a studio, Walt Disney Animation U.K (subsuming Richard William's old studio), was created for this purpose;[26][27] located not too far from where the live-action production was based at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England. Disney and Spielberg also told Williams that in return for doing the film, they would help distribute his unfinished film The Thief and the Cobbler.[25] Supervising animators included Dale Baer, James Baxter, David Bowers, Andreas Deja, Chris Jenkins, Phil Nibbelink, Nik Ranieri, and Simon Wells. The animation production, headed by associate producer Don Hahn, was split between Walt Disney Animation U.K and a specialized unit in Los Angeles, set up by Walt Disney Feature Animation and supervised by Dale Baer.[28] The production budget continued to escalate, while the shooting schedule lapsed longer than expected. When the budget reached $40 million, Disney CEO Michael Eisner seriously considered shutting down production, but Studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg talked him out of it.[25] Despite the budget escalating to over $50 million, Disney moved forward on production because they were enthusiastic to work with Spielberg.[12]

VistaVision cameras installed with motion-control technology were used for the photography of the live-action scenes which would be composited with animation. Rubber mannequins of Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman, and the Toon Patrol would portray the animated characters during rehearsals to teach the actors where to look when acting with "open air and imaginative cartoon characters".[19] Many of the live-action props held by cartoon characters were shot on set with either robotic arms holding the props or the props were manipulated by strings, similar to a marionette.[10] The actor who played the voice of Roger, Charles Fleischer, insisted on wearing a Roger Rabbit costume while on the set, to get into character.[19]Filming began on November 2, 1986, and lasted for seven and a half months at Elstree Studios, with an additional month in Los Angeles and at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for blue screen effects of Toontown. The entrance of Desilu Studios served as the fictional Maroon Cartoon Studio lot.[29]

Animation and post-production

Post-production lasted for 14 months.[10] Because the film was made before computer animation and digital compositing were widely used, all the animation was done using cels and optical compositing.[19] First, the animators and layout artists were given black-and-white printouts of the live-action scenes (known as "photo stats"), and they placed their animation paper on top of them. The artists then drew the animated characters in relationship to the live-action footage. Due to Zemeckis' dynamic camera moves, the animators had to confront the challenge of ensuring the characters were not "slipping and slipping all over the place."[10][19] After rough animation was complete, it was run through the normal process of traditional animation until the cels were shot on the rostrum camera with no background. The animated footage was then sent to ILM for compositing, where technicians animated three lighting layers (shadows, highlights, and tone mattes) separately, to make the cartoon characters look three-dimensional and give the illusion of the characters being affected by the lighting on set.[19] Finally, the lighting effects were optically composited on to the cartoon characters, who were, in turn, composited into the live-action footage. One of the most difficult effects in the film was Jessica's dress in the nightclub scene, because it had flashing sequins, an effect accomplished by filtering light through a plastic bag scratched with steel wool.[9]

Music

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 22, 1988
RecordedApril 1988, CTS Studios, Wembley, United Kingdom
GenreSoundtrack
Length45:57
LabelBuena Vista

Regular Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri composed the film score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) under the direction of Silvestri. Zemeckis joked that "the British [musicians] could not keep up with Silvestri's jazz tempo". The performances of the music themes written for Jessica Rabbit were entirely improvised by the LSO. The work of American composer Carl Stalling heavily influenced Silvestri's work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit.[10][19] The film's soundtrack was originally released by Buena Vista Records on June 22, 1988, and reissued by Walt Disney Records on CD on April 16, 2002.[30]

On January 23, 2018 Intrada Records released a 3-CD set with complete score, alternates, remastered version of original 1988 album plus music from 3 Roger Rabbit short films, composed & conducted by Bruce Broughton and James Horner.[31]

No.TitleWriter(s)Performer(s)Length
1."Maroon Logo"Alan SilvestriAlan Silvestri0:19
2."Maroon Cartoon"SilvestriSilvestri3:25
3."Valiant & Valiant"SilvestriSilvestri4:22
4."The Weasels"SilvestriSilvestri2:08
5."Hungarian Rhapsody (Dueling Pianos)"arranged by SilvestriTony Anselmo, Mel Blanc1:53
6."Judge Doom"SilvestriSilvestri3:47
7."Why Don't You Do Right?"Joseph "Kansas Joe" McCoyAmy Irving3:07
8."No Justice for Toons"SilvestriSilvestri2:45
9."The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Roger's Song)"Dave Franklin, Cliff FriendCharles Fleischer0:47
10."Jessica's Theme"SilvestriSilvestri2:03
11."Toontown"SilvestriSilvestri1:57
12."Eddie's Theme"SilvestriSilvestri5:22
13."The Gag Factory"SilvestriSilvestri3:48
14."The Will"SilvestriSilvestri1:10
15."Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!"Jack Meskill, Charles O'Flynn, Max RichToon Chorus1:17
16."End Title (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)"SilvestriSilvestri4:56

Release

Michael Eisner, then CEO, and Roy E. Disney, Vice Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, felt the film was too risqué with sexual references.[32] Eisner and Zemeckis disagreed over various elements of it but since Zemeckis had final cut privilege, he refused to make alterations.[19] Roy E. Disney, head of Feature Animation along with studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, felt it was appropriate to release the film under their Touchstone Pictures banner instead of the traditional Walt Disney Pictures banner.[32]

The film opened in the United States on June 22, 1988, grossing $11,226,239 in 1,045 theaters during its opening weekend, ranking first place in the domestic box office.[33] It was Buena Vista's biggest opening weekend ever.[34] It went on to gross $156,452,370 in North America and $173,351,588 internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $329,803,958. At the time of release, it was the 20th-highest-grossing film of all time.[35] It was also the second-highest-grossing film of 1988, behind only Rain Man.[36]

Zemeckis has revealed a three-dimensional reissue could be possible.[37]

Home media

The film was first released on VHS on October 12, 1989.[38] A Laserdisc edition was also released. A DVD version was first available on September 28, 1999.

On March 25, 2003, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released it as a part of the "Vista Series" line in a two-disc collection with many extra features including a documentary, Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit; a deleted scene in which a pig's head is "tooned" onto Eddie's; the three Roger Rabbit shorts, Tummy Trouble, Roller Coaster Rabbit, and Trail Mix-Up; as well as a booklet and interactive games. The only short on the 2003 VHS release was Tummy Trouble.

On March 12, 2013, the film was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD combo pack special edition for the film's 25th anniversary.[39][40] The film was also digitally restored by Disney for its 25th anniversary. Frame-by-frame digital restoration was done by Prasad Studios removing dirt, tears, scratches, and other defects.[41][42]

Reception

Critical response

Who Framed Roger Rabbit received near-universal acclaim from critics. Roger made Business Insiders "best comedy movies of all time, according to critics" list.[43] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 97% based on 64 reviews and an average score of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot."[44] Aggregator Metacritic calculated a score of 83 out of 100 based on 15 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[45]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four, predicting it would carry "the type of word of mouth that money can't buy. This movie is not only great entertainment, but [also] a breakthrough in craftsmanship."[46] Ebert and his colleague Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune spent a considerable amount of time in the Siskel & Ebert episode in which they reviewed the film analyzing its painstaking filmmaking. Siskel also praised it, and ranked it number two on his top-ten films list for 1988, while Ebert ranked it as number eight on a similar list.[47]Janet Maslin of The New York Times commented, "although this isn't the first time that cartoon characters have shared the screen with live actors, it's the first time they've done it on their own terms and make it look real".[48]Desson Thomson of The Washington Post considered Roger Rabbit to be "a definitive collaboration of pure talent. Zemeckis had Walt Disney Pictures' enthusiastic backing, producer Steven Spielberg's pull, Warner Bros.'s blessing, Canadian animator Richard Williams' ink and paint, Mel Blanc's voice, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman's witty, frenetic screenplay, George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, and Bob Hoskins' comical performance as the burliest, shaggiest private eye."[49]Gene Shalit on the Today Show also praised the film, calling it "one of the most extraordinary movies ever made".[50]Filmsite.org called it "a technically-marvelous film" and a "landmark" that resulted from "unprecedented cooperation" between Warner Bros. and Disney.[51]

Richard Corliss, writing for Time, gave a mixed review. "The opening cartoon works just fine but too fine. The opening scene upstages the movie that emerges from it," he said. Corliss was mainly annoyed by the homages to the Golden Age of American animation.[52] Animation legend Chuck Jones made a rather scathing attack on the film in his book Chuck Jones Conversations. Among his complaints, Jones accused Robert Zemeckis of robbing Richard Williams of any creative input and ruining the piano duel that both Williams and he storyboarded.[53]

Accolades

The film won 3 competitive Academy Awards and a Special Achievement Award. It became the first live-action/animation hybrid film to win multiple Academy Awards since Mary Poppins in 1964. It won Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects Editing (Charles L. Campbell and Louis Edemann), Best Visual Effects and Best Film Editing. Other nominations included Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Elliot Scott; Set Decoration: Peter Howitt), Best Cinematography and Best Sound (Robert Knudson, John Boyd, Don Digirolamo and Tony Dawe).[54] Richard Williams received a Special Achievement Academy Award "for animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters".[55]Roger Rabbit won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, as well as Best Direction for Zemeckis and Special Visual Effects. Hoskins, Lloyd, and Cassidy were nominated for their performances, while Alan Silvestri and the screenwriters received nominations.[56] The film was nominated for four categories at the 42nd British Academy Film Awards and won for Best Visual Effects.[57]Roger Rabbit was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), while Hoskins was also nominated for his performance.[58] The film also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation[59] and the Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie.

Legacy

Who Framed Roger Rabbit marks the first time that Disney's Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny have ever officially appeared on-screen together.

The success of the film rekindled an interest in the Golden Age of American animation, and sparked the modern animation scene.[60] In 1991, Walt Disney Imagineering began to develop Mickey's Toontown for Disneyland, based on the Toontown that appeared in the film. The attraction also features a ride called Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.[32] Three theatrical animated shorts were also produced: Tummy Trouble was shown before Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Roller Coaster Rabbit was shown before Dick Tracy; and Trail Mix-Up was shown before A Far Off Place.[61][62] The film also inspired a short-lived comic-book and video-game spin-offs, including two PC games, the Japanese version of The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (which features Roger instead of Bugs), a 1989 game released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and a 1991 game released on the Game Boy.[62]

In December 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[63]

Controversy

With the film's LaserDisc release, Variety first reported in March 1994 that observers uncovered several scenes of antics from the animators that supposedly featured brief nudity of Jessica Rabbit. While undetectable when played at the usual rate of 24 film frames per second, the Laserdisc player allowed the viewer to advance frame-by-frame to uncover these visuals. Whether or not they were actually intended to depict the nudity of the character remains unknown.[64][65] Many retailers said that within minutes of the Laserdisc debut, their entire inventory was sold out. The run was fueled by media reports about the controversy, including stories on CNN and various newspapers.[66]

Another frequently debated scene includes one in which Baby Herman extends his middle finger as he passes under a woman's dress and re-emerges with drool on his lip.[65][67] Also, controversy exists over the scene where Daffy Duck and Donald Duck are playing a piano duel, and during his trademark ranting gibberish, it is claimed that Donald calls Daffy a "goddamn stupid nigger"; however, this is a misinterpretation, with the line from the script being "doggone stubborn little--."[68][69][70]

Legal issue

Gary K. Wolf, author of the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, filed a lawsuit in 2001 against the Walt Disney Company. He claimed he was owed royalties based on the value of "gross receipts" and merchandising sales. In 2002, the trial court in the case ruled that these only referred to actual cash receipts Disney collected and denied Wolf's claim. In its January 2004 ruling, the California Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that expert testimony introduced by Wolf regarding the customary use of "gross receipts" in the entertainment business could support a broader reading of the term. The ruling vacated the trial court's order in favor of Disney and remanded the case for further proceedings.[71] In a March 2005 hearing, Wolf estimated he was owed $7 million. Disney's attorneys not only disputed the claim, but also said Wolf actually owed Disney $500,000-$1 million because of an accounting error discovered in preparing for the lawsuit.[72] Wolf won the decision in 2005, receiving between $180,000 and $400,000 in damages.[73]

Proposed sequel

Spielberg discussed a sequel in 1989 with J. J. Abrams as writer and Zemeckis as producer. Abrams's outline was eventually abandoned.[74]Nat Mauldin was hired to write a prequel titled Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon, set in 1941 to 1943. Similar to the previous film, Toon Platoon featured many cameo appearances by characters from the Golden Age of American animation. It began with Roger Rabbit's early years, living on a farm in the midwestern United States.[60] With human Ritchie Davenport, Roger travels west to seek his mother, in the process meeting Jessica Krupnick (his future wife), a struggling Hollywood actress. While Roger and Ritchie are enlisting in the Army, Jessica is kidnapped and forced to make pro-Nazi Germany broadcasts. Roger and Ritchie must save her by going into Nazi-occupied Europe accompanied by several other Toons in their Army platoon. After their triumph, Roger and Ritchie are given a Hollywood Boulevard parade, and Roger is finally reunited with his mother and father, Bugs Bunny.[60][75]

Mauldin later retitled his script Who Discovered Roger Rabbit. Spielberg left the project when deciding he could not satirize Nazis after directing Schindler's List.[76][77] Eisner commissioned a rewrite in 1997 with Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver. Although they kept Roger's search for his mother, Stoner and Oliver replaced the WWII subplot with Roger's inadvertent rise to stardom on Broadway and Hollywood. Disney was impressed and Alan Menken was hired to write five songs for the film and offered his services as executive producer.[77] One of the songs, "This Only Happens in the Movies", was recorded in 2008 on the debut album of Broadway actress Kerry Butler.[78]Eric Goldberg was set to be the new animation director, and began to redesign Roger's new character appearance.[77]

Spielberg became busy establishing DreamWorks, while Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy decided to remain as producers. Test footage for Who Discovered Roger Rabbit was shot sometime in 1998 at the Disney animation unit in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; the results were a mix of CGI, traditional animation, and live-action that did not please Disney. A second test had the toons completely converted to CGI; but this was dropped as the film's projected budget would escalate past $100 million. Eisner felt it was best to cancel the film.[77] In March 2003, producer Don Hahn was doubtful about a sequel being made, arguing that public tastes had changed since the 1990s with the rise of computer animation. "There was something very special about that time when animation was not as much in the forefront as it is now."[79]

In December 2007, Marshall stated that he was still "open" to the idea,[80] and in April 2009, Zemeckis revealed he was still interested.[81] According to a 2009 MTV News story, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were writing a new script for the project, and the animated characters would be in traditional two-dimensional, while the rest would be in motion capture.[82] However, in 2010, Zemeckis said that the sequel would remain hand-drawn animated and live-action sequences will be filmed, just like in the original film, but the lighting effects on the cartoon characters and some of the props that the toons handle will be done digitally.[83] Also in 2010, Don Hahn, who was the film's original associate producer, confirmed the sequel's development in an interview with Empire. He stated, "Yeah, I couldn't possibly comment. I deny completely, but yeah...if you're a fan, pretty soon you're going to be very, very, very happy."[84] In 2010, Bob Hoskins stated he was interested in the project, reprising his role as Eddie Valiant.[] However, he retired from acting in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a year earlier, and died from complications in 2014.[85] Marshall has confirmed that the film is a prequel, similar to earlier drafts, and that the writing was almost complete.[86] During an interview at the premiere of Flight, Zemeckis stated that the sequel was still possible, despite Hoskins' absence, and the script for the sequel was sent to Disney for approval from studio executives.[87]

In February 2013, Gary K. Wolf, writer of the original novel, said Erik Von Wodtke and he were working on a development proposal for an animated Disney buddy comedy starring Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit called The Stooge, based on the 1952 film of the same name. The proposed film is set to a prequel, taking place five years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit and part of the story is about how Roger met Jessica. Wolf has stated the film is currently wending its way through Disney.[88]

In November 2016, while promoting his film Allied in England, Zemeckis stated that the sequel "moves the story of Roger and Jessica Rabbit into the next few years of period film, moving on from film noir to the world of the 1950s". He also stated that the sequel would feature a "digital Bob Hoskins", as Eddie Valiant would return in "ghost form". While the director went on to state that the script is "terrific" and the film would still use hand-drawn animation, Zemeckis thinks that the chances of Disney green-lighting the sequel are "slim". As he explained more in detail, "The current corporate Disney culture has no interest in Roger, and they certainly don't like Jessica at all".[89] In December 2018, while promoting Welcome to Marwen, his latest film, and given the 30th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Zemeckis reiterated in an interview with Yahoo! Movies that though the sequel's script is "wonderful", Disney is still unlikely to ever produce it, and he doesn't see the possibility of producing it as an original film for the streaming service Disney+, as he feels that it doesn't make any sense as there is no "Princess" in it.[90]

Notes

  1. ^ The budget has been commonly reported as $70 million, including by The New York Times in 1991, which subsequently issued an erratum to state that both Amblin and Touchstone insist the budget was "about $50 million".[2] Publications of the film's accounts since then indicate that the exact production cost of the film was $58,166,000,[3] including the production overhead which came to a total of $7,587,000, putting the net cost at $50,587,000.[4]

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Further reading

External links


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