Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The Unique Noir Bunny Film

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Roger, Roger!

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this 1988 live-action animated comedy (and mystery) film was super clever and inventive for its day.

And it bloody well captivated us as stupid kids. We were amazed by it! Starring Bob Hoskins, it’s a neo noir romp set in the world of Disney. Let’s do this!

Taking the Frames Off Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

As with childhood films like Watership Down (1978) and Return to Oz (1985), this is one of those flicks you’d watch as a kid despite the scary factor.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? deals with dark themes, but its Disney happy presentation makes it suitable for all ages. Just about.

The film was adapted from Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Set in 1947, we’re in a world where Hollywood’s cartoon characters are very real.

They co-exist with real people and go about life sort of as normal, but often with their slapstick abilities in tact.

The plot follows Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) who’s a private investigator. He’s miserly, having a short temper and little sense of humour. He also drinks to excess.

However, a popular star called Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer) is enduring erratic performances.

Due to such unprofessionalism, Maroon Cartoon Studios hires Valiant to investigate what’s going on in Roger’s life.

This leads the investigator to Jessica, Roger’s wife.

After watching her singing in a local LA club, he photographs Jessica with Marvin Acme (of Acme Corporation) having a game of patty-cake. This upsets Roger enormously.

The next day, Acme is found dead at his factory and the evidence would suggest Roger is responsible for the murder.

Investigating some more, Valiant comes across Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) a Toontown court judge who has a chemical substance that can actually destroy toons. He calls this The Dip.

Working for him are a bunch of weasels who cackle relentlessly and carry out Doom’s various orders, mobster style. We always liked these guys a lot.

However, Valiant believes Roger is innocent. And he sets out to prove this to be the case!

Whilst going about all this, he interacts (rather moodily) with the various famous Disney characters we’re all accustomed to. And their wacky antics.

What plays out is Valiant and Roger Rabbit form a kind of partnership and head into Toontown. This is a cartoon world, basically.

And that’s where there’s an appearance by Droopy dog, which was always one of our favourite scenes from the film. Even as kids, we loved sardonic humour.

So, yes, as you can see there was all sorts of clever special effects going on. For the time, it was all landmark stuff.

The plot builds to the usual wiping out the bad guys stuff, but its inventiveness throughout is still effective to this day.

And despite all the special effects, it is Bob Hoskins’ film.

Hoskins never shied away from these roles, making a fun cameo in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) and he took the main role for the disastrous Super Mario Bros. (1993).

A tough gig, at that stage in film history, to act alongside stuff that just wasn’t there.

It’s common these days, of course, with CGI and all that. But this was pioneering work for the future of cinema.

Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing is up to you, but with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? it makes for a pretty epic film.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Production

As you’d expect from its technology busting special effects, the budget for the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was $50.6 million.

And it was a smash hit, earning back $329.8 million worldwide.

It also won three Oscars across Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects, and Best Visual Effects. Not a big surprise on the latter. It’s a marvel to behold.

Bob Hoskins does a fine job and is slovenly and moody—a great fit for what was required of Eddie Valiant.

However, casting the lead role was something of a nightmare.

Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Entertainment was behind the film and the famed directed was after Harrison Ford for the lead role.

However, Ford asked for too much money. So, Chevy Chase was asked. But he didn’t like the idea of the film. Bill Murray was also considered, but as he doesn’t have an agent or manager he often misses out on opportunities. So this one flew by him.

Other  considerations for Valiant included:

  • Eddie Murphy
  • Robin Williams (naturally, who would have been a fine choice)
  • Robert Redford
  • Jack Nicholson
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Wallace Shawn
  • Ed Harris
  • Charles Grodin
  • Don Lane

Pretty much half of Hollywood, then, before Hoskins was set in stone for it.

As he had to act around a bunny rabbit that wasn’t there, comedian Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit) dressed up as a Roger Rabbit and acted behind the camera for the scenes they were “in”.

Shooting the film minus the animations was the easy bit.

Post-production computer animation and digital compositing took 14 months. For the animators involved, it was an almighty undertaking and a lot of ground-breaking work went into the film.

Thankfully, all that paid off. It was a critical darling!

American film credits Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel even placed it right near the top of their Best Films of 1988 list.

Decades later, the film’s special effects have aged slightly. But it’s still very impressive what was achieved.

And add into the music a fun and clever script, with engaging performances, and you have something of a classic here. Marvellous!

4 comments

  1. Now this is a childhood classic. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but I get the feeling that it completely holds up. Bob Hoskins is great, as is Christopher Lloyd (must have been friends with Zemeckis, since he was also in all the Back to the Future movies. On that note, I’m very happy that neither of these properties have been ruined with reboots.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s been talk of a sequel as recently as 2018, but Disney apparently doesn’t like the idea at all and won’t greenlight the script. Because. Cower before the corporate might of Disney!

      Like

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