Who framed Roger Rabbit?

A stunned Bob Hoskins looks at the beautiful 'toon' Jessica Rabbit to his right
A stunned Bob Hoskins looks at the beautiful 'toon' Jessica Rabbit to his right

Image via parade.condenast.com

One of my fondest childhood cartoons is not your usual Sleeping Beauty, or even the 90s classic Fairly Odd Parents (although both are undeniably fantastic), I actually have fond memories of watching the 1988 classic Who framed Roger Rabbit on an old video tape over and over.

Who framed Roger Rabbit is a fantasy comedy film, part live action, part animated ‘toons’. Starring the late Bob Hoskins alongside Christopher Lloyd as well as Donald Duck, Betty Boop and Tweety Bird. In the 1947 alternate reality cartoon characters are living beings and spend their time recording TV shows just as human actors do (see below).


Bob Hoskins stars as Eddie Valiant; a heavy drinker who resents toons since his brother, Teddy, was killed when a toon dropped a piano on them. He is reluctantly hired to investigate rumours that Jessica Rabbit is having an affair with Acme. Roger Rabbit, Jessica’s partner, is distraught when he sees Valiant’s photographs of Jessica playing ‘patty-cake’ with Acme. He runs away which makes him prime suspect when Acme is found murdered the following day.

The rest of the film follow Eddie, Roger and Jessica trying to find the real killer along with Acme’s will which is believed to leave Toontown to the toons – otherwise it will be sold to Cloverleaf Industries. All while trying to steer clear of Jude Doom (Christopher Lloyd) and his toon disolving‘Dip’.

It’s an interesting mixture of comedy and action; entertaining as a child but equally as interesting when watching a decade later (especially seeing as you now understand the adult references).

Produced by Walt Disney Studios in Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire, the live action for Who framed Roger Rabbit was of course filmed without the cartoons and took seven months. To overcome the issue of toons realistically interacting with live action props, the makers of the film used motion control machines operated to move the props in the desired way. Sometimes the same effect was achieved using string.

Full sized rubber models of Roger Rabbit were used during filming so that the actors could understand how large their co-star was. Betsy Brantley stood in for Jessica Rabbit during filming, you can see her in Jessica’s performance scene in the picture below. She was removed in post-production using a split-screen device and then animation was drawn on top.

A young woman (Betsy) stands in the spotlight in a dim bar, performing as Jessica Rabbit, her male co-stars stare in awe

Image via www.tested.com

Animation was led by Richard Williams and married with the live action in post-production. The process took 14 months and was done using cels (transparent sheets on which are hand-drawn animations are drawn) and optical compositing. The animators would draw on animation paper over black and white prints of the live action scenes.

This film is a classic and a must see; a comedy that never tires and my favourite performance from the late Bob Hoskins.

Back to the Present

The poster image for the 1989 Back to the Future film
The poster image for the 1989 Back to the Future film

Image via www.hardzine.com

Predictions Back to the Future II got right, and wrong

According to Robert Zemeckis’ 1989 sequel Back to the Future II, Marty Mcfly should be arriving in the present in just over a year. Zemeckis has been adamant since its release that the sequel was not meant to be an accurate depiction of the future. “For me, filming the future scenes of the movie were the least enjoyable of making the whole trilogy because I don’t really like films that try and predict the future.”

However, albeit accidentally, Zemeckis’ portrayal of Hill Valley in the 21st century throws up more similarities that anyone could have predicted.

One of the most popular gimmicks in film over recent years has been the explosion of 3D technology in our cinemas and homes. It seems every Hollywood blockbuster released over the last four to five years has been accompanied with a more expensive, 3D version.  Although 3D films have existed in some form since 1915, the recent growth in popularity, driven by the unprecedented success of Avatar in 2009, was a major aspect of Zemeckis’ portrayal of the future. A 3D advertisement for “Jaws 19” in Back to the Future II, in which a virtual shark attempts to eat Michael J. Fox, is one prediction Zemeckis got right.

That is just the beginning. Have you ever heard of the iPad or the electronic tablet? Nobody had in 1989, but it didn’t stop Zemeckis including handheld technological devices that have become the driving force of global communication in the 21st century. Zemeckis even managed to preview the way we use our technology to communicate, with references to video conferencing. Today, apps such as Skype are an integral part of our society, but in 1989 it was a different story. The mobile phone was still at a very basic stage, and the webcam would not been invented until 1991, by Cambridge University students to monitor coffee levels from their desks.

Back to the Future even included: devices similar to Google Glass; digitally received television; voice control; easily accessible, digital recording equipment; and handless video games.

Zemeckis later explained that rather than trying to make a scientifically sound prediction that we were probably going to get wrong anyway, we figured, let’s just make it funny.” Not a bad effort from somebody who essentially allowed his imagination to run wild.

He didn’t get it all right though. We do have hover boards, but they cannot be used in anyway yet and we’re all still waiting for flying cars, a concept that is still lurking around the drawing board.
The 2015 version of Hill Valley still also commonly use the “Laserdisc” which has long since become obsolete. Zemeckis also missed the idea of instant messaging or email, using the fax machine as the preferred form of communication, despite video conferencing technologies also at their disposal.

But as we draw closer to 2015, there is still time for more of Zemeckis’ ideas of the future to come true, except the double tie. The double tie will never be acceptable.