Animation has a way of bringing memorable moments to the screen if not the amazing characters that we come to love. Since animation was started in 1899, the world has seen major changes through the use of technology. From Mickey Mouse, The Looney Tunes and Warner Bros. we got to experience some of the best creations that animation allowed to be born. By bringing drawings to the screen and having them move was something that was revolutionary for its time, and today films like Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo still amaze not only children but adults as well. I’m going back to a time when animation and live-action were brought together in such a way that it renewed interest in the Golden Age of American Animation, brought forth the modern American animation and the Disney Renaissance, and produced great movies during the 1990s. One such movie is called Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Did you notice that there isn’t a question mark to that title? That’s because it never had one! It tells the story of popular animated characters living among the human population. They make movies together, go to bars and restaurants and interact with each other. Could you imagine waking up and seeing Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck walking down the street? That would be a sight to see and the child that I am would run out and want to spend all day with them. It’s 1947 Los Angeles and the toons are busy making movies and having fun, but someone named Roger Rabbit (voice of Charles Fleischer) isn’t doing the best that he can. He’s forgetting his lines and making a mess of himself. He used to be one of the industry’s biggest stars!
Bring aboard Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a private investigator who knows how to get the job done and is popular among the toons, even though he has a history with them, a bad one. He’s hired to see if the rumors are true that Roger’s wife Jessica Rabbit (voice of Kathleen Turner) is romantically involved with Marvin Acme, a gadget inventor and owner of Acme Corporation and Toontown, where the toons live. To put it simple, Marvin is found dead later that night after Eddie gets some pictures and Roger is suspected of being the murderer!
It’s a wonderful idea to incorporate live action with animation and the way that director Robert Zemeckis and his team pulls it off is something that hasn’t aged at all. The animation looks as if the characters are really there with the live actors. Everything is blended together so well and the comedic moments (which there are plenty) can be a bundle of joy for a lot of people. There are so many animated characters in this movie that it’s hard to name them all, but if you’re familiar with the toons, then you’ll know who you’ll be seeing eventually.
It’s been over fifteen years since I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit and sitting down to watch it again filled me with anticipation. I laughed, was amazed at the animation and found myself shocked at certain points. One thing to mention is the character of Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) who’s created a substance he calls “dip” that can kill any toon. This means that if Doom gets a hold of Roger Rabbit then it could be lights out for him! There’s one moment where Doom finds an animated shoe, grabs him and drops him into the barrel of “dip”. The shoe shrieks and cries and finally dies. It’s so upsetting to watch that it almost brought me to tears.
Not to mention, this movie is seriously dark for its content. I’m personally amazed that this is considered a “family film” when in reality it deals with murder, alcoholism, torture and cruelty. Sure, the animated characters are great to see but there’s a sense of dread throughout this film. It seemed to me while watching that the violence happened in quick succession and then the funny parts came to make the audience forget what just happened. Another part is when Roger is hiding in Valiant’s apartment and both of them become handcuffed to each other. The Toon Patrol (who work for Doom) show up and Valiant hides Roger in a sink filled with water that could possibly cause him to drown. I didn’t find that part funny, but more shocking than anything.
Now, I’m not saying that Roger Rabbit isn’t a good movie but the content is dark for something that a child would watch. I remember watching cartoons when I was kid and never felt sad or terrified of what I was watching, except for Mufasa’s death in The Lion King, which still makes me tear up to this day – one of the reasons I don’t have that movie in my collection. Jessica Rabbit is seen as a sex symbol in this film, and while she’s drawn in an elegant way, I don’t think it something for a child to watch.
I’d rather watch Space Jam instead on the idea that the entire movie is fun from start to finish. It’s funny, enjoyable and is a “family movie,” while Roger Rabbit is something that was nice to watch but I wouldn’t throw it on the television again to watch. The dark content involving its material is something for an older audience. The animation is something that is attractive for the kids, but will a child be able to tell you what the story is about…I’m not so sure.
Although this is my main criticism, there are parts that I did enjoy. I love seeing some of my favorite toon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but other characters were cool, too. Baby Herman, Benny the Cab and the Toon Bullets bring about many laughs. Also, who can resist that famous line, “I’m not bad Mr. Valiant. I’m just drawn that way.” That one is in the books of great movie quotes. Today, animation has come a long way and still amazes me. The Incredibles 2, was a welcome surprise and featured many laughs while Toy Story 3 brought me to tears at the end.
It’s worth a watch just for the groundbreaking use of animation and live-action. The painstaking filmmaking process and the result that paid off when audiences rushed to the theaters. Who Framed Roger Rabbit should be appreciated for how it was made, but I think the story could’ve been better without moments of sadness and doom and gloom. I love the characters, even the make-believe ones, the wacky sense of humor and the sheer level of creativity that went into the movie, but I don’t think it’s one that I’ll be watching for years to come.
Happy birthday to Roger Rabbit and the colorful cast of characters. See it for yourself and let us know what you think of it. Being thirty years old means nothing because age is just a number, but the movie will live in infamy for its technological achievement and everything that followed thereafter.