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March 8, 2007 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Who Delayed Roger Rabbit? Rich Drees lays bare the backroom bickering and production studio drama behind one of the 1980s' most successful comedies. For an encore, Drees reviews the unproduced script of Roger Rabbit II: Toon Platoon. Weep for what might have been.
posted by Faint of Butt (52 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Has anybody read "Who Censored Roger Rabbit?," the original book? It's pretty wild.

Cartoon characters walk around with humans (like the movie), but when they "speak" voice bubbles appear over their heads (like in comic strips) and the humans have to read the words appearing in them. Bizarre.

Pretty good read though, for what it is, and if you can imagine yourself stumbling upon it in the early 80's before the now-burnt-into-our-memories-as-the-definitive-humans-meet-cartoons-story.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:51 AM on March 8, 2007


Also, this is an interesting tale of how the film was put together - thanks FOB.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:52 AM on March 8, 2007


I'd always wondered what happened to Roger Rabbit. Especially in the current age of remakes and sequels. Nice post.
posted by zylocomotion at 8:03 AM on March 8, 2007


It's funny, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was rated PG when it came out. With a shooting, a dinkie joke and some other coarse language, and lots of booze drinking portrayed, I think it would probably get a PG-13 today. I rented it recently to watch with my 8 and 10 year old kids, and was a little embarrassed at all the "mature" content, since the kids are used to tamer fare. The movie seemed so much more innocent to me back in 1988 when I was nineteen and stoned. Really really stoned.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:05 AM on March 8, 2007


Interesting stuff—thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 8:12 AM on March 8, 2007


Can somebody 'splain why, in the imdb actor list, Kathleen Turner ... Jessica Rabbit (voice) (uncredited) is at the bottom?
posted by hal9k at 8:14 AM on March 8, 2007


With the production of his film Shindler’s List in 1993, Spielberg had gone through a spiritual awakening and an embracing of his Jewish heritage. As such, he decided that Nazis will no longer be used a villains in his movies.

huh? what about indy 3?
posted by andywolf at 8:17 AM on March 8, 2007


Dip!
No, not referring to you, Cookiebastard. I remember laughing a little too hard around the kids when Jessica said she was late because she was "shaking the weasels".
posted by hal9k at 8:19 AM on March 8, 2007


Drees makes some big assumptions regarding Spielberg's motives for killing the short film series. It's too bad- I'd love to see more short films before feature films. Does anyone still make them, besides Pixar?
posted by Lord Kinbote at 8:19 AM on March 8, 2007


Roger Rabbit: stupidest movie in history. You know I'm right.
posted by tadellin at 8:20 AM on March 8, 2007


Indy 3 came out in 1989. And Indy 4 is most probably not going to have Nazis in it.
posted by zsazsa at 8:21 AM on March 8, 2007


that just occured to me, thanks.
posted by andywolf at 8:22 AM on March 8, 2007


I used to be a tourguide in LA and the odd thing about WFRR is that in many ways it captured the dark politics behind the death of the redcars in LA better than any other movie I've ever seen... well, other than the whole melting cartoons thing 'cuz I think they made that up. The only other movies I can think of that captured that era of Los Angeles corruption as well are Chinatown & L.A. Confidential. (Obviously there may be movies I haven't seen though.)

Anyhow, I was living in Pasadena when I saw it, and I remember noticing the tunnels in the movie looked an AWFUL lot like the 134 freeway. A few other landmarks caught my eye too. That's when I realized... I lived in Toontown. That was kinda cool.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:27 AM on March 8, 2007


I remember being amazed, even as a kid, that the different, competing studios got together for a love fest (Daffy and Donald piano dueling is still pretty sweet). I've since loved such cross-overs, whether it be within an industry (Marvel and DC heroes stepping into each other's universes and pairing up) or a genre (the amazing comic Fables, which brings folk tale characters together from across all mythologies).

Also, Nazis are the quintessential villain; from Capt. America (RIP) to Hellboy, you can kill them by the bushel without regret or remorse.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:30 AM on March 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Very interesting post, thank you.
posted by interrobang at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2007


Roger Rabbit: stupidest movie in history. You know I'm right.

Really? Stupider than Dude, Where's My Car? Stupider than the movie where Shaq plays Shazzam or whatever? Stupider than Police Academy 6? Stupider than Gigli? Stop me stop me oh stop me..stop me if you've heard this one before...
posted by spicynuts at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2007


Indy 3 came out 18 years ago?!?! Sweet mother of Charlemagne, I'm old.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on March 8, 2007


Howard the Duck trumps your stupidest movie. But I'll tell you, off topic, the worst movie ever has to be Bad Boys II.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:18 AM on March 8, 2007


Smartest thing about Who Framed Roger Rabbit:

There's a shot early in the movie that pans across old newpaper headlines in Eddie Valiant's office, and one of them screams: "GOOFY CLEARED OF SPY CHARGES" with a picture of Goofy at a podium on some courthouse steps.
posted by deafmute at 9:29 AM on March 8, 2007


B-han speaks true:
Howard the Duck made me so stupid I had to repeat 11th grade.
posted by Dizzy at 9:30 AM on March 8, 2007


Roger Rabbit: stupidest movie in history. You know I'm right.

I'm probably feeding a troll here but what exactly was dumb about it? It combined an affectionate tribute to old movie cartoons with a send-up of film noir detective cliches and added in pretty effective commentary on racism, sexual politics, and urban planning. I thought that it was one of the smarter movies of the eighties. That's without even touching on the amazing technical stuff that was done without any digital support.
posted by octothorpe at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


It wasn't a stupid movie, it was just drawn stupid.
posted by spicynuts at 9:48 AM on March 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


A lot of this write up feels more like supposition and second guessing then actual fact. I wish it was an article more by one of the producers or someone intimate with the deals. Ah well... production hell, line 1, production hell, line 2, produciton hell.. yes can I help you? Oh you'll have to wait, he's in a meeting..
posted by cavalier at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2007


Well said, octothorpe.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2007


You know what? I really liked that movie. Added to my queue to watch again.

THe book, IMHO, sucked eggs. And I'm generally a "the book was soo much better than the movie" type.

Thnkas for the suprisingly interesting post.
posted by serazin at 10:07 AM on March 8, 2007


Great post!

I'm sure it just demonstrates my ignorance to the world of Hollywood, but it stuns me that Spielberg would be given 50% ownership of the franchise simply for his ability to sway WB into a licensing agreement. That's not real work.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2007


I wrote a paper back in college about how the film's dualities (WB and Disney? Yow!) and genre transgressions killed it's long tail in terms of profitability. It was a disappointment in that way. Jessica Rabbit, for example, had to be sexed way, way down to be in the coloring books etc.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:47 AM on March 8, 2007


1. Just because someone has an opinion means that the thread is swayed from interesting observations to defending a movie that doesn't need defending. So frustrating.

2. I loved the book and the movie and was always curious as to how the decision got made, how they chose what to cut, what not to, etc... I remember reading that Gary Wolfe liked the movie but I always wondered how much he really liked it, how much any of the changes hurt deep inside, etc.

3. While watching Zodia last weekend, I freaked out my girlfriend when I informed her that that creepy guy right there on the screen was, in fact, Roger Rabbit.
posted by Brainy at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Zodia sounds like a beautiful eastern European girl. I, however, was watching Zodiac
posted by Brainy at 10:56 AM on March 8, 2007


Drees lost me when he said Scooby Doo was the only memorable cartoon character since the 70s. The Simpsons have crossed over a generation. Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain also. I would love to see a Roger Rabbit with Pinky and the Brain.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2007


The paper I was talking about, which is, if nothing else, a good further reading list. And I am tacky as well as lazy and oh so hungover, so I just put it in my Myspace blog.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2007


I'm probably feeding a troll here but what exactly was dumb about it? It combined an affectionate tribute to old movie cartoons with a send-up of film noir detective cliches and added in pretty effective commentary on racism, sexual politics, and urban planning. I thought that it was one of the smarter movies of the eighties. That's without even touching on the amazing technical stuff that was done without any digital support.

I second this!
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2007


Roger Rabbit was an outstanding movie, good on every level.

My only real complaint is that I just don't like Roger Rabbit himself that well. The movie is extremely good, but I felt it succeeded more in spite of than because of him. I really enjoyed all the ancillary characters, it was just Roger I didn't care for much.
posted by Malor at 11:52 AM on March 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did I blink and miss them mentioning the involvement of Richard Williams?

Anyone who's interested in seeing how someone can be really, really screwed by the film industry - more screwed than Gilliam, more screwed than Welles, more screwed than anyone I can think of - needs to read about Williams' The Thief and the Cobbler (previously on Metafilter, and on YouTube).

He worked on it for thirty years and then the finance company took it from him and had it altered and finished by Korean hacks because they were afraid it would have to compete with Disney's Aladdin.
posted by Grangousier at 11:55 AM on March 8, 2007


"I used to be a tourguide in LA and the odd thing about WFRR is that in many ways it captured the dark politics behind the death of the redcars in LA better than any other movie I've ever seen"

Yeah, I was still in NJ when I saw RR the first time, so I didn't really get this at all. I saw it again after I moved to Los Angeles, and finally I understood that part of the movie.

"Also, Nazis are the quintessential villain; from Capt. America (RIP) to Hellboy, you can kill them by the bushel without regret or remorse."

Don't forget Call of Duty 3 (and any other WWII game)! Woo!

"I'm sure it just demonstrates my ignorance to the world of Hollywood, but it stuns me that Spielberg would be given 50% ownership of the franchise simply for his ability to sway WB into a licensing agreement. That's not real work."


It is, however, the foundation of much of how Hollywood functions. That's the real kicker about these mogul types; most of their "work" consists of being the guy who can put the right two hands together in a handshake. And they make an exponential metric crapload of cash doing it.

Spielberg's probably not a good example of that, because AFAIK the man works his ass off on his films and isn't just a "dealmaker."
posted by zoogleplex at 11:58 AM on March 8, 2007


Funniest moment -- possibly when Roger is looking at the pictures of Jessica literally rather than figuratively playing pattycake, and he starts flipping through them faster and faster...
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:58 AM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I adore Who Framed Roger Rabbit? too, and I don't understand any of the hate against it in some circles (outside of a few animation fans with too-particular tastes in how their favorite characters should be animated).

Jim Hill (who seems to do his fair share of trafficking in rumor and conjecture as well) has written a couple of interesting articles about Roger Rabbit along these same lines. I love the Roger Rabbit shorts that were produced and would have liked to see more of them done at the very least. And the Steven Spielberg produced television cartoons like Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Freakazoid! where a really big deal to me growing up.

I read Who Censored Roger Rabbit? when I was little and remember really liking it (and being even more titillated by it than I was by the movie) but the library back home has since lost it's copy of that book as well as the Gary Wolf penned sequel Who P-p-p-plugged Roger Rabbit? which I also really liked. It was basically a sequel to the movie and briefly referenced the events of the first book as a nightmare that Jessica Rabbit had. Both books seem to have been out of print for quite a while, but I'd love to read them both again at some point.
posted by Nathaniel W at 12:09 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Grangousier, thanks for the info about Richard Williams. I was particularly impressed to learn that he did the animated sequences for Charge of the Light Brigade which I've always really admired.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:10 PM on March 8, 2007


It was basically a sequel to the movie and briefly referenced the events of the first book as a nightmare that Jessica Rabbit had.

No way! The guy bowed down so far to the cinematic version that he relegated his own version to a dream sequence? Come on, dude. Just stick to your own universe. If they option your book, you know they'll butcher it anyway.

Both books seem to have been out of print for quite a while, but I'd love to read them both again at some point.

It actually surprises me that they're out-of-print, considering how popular reprints of books are when the movie comes out. Did they ever even make an OMG-it-has-pictures-from-the-movie edition of the book?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2007


From the third link:

[...] the future Mrs. Rabbit, though she’s not as we know her from the first film. Jessica Krupnick may have her same sultry voice, but is dressed in some less than flattering clothes and seems oblivious of her own charms.

Dunno about you, but this is an order of magnitude more attractive than any red sequined number.
posted by sidereal at 12:55 PM on March 8, 2007


No way! The guy bowed down so far to the cinematic version that he relegated his own version to a dream sequence? Come on, dude. Just stick to your own universe. If they option your book, you know they'll butcher it anyway.

I imagine that it had something to do with the fact that if he wanted to write a follow-up he somehow had to get around the fact that, if I recall correctly, SPOILER ALERT (if that's necessary for a twenty year old, out-of-print book), Roger dies in his first novel.

In any case, he has some real fun with the cartoon universe of the movie, as opposed to the comic strip universe of the first book, and the book is a pretty good time.

It actually surprises me that they're out-of-print, considering how popular reprints of books are when the movie comes out.

I'm with you, though my wholly speculative guess would be that Disney might have kept the original book off the market when the movie came out as it is so different from the film, and it's content is a bit more objectionable (at least based on my admittedly hazy memory). At the very least, however, the sequel book actually has the characters as designed for the movie on the dust jacket and seems a bit more tied in with what Disney did with the characters and tone. And as far as I can tell it didn't even get a paperback release, so that's a mystery to me.
posted by Nathaniel W at 1:14 PM on March 8, 2007


The opening cartoon -> live action fakeout in WFRR may be one of my favorite moments in movies. They totally suck you into a classic cartoon world with cartoon logic and physics and then seamlessly pull back and show you that it's all happening in the "real" world. The first time that I saw it I could feel my brain stripping gears when the director yells cut and you see that you're actually in a movie studio.
posted by octothorpe at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2007


I imagine that it had something to do with the fact that if he wanted to write a follow-up he somehow had to get around the fact that, if I recall correctly, SPOILER ALERT (if that's necessary for a twenty year old, out-of-print book), Roger dies in his first novel.

Not only does Roger die in the novel, he dies midway (hence the original title being "Who Censored Roger Rabbit," alluding to the story being about who rubbed him out). In addition, the characters are comic strip characters, not cartoons, the novel takes place in modern times (or 1980 as the case may be) and there are of course no references whatsoever to Disney or Warner Bros. properties. In fact, the author once joked that only one line from the original book actually appeared in the movie, and it was the one that, ironically, was censored after release (Baby Herman's line about having a infant's penis).

I'm pretty sure Wolf realized the second book was going to have to be like the Disney movie to be any kind of cash cow for him. I'm rarely one to dismiss the contribution of an original work's creator, but the Roger Rabbit we know and love is far more a credit to Richard Williams and the staff at Disney than Gary Wolf.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2007


Cool post.

My wife likes to watch movies to fall asleep so we've seen this SO many times, but it never gets old. A modern classic.
posted by Blip at 1:44 PM on March 8, 2007


Nazis are the quintessential villain; from Capt. America (RIP) to Hellboy, you can kill them by the bushel without regret or remorse.
"We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel."
posted by kirkaracha at 2:15 PM on March 8, 2007


"Spielberg had gone through a spiritual awakening and an embracing of his Jewish heritage. As such, he decided that Nazis will no longer be used a villains in his movies."

Those nazis always got such bad press, about time someone decided to cut them some slack.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:44 PM on March 8, 2007


SmileyChewtrain

You forgot to mention that the book has almost nothing in common with the movie, except for a couple of the main characters and the fact that there's a murder that Roger Rabbit's accused of.
posted by Target Practice at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2007


Read the book (which was already in a cut-out bin in 1983) then saw the movie. They were two very different creatures, though I loved them both like two adopted children. Got to find the book sequel... it would be fascinating to see how Gary Wolf picks it up and runs with it.

But for Roger Rabbit II, a PRE-quel? No, there are much better ways to go. I once played with imagining "Who Cancelled Roger Rabbit", going forward to the early TV 50s using icons of the time (he's doing a daily TV show with a trio of lookalike nephews [Robbie, Rocky and Ronnie*], constantly fighting the network over slapstick violence, and Roger & Jessica would hang out with Mickey & Minnie Mouse like Lucy, Ricky, Fred & Ethel) and basing the central plot on Cold War paranoia (the Eastern Bloc may be using Zagreb-designed abstract toons as secret weapons; a cartoon bear with a Russian accent is blacklisted and gets Roger to help clear his name). What Roger could have done going forward instead of backwards had so much possibility...

*and yes, Rocky would later get an extreme makeover then work successfully with a moose
posted by wendell at 4:24 PM on March 8, 2007


I’d’ve loved to see more Roger.

I met Charles Fleischer. Nice guy.

....that’s not much of a story really.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:45 PM on March 8, 2007


My absolute favorite part of WFRR was when Jessica dropped something in front of the Detective, he bends down to pick it up, and on his way up hits her breasts with his head--causing much jiggleage, and a cartoon sound-effect, to which he even apologies to her! In a PG movie! Great stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:10 PM on March 8, 2007


it looks like copies of the books can be purchased from Gary Wolf's site.

My favorite line from the film, which I did not understand when I was 6, is when Eddie's got his hands around Jessica and his girlfriend comes in, and asks deadpan:

"You dabblin' in watercolors, Eddie?"
posted by elr at 4:00 PM on March 9, 2007


Oh, wow. Thanks elr. I have the first novel, but I haven't been able to find the sequel.

And yeah, that's probably my favorite line too. Although I'm pretty sure I understood it even when I first saw it.
posted by Target Practice at 4:10 PM on March 9, 2007


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