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.

200609150220Back 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.


  1. Disney should just make a movie combining traditional pen and ink animated characters with CGI characters — Woody and Buzz versus Mickey and Donald.

    Complete sell out? Or wry introspective observation of the modern animation scene? You make the call!

  2. Sadly, it’s all about technology. I used to think Bob Zemeckis was a fantastic director with great vision, and using technology only when necessary to create the vision he wanted. Now, it seems, he’s gone overboard with the results looking utterly without soul.

  3. Roger Rabbit was based on a kinda unnerving novel called Who Censored Roger Rabbit that, as a kid, made me feel weird when I read it. There’s something really creepy about the synthesis of humans and cartoons in Roger Rabbit. Much less, the copyright stuff involved in doing another movie would probably have a studio’s contracts department punching each other in the nards.

  4. I just watched RR recently and was surprised at how adult it was. Murder, alcoholism, bestiality, it isn’t really a movie for young children, more a movie for adults who grew up on cartoons. Still, it was so exciting and groundbreaking in its time it made me sad to read the tales of how rights disputes stalled a sequel until it would be beside the point.

  5. Thanks for posting this, Heidi. WFRR was and remains to this day perhaps my favorite movie ever. I remember I saw it five times in the theaters when it came out, and my knack for voice mimicry began with an obsessive attempt to nail Roger’s voice. (My second specialty, Christopher Lloyd’s voice, was thanks to another Zemeckis classic, Back to the Future.) I will forever be disappointed that Disney didn’t capitalize on Roger’s popularity to a greater extent, though that may have been due to legal issues. Certainly, that Spielberg is allied with Jeff Katzenberg makes that even more unlikely. Still such a waste.

    Todd, you left out the biggest adult theme in the movie: racism. Tell me that movie isn’t all about racial profiling. It would have been even more pronounced in the abandoned prequel, The Toon Platoon, a copy of the script of which I own; in it, echoing segregation, Toons were restricted to riding the bumpers of buses.

    Bryce, Gary Wolf wrote a sequel to Who Censored Roger Rabbit entitled Who P-p-p-plugged…. It morphed together some elements of the original novel with the movie, unsuccessfully. In the mid-90’s I encountered Wolf online; unfortunately, he quickly proved himself far less enjoyable than his books.

  6. Roger Rabbit always have complete style back in the early heydays and he
    still does today. But things went sour when former Disney CEO Michael Eisner made things alot worse for Roger Rabbit and Steven Spielberg and that’s why Roger along with Jessica Rabbit, Baby Herman and Benny The Cab has not been in any current Disney film/TV projects. I’m still praying and hoping that current Disney CEO Robert Iger (who just finished with the Disney/Pixar thing) will get in touch with Steven Spielberg and pacth up the Disney/Amblin partnership so that Roger Rabbit & Co. will be revived, seen and heard again in brand new Disney TV and motion picture projects with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and the others along with Roger Rabbit based theme park rides, animated movies for theaters/direct-to-video, animated shorts for theaters,
    A new Roger Rabbit TV show and new Roger Rabbit regular/holiday TV specials in primetime for the ABC network and finally new Roger Rabbit based products like Video Games, DVD’S, VHS, CD’S and lots more.