25 years ago today, Robert Zemeckis' innovative blend of animation with live action classic WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was released in theaters. Guest writer Spencer Blohm, helps Film Babble Blog celebrate the anniversary with this insightful piece:
How WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT Impacted Movies
Almost everyone recognizes WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT as an iconic animated comedy-drama set against a gritty, noir detective novel background. What many don’t realize, however, is the lasting impact that this film had on both animated and live action films since its release.
An obvious innovation brought about by the hit 1988 movie was the development of the techniques used by director Robert Zemeckis, producers Frank Marshall, Robert Watts, and Steven Spielberg and their special effects crew. They were attempting to create a full scale human-cartoon hybrid world. That level of integration was truly uncharted territory, and the integration of both of these elements needed to be seamless. Since these techniques and procedures had not yet been developed, the team was left to figure it out for themselves.
It's amazing to think that scenes like the memorable shot of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse parachuting alongside Bob Hoskins were created with nothing more than green screen technology and the team's ingenuity. Their success paved the way for future special effects driven films, such as SPACE JAM and THE MATRIX.
The human-cartoon integration piece created a host of challenges for actors, voice talent and animators as well. Bob Hoskins, who played male lead Eddie Valiant, read his lines to fully costumed voice actors to help him stay in character. Mime artists and mannequins were utilized to further assist the live actors with spacing and interaction. The attention to detail that this project required was so great that Kathleen Turner, the uncredited but unforgettable voice of Jessica Rabbit, had to record her voice track before the animators could finish their work. This was due to their need to get the character's breathing drawn correctly. This team's work created the blueprint for developing future projects with similar challenges.
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is also distinguished by the cooperation required by different cartoon studios and production companies to make the film happen. Many of the characters in the film are Disney characters, which is natural since this was a Disney production. However, quite a few of the other characters were created by Warner Bros. Studios. This cross-studio collaboration was (and still is) unique, and helped create a substantial interest in media that crosses the intellectual property of multiple studios. Currently, there is a whole sub-section of comic books and video games where characters come together in ways that would have otherwise been impossible.
Another achievement credited to this project is the impact it had on animated features that would follow. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, scripted by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman from the source material of the 1981 Gary K. Wolf novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit, was not typical intellectual territory for a cartoon.
The plot and characters in the film were uncharacteristically adult in nature. From the literary influence of the crime novel genre to the background graffiti stating, "For a Good Time, Call Allyson Wonderland," this was new ground for animated production companies. The success of an animated film covering this ground paved the way for many future animated projects from the movies made by Pixar to South Park.
The Golden Age of Animation is the period of time when production companies used created theatrical animated shorts featuring such recognizable characters as Mickey Mouse and Popeye. These shorts eventually waned in popularity in the 1960's, when television cartoons began to overtake these shorts in popularity.
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT introduced these characters to a whole new generation of fans. If it were not for the adventures of Eddie Valiant in Toontown, many of the popular children's shows on various networks today might never have happened.
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was more than a detective story with cool special effects. It was an innovative feature film that had a wide reaching and profound impact on animation, film making and pop culture.
Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a freelance television, film and video game blogger for Direct2TV.com. He enjoys animation from the golden age of Disney shorts all the way to the newest releases from Japan and the online work of Flash artists pushing the genre forward.