Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not only a filmmaking marvel because of how it seamlessly combines live action with animation – it’s also a huge achievement due to the behind the scenes dealings that took place. It was a huge accomplishment for Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis to get Disney (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck) and Warner Brothers (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck) to allow both of their library of characters to appear in the 1988 classic. Other animated characters also appeared and this was obviously not an easy feat for Amblin to pull off. A sequel never happened and Collider breaks down why a follow up never filmed in great detail. They also explain why Who Framed Roger Rabbit appearing on Disney+ is truly a miracle.
Below you can read some of my favortite parts from the article. Be sure to read the entire story at Collider here.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a notoriously difficult production. Former Disney president and CEO (he was also Walt’s son-in-law) Ron Miller purchased the rights to Gary Wolf‘s very-different novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit in 1981, shortly after it was published, and set the writing duo of Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, who were also developing a project for Disney called Trenchcoat (now largely forgotten and not available on Disney+), to adapt it. Various attempts were made to crack the ambitious mixture of live-action and animation. In a 1983 episode of Disney Studio Showcase, from the nascent days of the Disney Channel director Darrel Van Citters and character designer Mike Giaimo (who is one of the production designers on Frozen 2) introduce test footage from the production, describing it as “a live action picture in which half the cast is animated characters.” The footage is very different, with Roger sporting a totally different look (with Paul Reubens‘ stuttering voice) and an animated character named Captain Cleaver (a “big, brash, phsy” homicide detective “from downtown”) serving as Valiant’s cartoon foil. Plus Jessica is more of a “cunning and seductive” heat seeker who has cast Roger aside after landing a big role (from the footage it sounds like she was voiced by Disney stalwart Russi Taylor). But the core of the story was remarkably formed, just as we know it today: Roger is a cartoon character framed for murder who hires a human private eye (Peter Renaday in the test footage) to help clear his name.
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The deal to secure Spielberg, largely overseen by Katzenberg, was unique: according to James B. Stewart‘s indispensable Disney War, Spielberg and his director Zemeckis had complete creative control and a share in any profits. (Disney, wisely, kept all merchandising rights.) And although Katzenberg saw the Who Framed Roger Rabbit project as a way to “save” the flailing animation division and suggested using Van Citters as the animation director for the project, Zemeckis insisted that they instead hire Richard Williams, who Zemeckis considered the “best animator in the world.” Williams, a persnickety perfectionist based in London, openly disliked Disney’s corporate culture and only accepted the job on the condition that Disney would release his long-in-development animated feature The Thief and the Cobbler. Williams’ film was ultimately never finished and released without his approval. Rumors circulated long after the film that Disney plagiarized whole sections of Williams’ film for their own, similar Aladdin.
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