The marriage between live action and animation has been around since the early 1900s, but some say “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is one of the most famous films of the genre. Debuting on the big screen in 1988 with a PG rating, this innovative and entertaining film was based on Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel, “Who Censored Roger Rabbit.” I remember seeing the movie when it came out, and it was fun to share it with my family now. We could appreciate how cutting-edge the film was for the late 1980s, as well as how far animation has come.
Set in a fictionalized 1947 Hollywood/Los Angeles location, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” depicts cartoons, called Toons, interacting with live actors. Roger Rabbit is an A-list cartoon star who is framed for murdering his friend and the owner of Toontown, Marvin Acme, because he played patty-cake with the rabbit’s bombshell wife, Jessica. Eddie Valiant, an alcoholic private investigator who hates Toons because one killed his brother by dropping a piano on him years ago, is the only person who can help Roger Rabbit clear his name. Spoiler: It turns out that Judge Doom, a mysterious and questionable lawman of the Toontown District Superior Court, and his Weasel cohorts, the Toon Patrol, are the ones who killed Acme as well as R.K. Maroon, owner of Maroon Cartoons where Roger Rabbit worked, and Valiant’s brother, Teddy.
This groundbreaking film ended up a financial success and even sparked a renaissance in the animation industry, which had grown lackluster in recent years. Below are some fun and interesting facts surrounding the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” film.
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Actor Bob Hoskins was not the first choice to play the role of Eddie Valiant.
- The movie stars Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant), Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit, Benny the Cab, and weasels Greasy and Psycho), Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom), Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit), and Joanna Cassidy (Dolores, Valiant’s on-off girlfriend who helps him solve the case).
- Walt Disney Pictures produced “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in association with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment production company, and it was directed by Robert Zemeckis and Richard Williams (animation sequences).
- Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame turned down the opportunity to direct “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
- While Kathleen Turner’s deep, sultry voice is unmistakable as the voice of Jessica Rabbit, don’t spend your time looking for her name in the credits. Turner performed the role as a favor for director Robert Zemeckis, with whom she had worked previously on “Romancing the Stone.” Her uncredited role has not kept fans from seeking her out: “I sign more Jessica Rabbit photos than mine, almost. I’m not kidding. Isn’t that crazy?” Turner commented in an interview in Playboy magazine in 2014.
- Because animation director Richard Williams refused to work in Los Angeles with Disney bureaucracy, production was moved to Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England.
- Bob Hoskins was not Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg’s first choice for Eddie Valiant; it was Bill Murray. Other contenders were Harrison Ford and Chevy Chase.
- Christopher Lloyd was not their first choice for Judge Doom, either. They considered Tim Curry, John Cleese and Christopher Lee before hiring Lloyd.
- To heighten the creep-factor for Judge Doom, Christopher Lloyd did not blink during his scenes without glasses.
- Charles Fleischer dressed in a complete Roger Rabbit costume to deliver his lines and stood off camera to deliver them for most scenes.
- The movie’s budget was $29.9 million, but by its June 1988 release, the budget for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was estimated at $70 million (more than $140 million in 2015 dollars).
- Had “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” been released after the 1980s, it would have been rated PG-13 due to adult content.
- Jessica Rabbit’s famous line, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” was voted No. 83 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- Kathleen Turner was nearing the end of her pregnancy when she was voicing her role as Jessica Rabbit. In fact, she missed her last day of filming because she went into labor. Daughter Rachel Ann Weiss was born on Oct. 14, 1987.
- The screenplay was written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. For inspiration, the pair studied several cartoons from the Golden Age of American animation, including Walt Disney and Warner Bros.
- This was the first time that characters from several animation studios — including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount and Terrytoons — appeared together on film.
- Warner Bros. and Walt Disney required equal screen time and number of lines for their iconic cartoon characters, so Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny share a scene with Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant as he falls from a skyscraper, and Daffy Duck and Donald Duck perform together in the film as a dueling piano act. Also, at the end of the movie, Porky Pig says his traditional “That’s All, Folks!” immediately followed by Tinker Bell’s magical tap to close the scene.
- In the cartoon cameos, several voice actors revived their original characters. These included Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse), Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Bird), and Mae Questell (Betty Boop).
- In one of the movie’s chilling scenes, Judge Doom lowers a whimpering cartoon shoe into a vat of dip. The shoe was voiced by Nancy Cartwright, who rose to fame as the voice of Bart Simpson in “The Simpsons” TV show just one year later.
- In an early version of the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” script, Judge Doom was revealed as the man who killed Bambi’s mother.
- Several main characters were modeled after other Hollywood stars. For example, Roger Rabbit has Tex Avery’s face shape, Goofy’s overalls, Mickey Mouse’s gloves, Porky Pig’s bowtie and Bugs Bunny’s cheeks and ears. Jessica Rabbit is a combination of Red from Red Hot Riding Hood, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake (especially her iconic peek-a-boo hair), and Roger Rabbit’s frequent costar in Maroon Cartoons, Baby Herman (played by Lou Hirsch) was a mix of Elmer Fudd and Tweety Bird.
- Amy Irving, who was married to Steven Spielberg at the time, performed Jessica Rabbit’s singing voice.
- The Ink and Paint Club, and its policy of only letting Toons in as entertainers and employees, was patterned after Harlem’s real-life Cotton Club, which only allowed black people to enter as performers.
- The film’s villain changed during the writing process from Jessica Rabbit or Baby Herman to the newly created Judge Doom.
- Judge Doom originally had an animated vulture sitting on his shoulder, but technical challenges caused it to be removed from the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” script.
- Additional cuts for technical and/or budgetary reasons include Judge Doom’s Kangaroo Court, which was a group of kangaroos that would jump out with signs that read YOU ARE GUILTY on them. The film ended up including only five.
- Prankster Marvin Acme, played by Stubby Kaye, was the cartoon gag-king and owner of the Acme Corp., which supplied all of Wile E. Coyote’s Road Runner contraptions.
- Several cartoon characters that made cameos in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” would not have existed at the movie’s 1947 date. These included Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (1949), Harvey the invisible 6-foot rabbit (1950), and the movie short Goofy Gymnastics (1949).
- The ingredients of the Dip (acetone, benzene and turpentine), said to dissolve any Toon on contact, actually are paint thinners used to remove animation from cels.
- There was a prequel called “Roger Rabbit II: Toon Platoon” planned in 1992, and in 1994 a script called “Who Discovered Roger Rabbit” was being written.
- Judge Doom’s proposed freeway route is said to be the actual 10 Freeway through Los Angeles.
- When being chased by the weasels, Benny the Cab (also played by Charles Fleischer) crosses a bridge. It was Hyperion Bridge, which crosses a freeway near the old Disney Studio in Hollywood.
- Based on the Toontown of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” Mickey’s Toontown opened in 1993 at Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. It featured a ride called Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin based on the rabbit’s film adventure.
- Even though the film’s title is a question, no question mark appears in the title. The film industry considers it bad luck to include a question mark in the title.
- Named after the movie’s lead character, the Roger Rabbit became a popular hip-hop dance move in the early 1990s.
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Christopher Lloyd’s character, Judge Doom (far right), was the main villain in the movie.
A 25th anniversary edition of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” came out in 2013, and its extras included a mini documentary, deleted scene and more.
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Actor Charles Fleischer voiced not only Roger Rabbit, but also Benny the cab and a few other characters.
Two aspects of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” stand out the most to me. First, how rare it is for rivaling large companies to come together and share their signature products, their most important assets, for the sake of entertainment. And it was tough for this film, as evidenced by the missing characters originally included in the script: Tom and Jerry, Popeye, Chip and Dale, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Superman. Yet we got to see it here, and audiences loved the results. Second, with the technical advancements of computer animation, we likely will never again see the amazing process of hand-painted cels that was used to create this blockbuster film.