Movies like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks had combined animation with live-action before, but never had the two fields been blended so effectively as in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Director Robert Zemeckis’ film bewitched audiences young and old alike with its madcap detective story set in an alternate 1947 where cartoon characters are real. Did you know the following facts about this classic blockbuster?
12. Harrison Ford, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy were offered the role of Eddie Valiant
Before Bob Hoskins was cast as private investigator Eddie Valiant, a string of big name Hollywood stars were considered. Harrison Ford was the first choice, but wanted too much money; next, Bill Murray was considered, but the filmmakers couldn’t reach him (Murray was at the time on a hiatus from moviemaking).
Eddie Murphy was another contender, but he turned the role down. Other actors said to have been considered for Eddie Valiant include Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Chevy Chase, Robert Redford, Ed Harris and Sylvester Stallone.
11. It’s based on a novel called Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an adaptation of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Author Gary Wolf’s 1981 novel has the same core concept and many of the same characters (including Eddie, Roger, Jessica Rabbit and Baby Herman), but it’s rather different in tone and content.
The novel is considerably darker than the film; most significantly, the murder which sets the plot in motion is that of Roger Rabbit himself. Screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S Seaman were tasked with coming up with the lighter story that made it to screens.
10. It’s the only time Warner Bros and Disney animated characters have appeared in a film together
Ever since the early days of film, the two biggest powerhouses in cartoons have been Disney and Warner Bros. However, never before Who Framed Roger Rabbit had characters from both studios appeared in the same production.
Such was the influence of producer Steven Spielberg, he was able to persuade WB and other studios (including Universal) to strike deals for their intellectual properties to appear in the film, which was produced by Disney subsidiary Touchstone Pictures.
9. Tim Curry missed out on playing Judge Doom because he was considered too scary
The role of Judge Doom is taken in Who Framed Roger Rabbit by Christopher Lloyd, the Doc Brown actor reuniting with Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis. With Lloyd in the role, Doom is a very sinister villain indeed – but apparently the character could have been even scarier.
Tim Curry was among the actors who auditioned for the part of Judge Doom, but he was turned down because his reading of the role was simply too frightening. Curry would later make the most of this scariness in the TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It.
8. Roger Rabbit actor Charles Fleischer was on set in a rabbit costume
As Roger Rabbit is an entirely animated character, you might have assumed that Bob Hoskins and co were literally talking to thin air whilst shooting scenes with the character. On the contrary, actor Charles Fleischer was live on set the whole time.
In order to help him stay in character, Fleischer insisted on wearing a Roger Rabbit costume while filming his scenes. At other times, mannequins were used on set to help the actors know where to look whilst shooting scenes with Roger, Baby Herman and other ‘Toons.’
7. It was one of the most expensive films ever made at the time
Who Framed Roger Rabbit necessitated the development of some all-new special effects techniques, and as such it represented a big investment. Disney gave it the green light with a budget of $30 million, the highest amount ever given to a film upfront before.
However, as is often the case in the film industry, the budget swelled during the course of production. Estimates state the film eventually cost somewhere between $50.6 million and $70 million, which was an unprecedented sum at the time.
6. It coined a new phrase for animators to use
In the scene where Roger Rabbit and Eddie are handcuffed together and go into the room behind the bar, a lamp is knocked causing the shadows in the room to move. Behind the scenes, this meant the animators had a lot more work to do without the audience knowing about it.
In reference to this tricky effect, Disney animators still use the phrase ‘Bump the lamp’ to mean when they are having to go the extra mile to get an effect right even though most of the audience probably won’t notice the extra work.
5. There was a scandal over a scene in which Jessica Rabbit is allegedly exposed
Jessica Rabbit raised eyebrows as one of the most sexualised cartoon characters ever put on film. However, there was particular controversy over one specific moment in which it is alleged more of the character was shown than was appropriate for a PG movie.
In the scene where Benny the Cab crashes and Jessica flies out, some have claimed that Jessica was drawn without underwear for a few frames (which equates to a fraction of a second of screen time). Even all these years later, no one is 100% sure whether this is true or simply an urban myth.
4. Bob Hoskins’ son got upset when his dad didn’t introduce him to the cartoon characters
Part of why Bob Hoskins signed on to play Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was that he knew it was a film his children would enjoy, in particular youngest son Jack, who was two years old at the time.
However, Hoskins once revealed that after seeing the film his son wouldn’t speak to him for two weeks. Young Jack was reportedly upset that his dad had met all those amazing cartoon characters but hadn’t introduced him to them.
3. Several cartoon cameos had to be scrapped due to rights issues
Who Framed Roger Rabbit features a slew of cameo appearances from vintage cartoon characters, ranging from Betty Boop to the stars of Looney Tunes. Originally more such cameos were intended for the likes of Tom and Jerry, Popeye, Casper and Superman.
Unfortunately, rights issues surrounding these characters meant they ultimately had to be left out of the film. The complex legal issues surrounding the use of all the different characters is one of the key reasons that no Roger Rabbit sequel has ever been made.
2. It was the second biggest box-office hit of 1988
Considering how much money it cost to make, the filmmakers were banking on Who Framed Roger Rabbit being a big hit. Luckily for them, they didn’t need to worry: audiences turned out in droves, and the film earned roughly $330 million worldwide.
Perhaps surprisingly, this didn’t make Who Framed Roger Rabbit the highest-earning box office hit of 1988. It came in second behind Rain Man, the multi-Oscar winning drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, which made almost $355 million.
1. The tunnel to Toon Town also appears in Back to the Future Part II
Actor Christopher Lloyd and director Robert Zemeckis are not the only things Who Framed Roger Rabbit shares with the Back to the Future trilogy. There’s also the matter of the tunnel that leads from the human world into the 100% animated realm of Toon Town.
This is in fact the Hollywood Mount Tunnel in Los Angeles. Zemeckis would go on to shoot further scenes there the following year for Back to the Future Part II, when Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly is in Biff’s car.