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|Who Framed Roger Rabbit|
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Screenplay by||Jeffrey Price|
Peter S. Seaman
|Based on||Who Censored Roger Rabbit?|
by Gary K. Wolf
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Edited by||Arthur Schmidt|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution|
|Budget||$50.6 million[nb 1]|
|Box office||$329.8 million|
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 American live-action/animated comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, produced by Frank Marshall and Robert Watts, and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. The film is based on Gary K. Wolf's 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?. The film stars Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, and Joanna Cassidy. Combining live-action and animation, the film is set in Hollywood during the late 1940s, where cartoon characters and people co-exist. The story follows Eddie Valiant, a private detective who must exonerate "Toon" (i.e. cartoon character) Roger Rabbit, who is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman.
Walt Disney Pictures purchased the film rights for Who Framed Roger Rabbit's story in 1981. Price and Seaman wrote two drafts of the script before Disney brought in executive producer Steven Spielberg, and his production company, Amblin Entertainment. Zemeckis was brought on to direct the film, and Canadian animator Richard Williams was hired to supervise the animation sequences. Production was moved from Los Angeles to Elstree Studios in England to accommodate Williams and his group of animators. While filming, the production budget began to rapidly expand and the shooting schedule ran longer than expected.
Disney released the film through its Touchstone Pictures division on June 22, 1988, to critical and commercial success, becoming a blockbuster hit. The film brought a renewed interest in the Golden Age of American animation, spearheading modern American animation and the Disney Renaissance.
In 1947 Los Angeles, "toons" act in theatrical cartoon shorts as with live-action films; they regularly interact with real people and animals and reside in Toontown, a fictional place where animated cartoon characters (toons) reside. Private detective Eddie Valiant and his brother, Teddy, once worked closely with the toons on several famous cases, but after Teddy was killed by a toon, Eddie lapsed into alcoholism and vowed never to work for toons again.
R.K. Maroon, head of Maroon Cartoon Studios, is concerned about the recent poor performances of one of his biggest stars, Roger Rabbit. Maroon hires Valiant to investigate rumors about Roger's voluptuous toon wife Jessica being romantically involved with businessman and gadget inventor Marvin Acme, owner of both Acme Corporation and Toontown. After watching Jessica perform at the underground Ink and Paint Club, Valiant secretly photographs her and Acme playing patty-cake in her dressing room, which he shows to Roger. Maroon suggests to Roger that he should leave Jessica, but a drunken Roger refuses and flees.
The next morning, Acme is discovered dead at his factory by the Los Angeles Police Department with a safe dropped on his head, and evidence points to Roger being responsible. While investigating, Valiant meets Judge Doom, Toontown's superior court judge, who has created a substance capable of killing a toon: a toxic "dip" made of turpentine, acetone, and benzene. Valiant runs into Roger's toon co-star, Baby Herman, who believes Roger is innocent and that Acme's missing will, which will give the toons ownership of Toontown, may be the key to his murder. Valiant finds Roger, who begs him to help exonerate him, hiding in his office. Valiant reluctantly hides Roger in a local bar, where his ex-girlfriend, Dolores, works. Jessica approaches Valiant and says that Maroon forced her to pose for the photographs so he could blackmail Acme.
Doom and his toon weasel henchmen discover Roger, but he and Valiant escape with Benny, an anthropomorphic taxicab. They flee to a theater, where Valiant tells Roger that a toon killed Teddy when they were investigating a bank robbery by dropping a piano on his head. As they leave with Dolores, Valiant sees a newsreel detailing the sale of Maroon Cartoons to Cloverleaf, a mysterious corporation that bought the city's trolley network shortly before Acme's murder. Valiant goes to the studio to confront Maroon, leaving Roger to guard outside, but Jessica knocks Roger out and puts him in the trunk. Maroon tells Valiant that he blackmailed Acme into selling his company so he could sell the studio, then tearfully admits he only did so out of fear for the safety of the toons and is killed before he can explain the consequences of the missing will. Valiant spots Jessica fleeing the scene, and assuming she is the culprit, follows her into Toontown. Jessica reveals that Doom killed Acme and Maroon and that Acme gave her his will for safekeeping, but she discovered that the will was blank. She and Valiant are captured by Doom and the weasels.
At the Acme factory, Doom reveals his plot to destroy Toontown with a machine loaded with dip to build a freeway, the only way past Toontown since Cloverleaf (which Doom owns) has bought out Los Angeles' Pacific Electric Railway. Roger unsuccessfully attempts to save Jessica, and the couple is tied onto a hook in front of the machine's hose. Valiant performs a comedic vaudeville act, causing the weasels to die of laughter; Valiant kicks their leader into the machine's dip vat, killing him. Valiant fights Doom, who is flattened by a steamroller, but survives, revealing him as a toon. Doom reveals that he killed Teddy. Valiant uses a toon mallet with a spring-loaded boxing glove and fires it at a switch that causes the machine to empty its dip onto Doom, dissolving him to death.
The empty machine crashes through the wall into Toontown, where it is destroyed by a train. Toons run in to regard Doom's remains, and Roger discovers that he inadvertently wrote his love letter for Jessica on Acme's will, which was written in disappearing/reappearing ink. Roger shocks Valiant with a joy buzzer, and Valiant gives him a kiss, having regained his sense of humor. Valiant happily enters Toontown with Dolores, and Roger with Jessica, followed by the other toons.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was one of the final productions in which Mel Blanc voiced his Looney Tunes characters before his death the following year. Blanc was unable to perform some of his gruffer character voices, so they were instead given to Joe Alaskey.
Other characters in the film include:
Baby Herman is Roger's major co-star in the animated shorts in which they appear. He is Roger's best friend. Baby Herman's "mother", Mrs. Herman (voiced by April Winchell), makes an appearance at the beginning of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and its spin-off short films, but she is only shown from the waist down.
Baby Herman and Roger Rabbit comprised an Abbott and Costello-like comedy team for the fictitious Maroon Cartoons studio in the 1940s. A typical Roger/Baby Herman cartoon consists of Roger being given responsibility for Baby Herman's well-being; Herman immediately begins crawling through a number of dangerous situations from which Roger must rescue him. In the process, Roger suffers extravagant injuries and humiliations reminiscent of those in classic Tex Avery cartoons, while Baby Herman remains unscathed. For both book adaptations, Baby Herman was murdered, leaving behind a doppelganger for Eddie Valiant to help solve the crime.
In the film, Baby Herman's role was downplayed. In one scene, he tells Eddie that Roger did not murder Marvin Acme and tips off that Acme had a will that promised to leave Toontown to the Toons, which is the reason why Acme was killed. Baby Herman later appears at the end of the film, expressing his annoyance that Acme did not leave his will where it could easily be found.
Despite his name and appearance, "Baby" Herman is actually a middle-aged, cigar-smoking Toon who looks like an infant. While filming "in character", he speaks baby talk in a typical baby boy's voice provided by Winchell; off-camera, he has a loud, gravelly voice provided by Lou Hirsch. Animation director Richard Williams loved the character of "adult" Baby Herman so much that he personally animated all of the scenes of the character in the film. When he loses his cigar and finds himself unable to reach it, he starts crying like a baby (albeit with his voice still sounding like a middle-aged man).
Benny the Cab is a taxicab that services the Los Angeles area in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He is voiced in all appearances by Charles Fleischer. In the original story, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, a different character named Bennie is an insect who deals in second-hand items at the junkyard. The character was expanded for the movie, as an anthropomorphized colorful yellow Volkswagen Beetle-style taxi cab.
The Toon Patrol is a group of five anthropomorphic animated tailless weasels who serve as henchmen to Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They serve as the secondary antagonists of the film. In the film, the Toon Patrol comprises the "police officers" of Toontown, but they behave less like law enforcers and more like gangsters and crooks. Judge Doom hires them to capture Roger Rabbit for the murder of Marvin Acme. The Toon Patrol drives around in a black Dodge Humpback paddy wagon labeled with the Los Angeles city seal like with cruisers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The weasels enjoy laughing at the misery of others, including each other. Like all the other Toons in the movie, they are invincible to physical body harm except for the dip. However, prolonged laughter is also shown to be lethal to them. Eddie Valiant jokes around in front of them during the climax of the movie, causing all but Smartass to "die" from laughing at him, after which their Toon souls rise to heaven in angel forms. According to Judge Doom, they once had hyena cousins that died in the same manner.
While being designed, the weasels and their fondness of weapons were modeled after the weasels in the 1949 Disney cartoon The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The weasels make an appearance in the Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin attraction located at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.
R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) is the owner of Maroon Cartoons. He paid Eddie $100 to photograph Jessica and Marvin Acme, which eventually led to Acme's murder. Maroon later admitted that he was trying to blackmail Acme into selling Toontown to Cloverleaf Industries so that he could sell his studio as well, since Cloverleaf wanted to buy both properties at once. Before he could reveal who was behind the plot, he was shot and killed by Judge Doom.
Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) is the owner of Acme Products and Toontown. He is known around Hollywood as "the gag king" for the prank items he makes his living selling. Among his top sellers are Disappearing/Reappearing Ink and a hand buzzer. In a blackmail scheme by R.K. Maroon, he has an "affair" with Toon Jessica Rabbit which Eddie Valiant (who briefly meets Acme) photographs. Acme is murdered later that night by Judge Doom, who drops a safe on his head and frames Jessica's husband, Roger.
Lt. Santino (Richard LeParmentier) is a lieutenant with the LAPD, and friend of Eddie. He accompanies Eddie to the Acme factory, where Marvin Acme has been murdered and everyone suspects Roger. Here they are introduced to Judge Doom who explains the ingredients of the Dip. When Doom demonstrates the Dip on a defenceless Toon shoe, Santino turns away in distress, unable to watch the Toon die. Santino is present with several officers when Eddie discovers that it was Doom who killed Acme along with Maroon and Teddy.
Theodore "Teddy" J. Valiant is the deceased brother of Eddie. Teddy was killed by a piano dropped onto him by a Toon later revealed to be Judge Doom while investigating a robbery in Toontown. Due to his brother's death, Eddie, with whom Teddy had cracked many a case and helped Toons who were in trouble, vowed never to work for a Toon again and wouldn't for many years. To honor his brother, Eddie left Teddy's desk the way it was the day he died and refuses to allow anyone to sit at it. Eddie avenged his brother's death when he destroyed Doom with Doom's Dip.
Angelo (Richard Ridings) is a client of Dolores's bar. Eddie is not particularly fond of Angelo, as he makes fun of Eddie for his detective work. Eddie regards Angelo as the kind of guy who would sell someone out at the first opportunity, but Angelo helps Roger avoid Judge Doom's search after Roger makes him laugh. When asked by Doom if he has seen a rabbit, Angelo mocks him by gesturing to a patch of empty space and saying, "Say hello to the Judge, Harvey." - a reference to the 1944 play of that name by Mary Coyle Chase.
Bongo (voiced by Morgan Deare, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin voiced by Jeff Bergman) is a cartoon gorilla bouncer of The Ink and Paint Club. The password that Eddie uses to get in was "Walt sent me" and Bongo lets him in. He also tosses Eddie out of the club when he catches Eddie spying on Jessica Rabbit and Marvin P. Acme in Jessica's dressing room.
Lena Hyena is a Toon Hag that resembles Jessica Rabbit. When Eddie was looking for Jessica Rabbit, he saw what appeared to be her in an apartment building. When Eddie entered the room, he encountered Lena Hyena who developed a crush on Eddie and chased him around parts of Toon Town. Eddie was able to get rid of her by tricking her into running into the wall of a building.
The Toon Bullets are a group of six bullets with personalities similar to those of characters in Western movies. They were a present from Yosemite Sam, thanking Eddie for "springing him from the hoosegow."
When Eddie Valiant decides to enter Toontown in pursuit of Judge Doom, he discards his pistol in favor of an oversized Toon revolver and loads the bullets into it. He fires at Doom, but the bullets become confused as to where he went and turn in the wrong direction. "Dum-dums," Eddie says sourly. (This is a wordplay insofar as dum-dums are a type of bullet, specifically ones which are hollow-nosed or soft-nosed.)
Walt Disney Productions purchased the film rights to Gary K. Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? shortly after its publication in 1981. Ron W. Miller, then president of Disney, saw it as a perfect opportunity to produce a blockbuster. Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were hired to write the script, penning two drafts. Robert Zemeckis offered his services as director in 1982, but Disney declined as his two previous films (I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars) had been box-office bombs. Between 1981 and 1983 Disney developed test footage with Darrell Van Citters as animation director, Paul Reubens voicing Roger Rabbit, Peter Renaday as Eddie Valiant, and Russi Taylor as Jessica Rabbit. The project was revamped in 1985 by Michael Eisner, the then-new CEO of Disney. Amblin Entertainment, which consisted of Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, were approached to produce Who Framed Roger Rabbit alongside Disney. The original budget was projected at $50 million, which Disney felt was too expensive.
Roger Rabbit was finally green-lit when the budget decreased to $30 million, which at the time still made it the most expensive animated film ever green-lit. Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg argued that the hybrid of live action and animation would "save" Disney's animation department. Spielberg's contract included an extensive amount of creative control and a large percentage of the box-office profits. Disney kept all merchandising rights. Spielberg convinced Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz Productions to "lend" their characters to appear in the film with (in some cases) stipulations on how those characters were portrayed; for example, Disney's Donald Duck and Warner's Daffy Duck appear as equally talented dueling pianists, and Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny also share a scene. Apart from this agreement, Warner Bros. and the various other companies were not involved in the production of Roger Rabbit. Additionally, the producers were unable to acquire the rights to use Popeye, Tom and Jerry, Little Lulu, Casper the Friendly Ghost, or the Terrytoons for appearances from their respective owners (King Features, Turner, Western Publishing, Harvey Comics, and Viacom).
Terry Gilliam was offered the chance to direct, but he found the project too technically challenging. ("Pure laziness on my part," he later admitted, "I completely regret that decision.") Robert Zemeckis was hired to direct in 1985, based on the success of Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Disney executives were continuing to suggest Darrell Van Citters to direct the animated sequences, but Spielberg and Zemeckis decided against it. Richard Williams was eventually hired to direct the animation. Zemeckis wanted the film to imbue "Disney's high quality of animation, Warner Bros.' characterization, and Tex Avery humor."
Harrison Ford was Spielberg's original choice to play Eddie Valiant, but Ford's price was too high. Bill Murray was also considered for the part, but due to his idiosyncratic method of receiving offers for roles, Murray missed out on it. Eddie Murphy reportedly turned down the role of Eddie, which he later came to regret. Several other actors were also considered for the role of Eddie Valiant, including Chevy Chase, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Wallace Shawn, Ed Harris, Charles Grodin, and Don Lane. To facilitate Hoskins' performance, Charles Fleischer dressed in a Roger bunny suit and "stood in" behind camera for most scenes. Animation director Williams explained Roger Rabbit was a combination of "Tex Avery's cashew nut-shaped head, the swatch of red hair...like Droopy's, Goofy's overalls, Porky Pig's bow tie, Mickey Mouse's gloves, and Bugs Bunny-like cheeks and ears."
Christopher Lloyd was cast because he previously worked with Zemeckis and Spielberg on Back to the Future. Lloyd compared his part as Doom to his previous role as the Klingon commander Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, both being overly evil characters which he considered being "fun to play". Lloyd avoided blinking his eyes while on camera to perfectly portray the character. Tim Curry originally auditioned for the role of Judge Doom, but after his audition, the producers found him too terrifying for the role. Christopher Lee was also considered for the role, but turned it down. Several other actors were also considered for the role of Judge Doom, including John Cleese, Roddy McDowall, Eddie Deezen, and Sting.
Fleischer also voiced Benny the Cab and two members of Doom's weasel gang, Psycho and Greasy. Lou Hirsch, who supplied the voice for Baby Herman, was the original choice for Benny the Cab, but was replaced by Fleischer.
Price and Seaman were brought aboard to continue writing the script once Spielberg and Zemeckis were hired. For inspiration, the two writers studied the work of Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Cartoons from the Golden Age of American animation, especially Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. The Cloverleaf streetcar subplot was inspired by Chinatown. Price and Seaman said that "the Red Car plot, suburb expansion, urban and political corruption really did happen," Price stated. "In Los Angeles, during the 1940s, car and tire companies teamed up against the Pacific Electric Railway system and bought them out of business. Where the freeway runs in Los Angeles is where the Red Car used to be." In Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, the toons were comic-strip characters rather than movie stars.
During the writing process, Price and Seaman were unsure of whom to include as the villain in the plot. They wrote scripts that had either Jessica Rabbit or Baby Herman as the villain, but they made their final decision with newly created character Judge Doom. Doom was supposed to have an animated vulture sit on his shoulder, but this was deleted due to the technical challenges this posed. Doom would also have a suitcase of 12 small animated kangaroos that act as a jury, by having their joeys pop out of their pouches, each with letters, when put together would spell YOU ARE GUILTY. This was also cut for budget and technical reasons. Doom's five-man weasel gang (Stupid, Smart Ass, Greasy, Wheezy, and Psycho) satirizes the Seven Dwarfs (Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey), who appeared in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Originally, seven weasels were to mimic the dwarf's complement, but eventually, two of them, Slimey and Slezey, were written out of the script. Further references included The "Ink and Paint Club" resembling the Harlem Cotton Club, while Zemeckis compared Judge Doom's invention of "the dip" to eliminate all the toons as Hitler's Final Solution. Doom was originally the hunter who killed Bambi's mother. Benny the Cab was first conceived to be a Volkswagen Beetle before being changed to a taxicab. Ideas originally conceived for the story also included a sequence set at Marvin Acme's funeral, whose attendees included Eddie, Foghorn Leghorn, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Heckle and Jeckle, Chip n' Dale, Mighty Mouse, Superman, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Clarabelle Cow, and the Seven Dwarfs in cameo appearances. However, the scene was cut for pacing reasons and never made it past the storyboard stage. Before finally agreeing on Who Framed Roger Rabbit as the film's title, working titles included Murder in Toontown, Toons, Dead Toons Don't Pay Bills, The Toontown Trial, Trouble in Toontown, and Eddie Goes to Toontown.
Animation director Richard Williams admitted he was "openly disdainful of the Disney bureaucracy" and refused to work in Los Angeles. To accommodate him and his animators, production was moved to Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England. Disney and Spielberg also told Williams that in return for doing Roger Rabbit, they would help distribute his uncompleted film The Thief and the Cobbler. Supervising animators included Dale Baer, James Baxter, David Bowers, Andreas Deja, Chris Jenkins, Phil Nibbelink, Nik Ranieri, and Simon Wells. The animation production, headed by associate producer Don Hahn, was split between Richard Williams' London studio and a specialized unit in Los Angeles, set up by Walt Disney Feature Animation and supervised by Dale Baer. The production budget continued to escalate, while the shooting schedule lapsed longer than expected. When the budget reached $40 million, Disney president Michael Eisner seriously considered shutting down production, but Jeffrey Katzenberg talked him out of it. Despite the budget escalating to over $50 million, Disney moved forward on production because they were enthusiastic to work with Spielberg.
VistaVision cameras installed with motion-control technology were used for the photography of the live-action scenes which would be composited with animation. Rubber mannequins of Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman, and the weasels would portray the animated characters during rehearsals to teach the actors where to look when acting with "open air and imaginative cartoon characters". Many of the live-action props held by cartoon characters were shot on set with either robotic arms holding the props or the props were manipulated by strings, similar to a marionette. The actor who played the voice of Roger, Charles Fleischer, insisted on wearing a Roger Rabbit costume while on the set, to get into character. Filming began on November 2, 1986, and lasted for seven and a half months at Elstree Studios, with an additional month in Los Angeles and at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for blue screen effects of Toontown. The entrance of Desilu Studios served as the fictional Maroon Cartoon Studio lot.
Post-production lasted for 14 months. Because the film was made before computer animation and digital compositing were widely used, all the animation was done using cels and optical compositing. First, the animators and lay-out artists were given black-and-white printouts of the live-action scenes (known as "photo stats"), and they placed their animation paper on top of them. The artists then drew the animated characters in relationship to the live-action footage. Due to Zemeckis' dynamic camera moves, the animators had to confront the challenge of ensuring the characters were not "slipping and slipping all over the place." After rough animation was complete, it was run through the normal process of traditional animation until the cels were shot on the rostrum camera with no background. The animated footage was then sent to ILM for compositing, where technicians animated three lighting layers (shadows, highlights, and tone mattes) separately, to make the cartoon characters look three-dimensional and give the illusion of the characters being affected by the lighting on set. Finally, the lighting effects were optically composited on to the cartoon characters, who were, in turn, composited into the live-action footage. One of the most difficult effects in the film was Jessica's dress in the nightclub scene, because it had flashing sequins, an effect accomplished by filtering light through a plastic bag scratched with steel wool.
|Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||June 22, 1988|
|Recorded||April 3, 1988|
Regular Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri composed the film score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) under the direction of Silvestri. Zemeckis joked that "the British [musicians] could not keep up with Silvestri's jazz tempo". The performances of the music themes written for Jessica Rabbit were entirely improvised by the LSO. The work of American composer Carl Stalling heavily influenced Silvestri's work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film's soundtrack was originally released by Buena Vista Records on June 22, 1988, and reissued by Walt Disney Records on CD on April 16, 2002.
On January 23, 2018 Intrada Records released a 3-CD set with complete score, alternates, remastered version of original 1988 album plus music from 3 Roger Rabbit short films, composed & conducted by Bruce Broughton and James Horner.
|1.||"Maroon Logo"||Alan Silvestri||Alan Silvestri||0:19|
|3.||"Valiant & Valiant"||Silvestri||Silvestri||4:22|
|5.||"Hungarian Rhapsody (Dueling Pianos)"||arranged by Silvestri||Tony Anselmo, Mel Blanc||1:53|
|7.||"Why Don't You Do Right?"||Joseph "Kansas Joe" McCoy||Amy Irving||3:07|
|8.||"No Justice for Toons"||Silvestri||Silvestri||2:45|
|9.||"The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Roger's Song)"||Dave Franklin, Cliff Friend||Charles Fleischer||0:47|
|13.||"The Gag Factory"||Silvestri||Silvestri||3:48|
|15.||"Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!"||Jack Meskill, Charles O'Flynn, Max Rich||Toon Chorus||1:17|
|16.||"End Title (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)"||Silvestri||Silvestri||4:56|
Michael Eisner, then CEO, and Roy E. Disney, Vice Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, felt Who Framed Roger Rabbit was too risqué with sexual references. Eisner and Zemeckis disagreed over various elements of the film, but since Zemeckis had final cut privilege, he refused to make alterations. Roy E. Disney, head of Feature Animation along with studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, felt it was appropriate to release the film under their Touchstone Pictures banner instead of the traditional Walt Disney Pictures banner.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit opened in the United States on June 22, 1988, grossing $11,226,239 in 1,045 theaters during its opening weekend, ranking first place in the domestic box office. The film went on to gross $156,452,370 in North America and $173,351,588 internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $329,803,958. At the time of release, Roger Rabbit was the 20th-highest-grossing film of all time. The film was also the second-highest-grossing film of 1988, behind only Rain Man.
Zemeckis has revealed a three-dimensional reissue could be possible.
On March 25, 2003, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released it as a part of the "Vista Series" line in a two-disc collection with many extra features including a documentary, Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit; a deleted scene in which a pig's head is "tooned" onto Eddie's own; the three Roger Rabbit shorts, "Tummy Trouble", "Roller Coaster Rabbit", and "Trail Mix-Up"; as well as a booklet and interactive games. The only short on the 2003 VHS release was "Tummy Trouble".
On March 12, 2013, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released by Touchstone Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack special edition for the film's 25th anniversary. The film was also digitally restored by Disney for its 25th Anniversary. Frame-by-frame digital restoration was done by Prasad Studios removing dirt, tears, scratches, and other defects.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 97% based on 62 reviews and an average score of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot." Aggregator Metacritic calculated a score of 83 out of 100 based on 15 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four, predicting it would carry "the type of word of mouth that money can't buy. This movie is not only great entertainment, but [also] a breakthrough in craftsmanship." Ebert and his colleague Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune spent a considerable amount of time in the Siskel & Ebert episode in which they reviewed the film analyzing the film's painstaking filmmaking. Siskel also praised the film, and ranked it number two on his top-ten films list for 1988, while Ebert ranked it as number eight on a similar list. Janet Maslin of The New York Times commented, "although this isn't the first time that cartoon characters have shared the screen with live actors, it's the first time they've done it on their own terms and make it look real". Desson Thomson of The Washington Post considered Roger Rabbit to be "a definitive collaboration of pure talent. Zemeckis had Walt Disney Pictures' enthusiastic backing, producer Steven Spielberg's pull, Warner Bros.'s blessing, Canadian animator Richard Williams' ink and paint, Mel Blanc's voice, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman's witty, frenetic screenplay, George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, and Bob Hoskins' comical performance as the burliest, shaggiest private eye." Gene Shalit on the Today Show also praised the film, calling it "one of the most extraordinary movies ever made". Filmsite.org called it "a technically-marvelous film" and a "landmark" that resulted from "unprecedented cooperation" between Warner Bros. and Disney.
Richard Corliss, writing for Time, gave a mixed review. "The opening cartoon works just fine but too fine. The opening scene upstages the movie that emerges from it," he said. Corliss was mainly annoyed by the homages to the Golden Age of American animation. Animation legend Chuck Jones made a rather scathing attack on the film in his book Chuck Jones Conversations. Among his complaints, Jones accused Robert Zemeckis of robbing Richard Williams of any creative input and ruining the piano duel that both Williams and he storyboarded.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit won 3 competitive Academy Awards and a Special Achievement Award. It became the first live-action/animation hybrid film to win multiple Academy Awards since Mary Poppins in 1964. It won Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects Editing (Charles L. Campbell and Louis Edemann), Best Visual Effects and Best Film Editing. Other nominations included Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Elliot Scott; Set Decoration: Peter Howitt), Best Cinematography and Best Sound (Robert Knudson, John Boyd, Don Digirolamo and Tony Dawe). Richard Williams received a Special Achievement Academy Award "for animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters". Roger Rabbit won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, as well as Best Direction for Zemeckis and Special Visual Effects. Hoskins, Lloyd, and Cassidy were nominated for their performances, while Alan Silvestri and the screenwriters received nominations. The film was nominated for four categories at the 42nd British Academy Film Awards and won for Best Visual Effects. Roger Rabbit was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), while Hoskins was also nominated for his performance. The film also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie.
The success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit rekindled an interest in the Golden Age of American animation, and sparked the modern animation scene. In 1991, Walt Disney Imagineering began to develop Mickey's Toontown for Disneyland, based on the Toontown that appeared in the film. The attraction also features a ride called Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Three theatrical animated shorts were also produced: Tummy Trouble, played in front of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Roller Coaster Rabbit was shown with Dick Tracy; and Trail Mix-Up was included with A Far Off Place. The film also inspired a short-lived comic-book and video-game spin-offs, including two PC games, the Japanese version of The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (which features Roger instead of Bugs), a 1989 game released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and a 1991 game released on the Game Boy.
With the film's LaserDisc release, Variety first reported in March 1994 that observers uncovered several scenes of antics from the animators that supposedly featured brief nudity of the Jessica Rabbit character. While undetectable when played at the usual rate of 24 film frames per second, the Laserdisc player allowed the viewer to advance frame-by-frame to uncover these visuals. Whether or not they were actually intended to depict the nudity of the character remains unknown. Many retailers said that within minutes of the Laserdisc debut, their entire inventory was sold out. The run was fueled by media reports about the controversy, including stories on CNN and various newspapers.
Another frequently debated scene includes one in which Baby Herman extends his middle finger as he passes under a woman's dress and re-emerges with drool on his lip. Also, controversy exists over the scene where Daffy Duck and Donald Duck are playing a piano duel, and during his trademark ranting gibberish, it is claimed that Donald calls Daffy a "goddamn stupid nigger"; however, this is a misinterpretation, with the line from the script being "doggone stubborn little—."
Gary K. Wolf, author of the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, filed a lawsuit in 2001 against the Walt Disney Company. Wolf claimed he was owed royalties based on the value of "gross receipts" and merchandising sales. In 2002, the trial court in the case ruled that these only referred to actual cash receipts Disney collected and denied Wolf's claim. In its January 2004 ruling, the California Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that expert testimony introduced by Wolf regarding the customary use of "gross receipts" in the entertainment business could support a broader reading of the term. The ruling vacated the trial court's order in favor of Disney and remanded the case for further proceedings. In a March 2005 hearing, Wolf estimated he was owed $7 million. Disney's attorneys not only disputed the claim, but also said Wolf actually owed Disney $500,000–$1 million because of an accounting error discovered in preparing for the lawsuit. Wolf won the decision in 2005, receiving between $180,000 and $400,000 in damages.
Spielberg discussed a sequel in 1989 with J. J. Abrams as writer and Zemeckis as producer. Abrams's outline was eventually abandoned. Nat Mauldin was hired to write a prequel titled Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon, set in 1941. Similar to the previous film, Toon Platoon featured many cameo appearances by characters from the Golden Age of American animation. It began with Roger Rabbit's early years, living on a farm in the midwestern United States. With human Ritchie Davenport, Roger travels west to seek his mother, in the process meeting Jessica Krupnick (his future wife), a struggling Hollywood actress. While Roger and Ritchie are enlisting in the Army, Jessica is kidnapped and forced to make pro-Nazi Germany broadcasts. Roger and Ritchie must save her by going into Nazi-occupied Europe accompanied by several other Toons in their Army platoon. After their triumph, Roger and Ritchie are given a Hollywood Boulevard parade, and Roger is finally reunited with his mother, and father: Bugs Bunny.
Mauldin later retitled his script Who Discovered Roger Rabbit. Spielberg left the project when deciding he could not satirize Nazis after directing Schindler's List. Eisner commissioned a rewrite in 1997 with Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver. Although they kept Roger's search for his mother, Stoner and Oliver replaced the WWII subplot with Roger's inadvertent rise to stardom on Broadway and Hollywood. Disney was impressed and Alan Menken was hired to write five songs for the film and offered his services as executive producer. One of the songs, "This Only Happens in the Movies", was recorded in 2008 on the debut album of Broadway actress Kerry Butler. Eric Goldberg was set to be the new animation director, and began to redesign Roger's new character appearance.
Spielberg became busy establishing DreamWorks, while Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy decided to remain as producers. Test footage for Who Discovered Roger Rabbit was shot sometime in 1998 at the Disney animation unit in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; the results were a mix of CGI, traditional animation, and live-action that did not please Disney. A second test had the Toons completely converted to CGI; but this was dropped as the film's projected budget would escalate past $100 million. Eisner felt it was best to cancel the film. In March 2003, producer Don Hahn was doubtful about a sequel being made, arguing that public tastes had changed since the 1990s with the rise of computer animation. "There was something very special about that time when animation was not as much in the forefront as it is now."
In December 2007, Marshall stated that he was still "open" to the idea, and in April 2009, Zemeckis revealed he was still interested. According to a 2009 MTV News story, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were writing a new script for the project, and the animated characters would be in traditional two-dimensional, while the rest would be in motion capture. However, in 2010, Zemeckis said that the sequel would remain hand-drawn animated and live-action sequences will be filmed, just like in the original film, but the lighting effects on the cartoon characters and some of the props that the Toons handle will be done digitally. Also in 2010, Don Hahn, who was the film's original associate producer, confirmed the sequel's development in an interview with Empire. He stated, "Yeah, I couldn't possibly comment. I deny completely, but yeah... if you're a fan, pretty soon you're going to be very, very, very happy." In 2010, Bob Hoskins stated he was interested in the project, reprising his role as Eddie Valiant. However, he retired from acting in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a year earlier, and died from complications in 2014. Marshall has confirmed that the film is a prequel, similar to earlier drafts, and that the writing was almost complete. During an interview at the premiere of Flight, Zemeckis stated that the sequel was still possible, despite Hoskins' absence, and the script for the sequel was sent to Disney for approval from studio executives.
In February 2013, Gary K. Wolf, writer of the original novel, said Erik Von Wodtke and he were working on a development proposal for an animated Disney buddy comedy starring Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit called The Stooge, based on the 1952 film of the same name. The proposed film is set to a prequel, taking place five years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit and part of the story is about how Roger met Jessica, his future wife. Wolf has stated the film is currently wending its way through Disney.
In November 2016, while promoting his latest film, Allied, in England, Zemeckis stated that the sequel "moves the story of Roger and Jessica Rabbit into the next few years of period film, moving on from film noir to the world of the 1950s". He also stated that the sequel would feature a "digital Bob Hoskins", as Eddie Valiant would return in "ghost form". While the director went on to state that the script is "terrific" and the film would still use hand-drawn animation, Zemeckis thinks that the chances of Disney green-lighting the sequel are "slim". As he explained more in detail, "The current corporate Disney culture [the current studio management of The Walt Disney Company] has no interest in Roger, and they certainly don't like Jessica at all."
Production cost (with overhead): $58,166 (Unadjusted $s in Thousands of Dollars)
Production cost: 50,579; Production overhead: 7,587 (Data in $000s)
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