“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is magic.
It’s a film that really shouldn’t work. Almost every attempt by everyone else, no matter how dedicated or respectful or talented they are, fails at trying to take classic pop culture characters and play mainstream mash-up with them, a la “Space Jam” or “Looney Tunes Back In Action.” Joe Dante made a Sisyphean effort at pulling off one of these movies, and left to his own device with an animation department given support and creative freedom, maybe he could have done it. But he didn’t have that.
Robert Zemeckis, on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” had a wonderful sort of bullet-proof quality. It was a moment. It was a particularly loose and silly pop culture moment, and he was coming off two hits in a row. “Romancing The Stone” was reeeeeeally well-liked in Hollywood, and “Back To The Future” was reeeeeeally well-liked by every person on the planet. So he was pretty much King Giant Stud Of Stud Mountain.
And he chose to make a movie about a woman married to a rabbit.
And he totally pulled it off, too. The mix of the Disney and MGM and Warner Bros. characters, all living together in a cartoon universe that bumps right up against old Hollywood, is something that had never happened before, and may never happen again. Obviously we don’t know what Zemeckis will use if he makes a sequel to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, which libraries he’ll have access to.
Oh, didn’t I mention that? Robert Zemeckis is totally talking about making a sequel now. And the writers of the first film, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, are returning to write this one. Right now.
That’s cool. That’s genuinely cool. And it’s a nice summation of what’s been said so far by Brendon Connelly. It sounds like MTV’s got stuff they’re planning to run soon, more information about what we might get with a sequel.
There’s one piece of news I need to hear as a fan of the first film, though. Before I can even begin to consider this a sequel to the first film. Because we’re talking about something magic. Something so special, so accidental, that I hope everyone involved realizes that it has to be reproduced exactly if you have any hope of this being a worthy successor to the first film.
Specifically, Richard Williams has to be the animation supervisor on the film.
Has to. Totally. Because as much as Robert Zemeckis directed the ever-lovin’ shit out of the film, Richard Williams worked some miracles in almost every sequence in that movie. The level of 24-frame-per-second hand-animated performance in the movie is mind-boggling. They are wholly successful animated chararacters, new creations that fit into the rank and file of every character of iconic early animation. That’s not easy, and Richard Williams pulled it off with flair. He made it look easy.
He designed Roger Rabbit. He designed Baby Herman. He designed Jessica Rabbit. Or, to be fair, he supervised the team of talented… nee, gifted animators who brought the impossible to life. Working with Michael Lantieri, working with puppeteers on-set, Richard Williams orchestrated a team who animated a film a higher level than anything that had been produced since Walt’s personal heyday. It is a breath-takingly well-crafted film. Zemeckis threw down a huge challenge to Wiliams, and Williams threw it back at him with a smash-punch delivery. It’s arrogantly well-animated. Williams and his team didn’t just climb the mountain of work that Zemeckis threw at them… they conquered it.
Beyond creating new characters that perfectly recreated a feel of a bygone era of animation, Williams also perfectly revived old familar icons. His Bugs Bunny IS Bugs Bunny. His Mickey Mouse IS Mickey Mouse. His Daffy Duck and Donald Duck scene is like a fevered hallucination, so amazing and so delirious that it can’t be real. I think he pulls off every single cartoon reference gag or shot or idea in the film, and it’s just dizzying.
It’s not a coincidence that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” a $70-million-or-so film, was seen as a major investment for Disney. They were trying to decide if there was an appetite out there for the real deal. For the classic Disney movies again. This movie answered the question for them, just before the run of films that put them back in the animated feature business in a big way.
So seriously, Mr. Zemeckis or any authorized agent of Mr. Zemeckis who happens to read this and pass it along, Richard Williams. Gotta happen. You’re a major part of the first film. So are Price and Seaman. And so is Richard Williams. It’s like putting the Beatles back together. I think you’ve already got Ringo onboard. And George. And that makes you Paul.
And since you’re also working to make “The Yellow Submarine,” I think you understand what I mean when I tell you that you can’t put the Beatles back together until you go get John.
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