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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Who Framed Roger Rabbit Influence

Last weekend, I think it was late on a Saturday or Sunday night, I decided to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit that I had stored up on the DVR. There has been a bit of uptick in the interest of the movie now that it hit its 25th Anniversary and over the years I have probably seen the Robert Zemeckis film probably 6 - 8 times, The live action film that prominently features multiple cartoon characters is nothing short of genius in creative film making. This was Zemeckis at his best as his Forrest Gump has not seemed to have held over time the way Roger Rabbit (and Back to the Future) have.

The film was enormously important for Disney. Disney animation in the late 80's had gone down the tubes and few people seemed to care about the weak animated efforts Disney put out during that time. The glory days of Disney Animation were long gone. But Disney thought they had something with Roger Rabbit and they proved to be right with the help of producer Steven Spielberg who was brought into the project. Because of some internal conflicts, much of the animation was done in England and the film went way, way over budget. But once the film was released, it was gold and a huge critical and commercial hit..

With Roy Disney leading the way and new success infused into Disney Animation, Roger Rabbit paved the way for the next Disney renaissance in animated films. The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast were all made because of the success of Roger Rabbit and the return of great Disney animation.

Now it is true, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not pure Disney as many people know it. It was a murder mystery about an alcoholic detective that featured a swearing cigar smoking baby and female animated lead that had no issue in exposing her long curvy lines. I won't post them here but there are animated scenes in Roger Rabbit that would be considered a very hard R rated if you looked at the frozen stills. In the movie, the provocative scenes of Jessica Rabbit go by so quickly in animation that questionable scenes are invisible to the naked eye. You can see them if you dig into Google a bit. Since Roger Rabbit wasn't even close to G rating, it was released through a Disney's Touchstone Pictures (and Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment).

We all now about ToonTown in Disneyland and how it came to be after the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in the early 90's. As colorful and whimsical ToonTown looks and really captures the visual aspect of the film, I'm one of those guys who rather see the space be put to better use. With the exception of the great Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin ride, the rest of ToonTown is more style over substance. There's just not that much there.

What surprised me the most after watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit is how much Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land now reflect scenes from that movie. Some or the areas in the Disney California Adventure entrance are almost spot on with the movie which isn't really mentioned in Disney Blogs and websites very often. So it's not just ToonTown the carries the Roger Rabbit influence. Watch the movie and take a walk from the DCA entrance to the Tower of Terror. You will see the L.A. street scenes of the 30's that pop right out of the movie. Again, Disney's attention to detail is nothing short of amazing.

As I was watching the movie last weekend my father-in-law got up out of bed and came into the living room to watch the movie with me.  After about 5 minutes of viewing Roger Rabbit he blurted out "What the hell is this garbage...." It must be a generational thing. Despite his objecting, I kept on watching and we eventually got to a shirtless Bob Hoskins. "My god, that's the hairiest man I ever saw." He might be right about that.

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