"Where did this idea come from and how did it happen” – Rich Moore (Director, Wreck-It-Ralph, The Simpsons)
“It Came From Space and It Happened in Time” – Charles Fleischer (Voice of Roger Rabbit)
“This was truly a labor of love, no sane person would do this” – Robert Zemeckis (Director, Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
For those of you who skip to the end of a book, I’ll skip to the question most asked about Who Framed Roger Rabbit – “what’s happening with the sequel?” Currently there is no sequel in the works. Director Robert Zemeckis, acknowledged such on Thursday (April 4th) at the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, in Beverly Hills, California on the occasion of a 25th Anniversary Screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released in 1988 (June 22nd in the US and Canada). It was directed by Zemeckis, from a screenplay by Jeffery Price and Peter S. Seaman, loosely adapted from the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. The film is a combination of live-action and drawn animation. Richard Williams directed the animation. A whose-who of animation talent worked on the film including animation supervisors Andreas Deja, Russell Hall, Phil Nebblink, and Simon Wells.
The evening’s event started before the doors opened. There were dozens of Roger Rabbit alumni waiting in line (from both the London and Los Angeles studios) sharing unvarnished stories of the production. For many Roger was a first (or second) animation job.
Inside the stories continued at a reception and later as a more formal discussion on stage. Following the screening of the new Digital Remaster, host Rich Moore introduced the panel: Director Zemeckis, Writers Price & Seaman, Supervising Animator Deja, Associate Producers Don Hahn & Steve Starkey and Actors Fleischer & Joanna Cassidy (Dolores).
Highlights from the panel discussion:
- Roger Rabbit was created in a pre-digital world. The animation was hand drawn, hand ink and painted, the live-action and animation composited on Optical Printers at Industrial Light and Magic. According to Hahn “the most amazing technology was getting a fax machine half-way through production.”
- Zemeckis remarked that animation dallies where on ¾” video tapes FedExed from London to Los Angeles.
- Zemeckis on Richard Williams designing the character Roger Rabbit - six months into pre-production and Richard had yet to design Roger, “then one day on yellow legal paper with a felt tip marker he just drew him, Roger just arrived, we didn’t make a single adjustment. He had the whole thing. He broke the design down, Roger’s shaped like an inverted cone, like a dunce cap, the international symbol of an idiot, he going to have these huge trousers, primary colors and a yellow tuft of hair, that’s Roger, that was it.”
- Although produced by Disney (Touchstone Pictures) Roger Rabbit features appearances by characters owned by Warner Bros, Fleischer and others. “We had a big gorilla on our side, Steven Spielberg, he was able to convince, those that didn’t want to be convinced to lend their characters”.
- Getting back to the sequel, Price and Seaman wrote a sequel years ago but as Zemeckis said “It was the 80’s. We couldn’t make this movie today”.
It was great seeing the film again on the big screen and being reminded how great of an actor Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant) is (for more Hoskins wonderfulness check out The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa and Dennis Potter’s mini-series Pennies From Heaven).
The second most asked Roger Rabbit question – what about those shots the animators snuck into the film. According to Zemeckis you should hold on to your laserdiscs if you want to see those though if you pay close attention to the windows on a train as it hits the dip mobile you might see a few surprises.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is truly one of those films that proves that movies can be magic.
tdk works in animation in Los Angeles.