One of the great things about blogging for mental_floss is meeting people from all over the Web who have pantloads of talent. Some moons ago, I met Greg Tatum, and we brainstormed some animated shorts that would be appropriate for the blog here. I should say, he brainstormed and I nodded in agreement mostly. So welcome to a new mental_floss exclusive animation series: The Adventures of Mr. Rat. Animation: Greg Tatum, Music: Jeremy Engleman
15 Things You Might Not Know About Who Framed Roger Rabbit
BY Michael Arbeiter
June 21, 2018
Walt Disney Studios
As both a groundbreaking feat for the world of animation and an enjoyable crime comedy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit stands in a class all its own. Here are a few interesting nuggets about the cartoon-live action classic, on the 30th anniversary of its release.
1. IT WAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE MOVIE EVER MADE.
At the time of its release on June 22, 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit boasted the highest budget of any film to date: a whopping $70 million (nearly $150 million in today's dollars). It topped the previous record holder, Rambo III (which had come out less than a month earlier), by about $12 million. Roger Rabbit held the designation until July 1991, ultimately falling to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which cost $100 million.
2. THE FILM ALSO BROKE THE RECORD FOR LONGEST END CREDITS.
Recognizing a cast and crew of just over 800, Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured the longest closing credit reel ever upon its release. The film’s credits ran for over 10 minutes, even without attribution for Jessica Rabbit’s voice actor, Kathleen Turner.
3. BOB HOSKINS WAS NOT THE FIRST PICK FOR EDDIE VALIANT.
Director Robert Zemeckis and producer Steven Spielberg communicated with a number of big name actors in regard to the casting of human protagonist Detective Eddie Valiant. Among those considered for the curmudgeonly private eye were Harrison Ford (who was too expensive), Chevy Chase (who was not interested in the part), and Bill Murray (who allegedly never got the message and was dismayed to learn he had missed such an opportunity). Other names tossed around included Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Wallace Shawn, Ed Harris, and Charles Grodin.
4. CHRISTOPHER LLOYD WASN'T THE FILMMAKERS' FIRST CHOICE EITHER.
Walt Disney Studios
Before landing on Zemeckis’s Back to the Future colleague Christopher Lloyd as the nefarious Judge Doom, producers considered Tim Curry (who they deemed too scary), John Cleese (not scary enough), and Christopher Lee (who turned the role down). Also in early contention: Roddy McDowell, Eddie Deezen, and Sting.
5. LLOYD WAS MORE TERRIFYING THANKS TO ONE SIMPLE TRICK.
Prompted by a suggestion from Zemeckis, Lloyd does not blink even once while onscreen in the film.
6. CHARLES FLEISCHER ACTUALLY DRESSED UP LIKE ROGER RABBIT WHEN PERFORMING HIS LINES.
Voice actor Charles Fleischer was so devoted to his role as the animated title character that he asked the costume department to create a full-body Roger Rabbit suit for him to wear on set. Fleischer delivered all of his lines from inside the suit, claiming that it helped both him and costar Hoskins immerse within the fantastical world of the film (even though Fleischer admits that Hoskins initially thought he was out of his mind).
7. THE “DIP” IS REAL.
Walt Disney Studios
Who Framed Roger Rabbit subverts the old maxim about cartoon characters never dying by introducing the one thing that proves fatal to the lot: a liquid concoction known as “dip.” There is actually a bit of science behind this plot device. The ingredients of the dip are revealed to be turpentine, benzene, and acetone, which are all paint thinners commonly used to erase animation cells (in other words, wipe out cartoon characters).
8. THE FILM SENT BART SIMPSON TO STARDOM.
One of the film’s most chilling sequences sees Judge Doom exacting his wrath upon an anthropomorphic cartoon shoe. The character never speaks, but it squeaks and whimpers as the Judge lowers it into a vat of dip. Those cries were the work of relatively unknown voice actor Nancy Cartwright, who would rise to fame one year later as the voice of Bart Simpson.
9. EARLY DRAFTS OF THE SCRIPT WERE DARKER.
The screen adaptation of Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? underwent quite a few changes before it hit the big screen. Some drafts involved Jessica Rabbit and Baby Herman each turning out to be the story’s villain, Judge Doom revealing that he was the hunter who shot Bambi’s mother, and even Roger’s death.
10. ROGER AND EDDIE HAD FAMOUS STAND-INS FOR TEST SHOOTS.
At various stages in the film’s development, animators put together test reels for studio presentation. An early go at the project employed the vocal talents of Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-wee Herman, for a variation of Roger marked by neurotic stammering. Some time later, Richard Williams (who eventually became Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s animation director) treated Walt Disney Pictures to a taste of his talents via a scene uniting a more recognizable Roger with an appropriately cranky Eddie Valiant. Here, Eddie is played by future The Sopranos star Joe Pantoliano.
11. ROGER WAS MODELED AFTER BIG STARS.
In designing Roger Rabbit, Williams wanted to incorporate elements from classic animation. He has expressed that Roger is meant to embody the production caliber of Disney, the character design of Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes, and the personality and sense of humor of animator Tex Avery. Furthermore, Roger’s anatomy and attire can be broken up by studio influence: His face is meant to resemble a Looney Tunes character’s and his torso a Disney hero’s, while his overalls are a nod to Goofy, his gloves to Mickey Mouse, and his bow tie to Porky Pig.
12. JESSICA WAS INSPIRED BY SOME A-LISTERS, TOO.
While Jessica Rabbit’s principal aesthetic inspiration was the titular heroine of Avery’s famous short “Red Hot Riding Hood,” she had a few human influences as well. Among them were Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, and Veronica Lake.
13. THE FILM SPAWNED THE INDUSTRY TERM “BUMPING THE LAMP.”
For movie animators and special effects artists, the phrase “bumping the lamp” refers to the application of tremendous effort to a particular aesthetic feature that viewers will more than likely never even notice. The saying entered the lexicon thanks to a scene that involved Bob Hoskins’s character repeatedly bonking his head on a low-hanging ceiling lamp, causing it to swing around the room. Animators had to draw and redraw Roger Rabbit in a fashion that was consistent with the rapidly fluctuating illumination of the scene. While the team was well aware that absence of the effect wouldn’t bother most audiences, they were so devoted to their craft that they stuck with it. (You can watch the scene above.)
14. THE FILM FEATURES OVER 140 PREEXISTING ANIMATED CHARACTERS.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the only film to date to unite Disney mascot Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros. icon Bugs Bunny; the pair shares a scene in the latter half of the movie, merrily skydiving next to an airborne Bob Hoskins.
In addition to Mickey, Disney showcased 81 distinct characters, as well as 14 “groups” of characters (for instance, the titular sprites from the short “The Merry Dwarfs” or the anthropomorphic fauna from the short “Flowers and Trees”) in the movie. Meanwhile, Bugs was one of 19 Warner Bros. characters to get screen time. MGM, Paramount Pictures/Fleischer Studios, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox, King Features Syndicate, and Al Capp’s cartoons all had characters make appearances as well.
15. THAT SAID, THERE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MANY MORE CAMEOS.
Although Zemeckis and his crew managed to populate Who Framed Roger Rabbit with a vast array of recognizable characters, their original ambitions were even more sweeping. Contractual issues and time constraints kept characters like Popeye, Chip and Dale, Pepe Le Pew, Mighty Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Pedro from Saludos Amigos, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Witch Hazel, Heckle and Jeckle, several characters from Fantasia, and even Superman from the final cut.
Pixar’s Cars was released on this day 12 years ago. So put on your helmets, rev those engines, and let’s take a look at some behind-the-scenes facts about the Oscar-winning animation studio’s fastest-moving film.
1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY AN UGLY DUCKLING-TYPE STORY ABOUT AN ELECTRIC CAR.
Cars started off life as Little Yellow Car, about an electric car that faces prejudice from its gas-guzzling counterparts. Pixar animator/artist Jorgen Klubien, who developed the story during production on A Bug’s Life, was inspired by real-life automotive history from his home country of Denmark.
“In the 1980s some enthusiastic folks got the idea of making a three-wheeled one-person car that ran on electricity,” said Klubien. “They put it into production and it worked great in the city, but out on the highway it was too slow. People also thought the car was ugly. I thought the electric car was ahead of its time, and it struck me as odd that my fellow Danes didn’t agree. It reminded me of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. This famous Danish character wasn’t accepted at first, but in the end it proved to be right on the money.”
The story was deemed too slight to carry an entire movie, but the small-town setting remained an inspiration.
2. ITS CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR PASSED AWAY DURING PRODUCTION.
Cars is dedicated to Joe Ranft, the film's co-writer and co-director, who died in a car accident on August 16, 2005—while Cars was still in production. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), which Ranft executive produced, is also dedicated to him.
3. MATER IS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE NASCAR ENTHUSIAST.
The country bumpkin tow truck Mater got his name from NASCAR superfan Douglas “Mater” Keever, whom the filmmakers met while on a research trip to North Carolina’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway (now called the Charlotte Motor Speedway). Keever has a voice cameo in the film, as the motor home who says “Well dip me in axle grease and call me slick” early in the film. (Keever improvised the line, which was originally “Well dip me in axle grease and call me lubrication.” Producer Darla Anderson opted to change it, Keever speculated, because “maybe she thought it sounded sexual, I don’t know.”)
4. MANY AUTO WORLD LUMINARIES LENT THEIR VOCAL TALENTS.
Reigning racing champ Strip “The King” Weathers is voiced by legendary racer Richard Petty, who has the same nickname as his animated counterpart. Weathers’s wife, credited as “Mrs. The King,” is voiced by Petty’s wife, Lynda Petty. Several other automotive notables contribute their vocal talents: announcer/former racer Darrell Waltrip plays “Darrell Cartrip”; Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR’s radio show Car Talk, voice Lightning McQueen’s sponsors, Rusty and Dusty Rust-eze; and racers Michael Schumacher, Mario Andretti, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voice automotive versions of themselves. (Despite voicing announcer “Bob Cutlass,” sports analyst Bob Costas doesn’t actually cover racing.)
5. SEVERAL ACTORS CHANGED FOR INTERNATIONAL RELEASES.
For Cars’s UK release, Jeremy Piven was replaced as the voice of Lightning McQueen’s never-seen agent Harv by Top Gear co-host Jeremy Clarkson. “The King” was also voiced by different racers in some international releases, as Richard Petty isn’t as well known outside of the United States. In Germany, The King is voiced by Formula One champ Niki Lauda, while in Spain he is Formula One’s Fernando Alonso.
6. MOST CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON REAL CARS.
Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Chick Hicks are all original Pixar designs, but most of the other characters are based on existing cars. Among them are Doc Hudson (1951 Hudson Hornet), Ramone the body paint specialist (1959 Chevy Impala), tire salesman Luigi (1959 Fiat 500), hippie Fillmore (1960 Volkswagen Microbus), military surplus store owner Sarge (1942 Willys Jeep), and Mack, the truck that drives Lightning around (Mack Superliner). Sally, as a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera, is the only Radiator Springs character modeled after a contemporary car.
7. IT BROUGHT A NEW STANDARD OF REALISM TO ANIMATED FILMS.
Cars was the first Pixar feature to utilize a technique known as “ray tracing,” which properly renders the way light passes through and collides with surfaces. More simply, it enables artists to accurately depict reflections without having to go through and “paint” them individually. Ray tracing takes up a massive amount of computer power; as a result, each frame (or about 1/24th of a second) of Cars took an average of 17 hours to render. Some frames took up to a week.
8. IT WAS PAUL NEWMAN’S FINAL FILM—AND HIS HIGHEST-GROSSING.
Cars marks the final film of Paul Newman, who in addition to being an actor/entrepreneur/philanthropist also became a racing enthusiast after starring in the 1969 racing drama Winning. Cars is also the highest-grossing film of Newman’s career (not adjusted for inflation).
9. ONE OF LIGHTNING MCQUEEN’S CHARACTER INSPIRATIONS WAS KID ROCK.
To help get a handle on the character of rookie racing sensation Lightning McQueen, directing animator James Ford Murphy “put together a series of little bios of great personalities that were really cocky but really likeable.” Among the people he pulled inspiration from were sportsmen Muhammad Ali, Charles Barkley, and Joe Namath, plus musician Kid Rock.
10. YOU CAN VISIT THE MOUNTAIN RANGE THAT SURROUNDS RADIATOR SPRINGS IN REAL LIFE (SORT OF).
The mountain range surrounding Radiator Springs is inspired by the real-life Cadillac Ranch, an outdoor art installation located outside Amarillo, Texas that consists of heavily spray-painted Cadillacs, half-buried facedown in the ground.