Making the Grades
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year (2013), Who Framed Roger Rabbit may have been innovative for combining live actors with animated characters from Walt Disney and Warner Brothers studios when it released. (It was also the most expensive movie made in the 1980s.) But don’t expect this film to be family friendly for all ages just because Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse share scenes with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit visits the seedier side of cartoon land where a hard drinking, small-scale gumshoe, Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), gets caught up in a murder investigation. After his brother is killed by a toon, the last thing the detective wants to do is help one of the animated characters. But when Roger Rabbit (voice by Charles Fleischer) is accused of murdering Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), he pleads with Eddie to clear his name. And, more importantly, to save him from falling into the hands of the dreaded Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) who metes out justice by killing toons with a deadly solvent called “dip”.
Made in the style of film noir, the movie features Roger’s well-endowed and sultry wife Jessica (uncredited voice by Kathleen Turner) and one of the industry’s longest film credits. But while the famous cartoon characters and gags from the Golden Age of American animation may speak to film history connoisseurs, even Disney’s then CEO Michael Eisner and Vice Chairman Roy E. Disney felt the film’s sexual innuendos were too risqué for the Disney stamp according to the book Disney War. Twenty-five years later, many parents may still feel the same way about the frequent sexual quips, lewd leers, crude depiction of sexual organs and the misogynist tone of the film.
Added to the sexual content are the frenetic pace of some scenes, weapon use, the killing of a cute cartoon character and frequent threats of harm or death. Eddie, who uses liquor to brace up his courage and gets a free cigarette from a group of boys on the street, also fails to meet the standard for a good role model.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit, based on the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit, won Oscars in 1989 for Best Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects and Film Editing along with a Special Achievement Award to Richard Williams for animation direction and the creation of cartoon characters. But while the revolutionary use of live action and animation may have caught audience’s attention in 1988, the film’s crude content will likely leave many parents steering clear of this rabbit hole in favor of more family friendly entertainment.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
How does this production show that just because a film includes animated characters does not necessarily mean it is suitable for younger audiences? How has the use of animation in adult oriented productions become more popular over the last few decades?
What is film noir? What are the elements of this genre and how well does this film make use of them?