Saturday, 22 June 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Roger Rabbit Redux

P-p-p-p-please, don't argue with me! Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the greatest films of all time!

Released 25 years ago today (June 22, 1988), Who Framed Roger Rabbit is still a marvel to look at, regardless of whether you're a cartoon buff or not. The animation is obviously stunning, which kick-started a cartoon revolution for Disney and tons of other studios who suddenly realized the artform could still be bankable. Not only that, but every time I watch it, I realize that Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant) and Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom) are cartoons in themselves, seamlessly morphing into a world they shouldn't. To get a better idea of just how amazing they are, watch Brad Pitt in Ralph Bakshi's god-awful Cool World for comparison. In fact, save yourself the disappointment and just trust me on this. 

Anyway, if you're like me, you've probably watched Roger Rabbit millions of times. But if you're a casual fan, here are 25 facts in celebration of 25 years, that you may not have realized re: this (partially) animated classic.

1)  Canadian animation director Richard Williams was vocally "anti-Disney", and designed a character that was not meant to invoke cutesy, but more of the classic cartoon characters from the 1940's. Watch here as Dick describes the amalgamation of animated characters that Roger represents, and sketches him as such for a British sock puppet. Gawd, I wish I was the kid who won this! 

2) Richard Williams had to "audition" for the role of lead animator on the film. Here's the first test he submitted to get the job. Charles Fleischer, is heard here early on, as the voice of Roger. That scare take near the end would be pretty much replicated later on in the actual movie.

3) In earlier test footage from 1983 before Richard Williams was involved, a preliminary version of Roger Rabbit was voiced by Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens and looked nothing like the Roger we came to love.

A preliminary version of Jessica Rabbit is also unrecognizable. And Eddie Valiant has a beard! Apparently this is how he is described in the book the movie was based on, Gary K. Wolf's "Who Censored Roger Rabbit".

4) The role of Judge Doom was originally offered to Christopher Lee, which would have been awesome now that I think about it.

He was supposed to have an animated series of 12 kangaroos with joeys who would help him to decide judgement by spelling out YOU ARE GUILTY - 1 roo per letter, you see. He was also supposed to have an animated vulture. Both were cut for budget purposes, but the vulture turned up as a companion piece for the Judge Doom toy. 

5) If you read my Mother's Day blog, you'll also know that Judge Doom was supposed to be revealed as the hunter who killed Bambi's mom. But Disney didn't go for it. 

6) There are 5 weasel gang members in the film as hired for Judge Doom's Toon Patrol -  Greasy, Wheezy,  Psycho, Stupid and Smart Ass. Originally there was supposed to be 7 weasels to parody Snow White, but 2 were cut to save money - Slimey and Flasher, who sound exactly as they were supposed to appear.

7) Of course, you know that Mel Blanc performed all of the Warner Bros characters in one of his last roles. But did you know that voice legend June Foray performed Lena Hyena? And Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, performed the squeals of the dipped shoe.

8) Kathleen Turner provided the voice of Roger's wife, Jessica Rabbit. She didn't receive a credit for it in the movie, but she did in the Roger Rabbit shorts that followed. 

9) There were 3 Roger Rabbit cartoon shorts released to theatres after the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They were the first that Disney attached to films since 1965's 'Goofy's Freeway Trouble'. There was 1989's 'Tummy Trouble' (released in front of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids), 1990's 'Rollercoaster Rabbit' (released in front of Dick Tracy) and 1992's 'Trail Mix-Up' (released in front of A Far Off Place)  I watched all of these in the theatre. In fact, I may have been the only person who bought a ticket for A Far Off Place. And I didn't even stay to watch the movie!

10)  Roger watches a Goofy cartoon in a movie theatre while hiding out with Eddie - specifically 1949's 'Goofy's Gymnastics'. Filmmakers knew that technically the cartoon didn't exist yet, as the movie took place in 1947 - but went with it anyway as it was the wackiest thing they could find in Walt's vault.

11) There is a lot of filth to be found in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, some of which isn't obvious. In 1994, when the movie was released on laserdisc, reports came out that indicated if certain scenes were slowed down frame-by-frame, they revealed brief nudity on the part of Jessica Rabbit - specifically in certain versions of the Benny the Cab car crash sequence. I think they've since been edited out, but you can see where the offending bits may have once occurred.

12) Another infamous scene is near the beginning when Baby Herman is angrily exiting the scene of the 'Somethin's Cookin' set, and reaches up under a woman's dress. Slow motion will reveal that Baby Herman has a finger extended. Richard Williams animated most of the Baby Herman sequences himself, the perv.

13) Speaking of fingers, slo mo on the sequence featuring Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny reveals that the rabbit is giving the mouse the bird.

14)  The animator responsible for that above piece, Dave Spafford, told Animation Magazine in 2011 that at one point, he almost snuck in a sequence in the Daffy/Donald piano duet, where in addition to a dead chicken, Daffy was to play the piano with a dead baby. Not surprisingly, it was discovered and forced out. But the chicken remains intact at the 1:08 mark below.

15) That above piano sequence was storyboarded by Richard Williams with assistance by Chuck Jones. Chuck Jones has a credit in the film as Animation Consultant, but isn't proud of it. He denounced the movie in his book, "Conversations", saying the sequence he worked on was butchered and that the director, Robert Zemeckis, creatively stymied Richard Williams.

16) Let's go back to more perversion for a sec! I would be remiss not to reference Jessica Rabbit's boobs...BUT ONLY AS IT RELATES TO ANIMATION! Animation is about exaggerated movement, which left Roger Rabbit's animators with the task of trying to make a cartoon cartoon-y without affecting sex appeal. They came up with the idea of reversing the bounce of Jessica's breasts, to move upward instead of downward.

Honestly, I did not expect this post to get so dirty! Honestly!

16) Did you ever watch that above sequence, and wonder why Eddie Valiant leaves the bathroom without a shirt on? (revealing quite the sweater underneath, I might add!)  That's because it relates to a sequence that happened just before this scene, which was deleted from the final film. It's referred to as the "pig head" sequence. This isn't a very good quality version below, but you can find it on the extras of both the Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-Ray and DVD.

17)  The merchandising bonanza around Roger Rabbit also yielded a bit of bonus, seldom-seen animation. Not sure if Richard Williams' team is behind it?

18)  Most of the cartoon cameos in the film were personally arranged via the clout of Steven Spielberg. But there were some rights and licences that couldn't be acquired, like Tom & Jerry, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Popeye, Superman, Little Lulu and Felix The Cat - although Felix's likeness is still briefly seen on top of the bridge leading into Toontown.

19) All of the above characters who weren't in the film were supposed to be featured in an abandoned sequence showcasing R.K. Maroon's funeral. 

20) Some of the cartoon characters who cameo in the film, shouldn't have due to historical inaccuracy. I mentioned the events of the film take place in 1947. Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, who appear in the end sequence, were not created until 1949. Ditto Speedy Gonzales, who didn't appear on screen until 1953. Filmmakers knew this was the case, but Steven Spielberg pushed for them to be included.

21) Talk of a sequel to Roger Rabbit has been on-and-off for over 2 decades, but never came to fruition. Progress was made with a screenplay called Roger Rabbit 2: Toon Platoon by Nat Maudlin, which was a send-up of wartime cartoons featuring Roger on a quest to find his mother. The script ended with him successfully finding both mother AND father, who just happens to be (***SPOILER ALERT***)...well, let's just say the last line of dialogue is "Gee, ain't I a stinker?"

I read that Spielberg rejected the script, because after doing Schindler's List, felt he couldn't take on a project that made light of the Nazis.

22) A rewrite of that rejected script was done by Animaniacs scribes Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, who ditched the war plot and refocused the story to revolve around Roger's rise in Hollywood. They also left in the search for his mother. The working title was Who Discovered Roger Rabbit, and composer Alan Menken even wrote 5 songs for the project. This is one of those songs...

23)  The prequel was ultimately abandoned because of budget, which at the time was estimated at around $100 million. There were also debates as to how to animate the film. A CGI approach was considered, in so far that actual test footage was created. It's not terrible, but doesn't have the warmth of traditional 2D animation. And apparently Disney execs agreed, forcing the development team to go back to the drawing board - quite literally.

25) In 2010, Robert Zemeckis said that a sequel/prequel was still in the works, and if it went ahead, it would be animated in traditional 2D with digital effects. This is good news, but is it worth the risk of sullying a great film by trying to force lightning to strike twice? I'd be surprised if it was greenlit, especially when recent attempts to return to 2D didn't prove as profitable for Disney as the Pixar product. (Treasure Planet, The Princess and The Frog)  I doubt they'd take that risk. I mean, they may act idiotic, but they're not stupid.

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