WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay By: Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman
Based On: Gary K. Wolf’s Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
Production Company: Touchstone Pictures & Amblin Entertainment
Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
Is it any wonder that this film holds a slot amongst my personal top three and, through chance, earned the rank of number one this time around? Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a film of unbelievable success in so many variety of ways that I can’t even begin to count them all, though for the sake of this review I will do my best.
The basic summary of the film goes that an A-List cartoon star of the 1940’s, the titular Roger Rabbit, is framed for murder and it is up to him and private detective Eddie Valiant to find out the truth of the crime before the black-hearted Judge Doom and his Toon Patrol carries out the execution by way of the Dip.
What makes this film such a success however is not just the story itself, which I must say is a very original take on the classic detective stories of its era done up with a bit of the 1980’s flair. No, what makes this film truly stand out is the near unbelievable cooperation that occurred between rival companies Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. Studios in using their characters and having them share the silver screen for the first, and likely the last, time.
Of course, this is in no small thanks to Steven Spielberg, who managed to not only convince Warner Bros., but Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and even Universal Studios to get in on the act, though many a stipulation had been made to guarantee the accurate, and fair, portrayal of the characters involved.
The most obvious of this stipulation is seen predominately in the main duos of Donal Duck with Daffy Duck playing the piano as well as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny skydiving. Though most don’t catch this at first, both pairs of characters share not only the exact same amount of screen time to the other but are both equal at whatever it is that they’re doing.
Something similar had been done for the more recent film of Wreck-It Ralph, specifically the villains support group with characters like Doctor Eggman, Bowser, and M. Bison. The respected game studios for those characters were more than heavily involved in that scene and, for a time, got caught up in something of a fight with each other as to how big their respected characters should be in comparison to the others. In the end, it took Disney animators stating that if the studios kept adding height to their characters, Ralph and the “original” villains would be gnats in a room full of giants.
But I digress.
The biggest success for Who Framed Roger Rabbit I feel was not just the stunning amount of work involved in integrating traditionally animated characters in a real world setting, something that had been done before but never to this detailed degree, but rather the sudden spark it brought in the people. This film is credited at not only renewing interest in the Golden Age of Animation, with classic cartoons like Tom & Jerry or The Looney Tunes, but in helping spearhead the modern era of American animation, particularly the Disney Renaissance!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is also the first live-action/animation film to win not one but FOUR Academy Awards, the first to do so since the likes of Mary Poppins back in 1964. Though nominated for more, Who Framed Roger Rabbit went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and a Special Achievement Award for, quote, “animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters.”
As to the music of the film, like any cartoon film it does have a two “musical” moments though that’s quite a stretch at the definition as all three are not only short, they’re sensible. Well, as sensible as any musical moment can be with cartoon characters involved but my point still stands that they don’t come straight out of nowhere and make at least a bit of sense in the overall scheme of things! This is also one of, if not the only, film of its kind that have a wide range of music from the zippy fun times of a cartoon jingle to the dark, somber tunes of a murder-mystery and still somehow work.
As to whether or not this is a movie for kids… Really, it’s up to the parents’ discretion. Personally, I watched this movie when I was all of a toddler if even that old and all of the mature stuff flew so far over my head I’m sure the Moon gave a hearty wave at it passing by. Even without that understanding I still greatly enjoyed the movie then and love it even more now as an adult. I sincerely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys the golden age of cartoons and to those who enjoy a good murder mystery because really, where else are you ever going to find both?
To wrap up this review… I’ll share two interesting facts about the character of Roger Rabbit as, unfortunately, he is not my favorite character in the film and while I may discuss him in further detail, I found these two tidbits to be too interesting to keep to myself. Firstly, Roger Rabbit is a cartoon amalgamation of many popular cartoon characters. He has the atypical Tex Avery cashew nut-shaped head, the tuft of red hair much like Droopy Dog, Goofy’s overalls, Porky Pig’s bow tie, Mickey Mouse’s gloves, and the ears and cheeks of Bugs Bunny.
The second fact… Well… I believe the saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words so I can’t help but wonder just how much this one is worth….