Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Quite a step up from The Money Pit, Roger Rabbit is a masterpiece of theme.

It asks one question: what if toons existed in our world? And every scene revolves around this question, with expertly rendered results.

This is what I expect from an eighties Spielberg production: a fountain of imagination and a generosity of spirit that makes other movies seem dull and uninpired in comparison.

The plot, no one here need be reminded, is a direct lift from Chinatown. But look what happens when you change one plot point. Take out the San Fernando Valley, put in Toontown, and you’ve got a whole different movie.

The special effects, while of their time, are so intricately interwoven with the live action you have no trouble believing any of it. And yet somehow, somehow they don’t call attention to themselves. The real-life props are chosen to be perfectly ordinary, keeping the tension between toon and real constant, so that when we get to Toontown (surely one of the most surreal and disorienting sequences in film history) the difference is completely jarring.

Walking the line is Christopher Lloyd, always and still one of the great actors of our day.

And just think! Bob Hoskins used to be a movie star!

Studio Executive: We need a million-dollar peg to hang this movie on. Get me Bob Hoskins!
D-Girl: But boss! He’s a gold-plated movie star! And he’ll only work with Joanna Cassidy!
SE: Do whatever it takes, but GET ME HOSKINS!

And you know, I went looking for this in the Family section of my local video store, and it wasn’t there. I wondered why. And my goodness, how adult this movie is! Toons swear like sailors, meet violent deaths, smoke and drink and have sex.

And then I remembered: the cartoons that Spielberg and Zemeckis are saluting were not always intended for a juvenile audience, they were simply popular entertainments. And when this movie came out, there was no Cartoon Network, these things weren’t being broadcast 24 hours a day, there was barely even a home-video market. The movie was intended to prod the memories of an audience old enough to remember seeing those characters on a movie screen.

And my goodness, when the wall at the end of the picture comes down (oops, spoiler alert) and all those characters come spilling out, it’s almost too much for an animation fan to take.

Can anyone imagine any filmmaker today, even someone with the power of Spielberg, managing to get all those characters into one movie together? The liscensing battles alone would cripple the production, now that all of those characters are worth millions to the studios that own them.

If Mr. R. Sikoryak is out there, can you tell me why Mel Blanc is credited for the voice of Tweety Bird, Bugs Bunny, etc, but someone else is credited for Yosemite Sam?
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Comments

7 Responses to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
  1. rennameeks says:

    animation + film noir = great entertainment

    This movie walks the fine line between “adult” toons and and kids’ fare without crossing over the line. I’m going to date myself here and admit that when this film first came out, I was definitely in the younger part of the audience. A lot of the double entendres flew over my head, though I had a general sense of “naughtiness” about them. I didn’t feel like I was missing much (even though looking back on it now, I see that I missed the deeper level of the story). There’s no way that most animated films could pull that off these days. If they’re trying to pull in the adult crowd, they’ll more than likely go there explicitly. Just look at the current anime fad of the American youth: this generation of media watchers is used to seeing “real” blood and hearing real profanity in its animation. In WFRR, much of the sex and violence was either implied or censored enough to be passable for a younger audience.

    You make an excellent point about the original cartoon stars not being intended for children. Heck, look at Betty Boop’s extremely short flapper dress. Looney Tunes were definitely not intended for children, nor were Tex Avery’s cartoons. Even Mickey Mouse wasn’t always so innocent, since he started out as a loose copy of Felix the Cat, who was a regular scamp. These shorts used to air in the theaters until the invention of television and the Saturday morning cartoon programming block. It was sometime after that that these cartoon stars got cleaned up. Looney Tune Babies, anyone? -_-

    I like to think of WFRR as animation’s response to American Graffiti. There’s no way in heck that a soundtrack like that one could ever be assembled today….not without costing more than the rest of the movie put together.

    Bob Hoskins…all I could think of during the Oscars when the clip from Mrs. Henderson Presents played was “I guess this is what Eddie V. did after he retired from the private detective racket.”

    Kathleen Turner’s wonderful performance bears mentioning, by the way. I don’t think Jessica Rabbit could have worked quite as well with any other actress’s voice.

    Out of curiousity, what section did you find Who Framed Roger Rabbit in? 🙂

  2. smiling_dog says:

    Cartoons were definitely not aimed at just children. Many still aren’t. I remember watching some of the older cartoons in which caricatures of movies stars were included. I love watching those more now that I’m an adult.

    Fun fact: The Flintstones was originally presented as a cartoon for adults that was sponsored by a large tobacco company. Yes, Barney, Fred, Wilma, and Betty all smoked.

    • schwa242 says:

      Although the cigarettes were actually small serpents, and when they were lit, they would scream and then say, “It’s a living!”

  3. robolizard says:

    Oh, I can explain the Mel Blanc is not Tex Avery thing. Mel Blanc always found doing Yosemite Sam’s voice on the verge of impossibility, and to him its always been a long difficulty. He was in the final years [year] of his life when working on the film, and I think that the combination of the two led to Sam being voiced by another.