WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? is a film still fondly remembered by some. Melding animation and live action back when it was hard, the Robert Zemeckis-directed movie also had fine performances by a cult-friendly cast including Joanna Cassidy, Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd, memorable vocal performances by Charles Fleischer and Kathleen Turner, and villains who were out to destroy the light rail of Los Angeles, an real life eco-unfriendly act that has much to do with car culture and the ascendence of oil companies. It was a smart movie And then there was…Jessica Rabbit.
Even more, the movie had a reverence for the denizens of Toontown and the lore of animation history that struck a chord with all toon lovers. It was made for us.
Back when we worked at Disney we edited many a Roger Rabbit cartoon — dealing with Baby Herman’s cigar was an ongoing concern — and the character of Roger was popular enough to headline his own section of Disneyland — Roger Rabbit’s Toontown — and starred in several shorts. The mythology and the metaphors seemed to have been thoroughly embraced by Disney synergies.
But you don’t hear much talk about Roger any more. Jeff Lange over at Jimhillmedia has a sobering 2-part photo essay entitled Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Curious Case of the Rapidly Receding Rabbit that chronicles Roger’s rise and fall:
You rarely (if ever) see Roger in the park anymore. And this once-promising character is now basically a footnote in animation history. Someone who used to be hugely popular ‘way back in the early 1990s, but then quickly faded from view.
What caused this hare to fall so far out of favor?
In Part Two, Lange continues to show Roger’s decline — these days he’s displayed with Rubik’s Cube, a nostalgic remnant of the past. Why? Well rights issues between Disney and Steven Spielberg are usually given as the main cause. There was much talk for a while about a sequel, but the chances it will ever be made are nil. Besides, CGI has made toon/human integration as commonplace as the mumps. The innovations that made the film a hit — and netted it four Oscars — aren’t so startling any more.
But it remains one of the most intelligent and haunting movies ever made about the ‘toons. It would be interesting to see how the CGI crowd fits into Toontown now. Maybe instead of fearing “the dip,” their nemesis is a giant magnet.
Top photo taken by Jeff Lange.