"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" — A Very Special (And Awkwardly Personal) 25th Anniversary Tribute


It’s good for the soul when the classics get their due: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated the 25th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in Beverly Hills on Saturday. The 1988 Best Visual Effects Oscar-winner innovatively blended live action and animation to tell a comedic noir-infused story of blackmail, murder, and inter-species (b)romance in 1947 Hollywood.

Character actor Bob Hoskins starred alongside the titular character, an unspeakably obnoxious cartoon rabbit, and Roger’s husky-voiced “human” wife, Jessica.

The screening on Saturday preceded a panel featuring many involved in the making, including director Robert Zemeckis, actress Joanna Cassidy (who played Delores in the film), and Charles Fleischman, who voiced Roger and tough-talking automobile Benny the Cab.

Sadly, I was not physically present for this historic event, but my heart (as usual) was in Los Angeles at the time.

So in tribute to this contemporary cinema classic, here are a few fun facts you should know about Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and my borderline-interesting relationship with it:

1. My anger with the film’s “inaccurate” Harvey reference was totally misdirected.

Photo Credit: WordPress

There’s a scene where Judge Doom and his weasel henchmen burst into Delores’ speakeasy looking for Roger. Doom intimidates the patrons, sneeringly interrogating them as to whether they’ve “seen a rabbit, about yea big.”

Everyone is silent until Angelo (a loutish bar fly) says, “Hey. I’ve seen your rabbit.” Then he raises his arm as if putting around an invisible somebody’s shoulder: “Say hello, Harvey.”

The reference, of course, is to the 1950 James Stewart vehicle about his relationship with a rabbit named “Harvey” who no one else can see. This always upset me, because Roger Rabbit takes place in ’47, while the famous Harvey film wasn’t released until 1950.

In my mind, someone had some serious ‘splaining to do. Alas, I was acting a fool: had I done minimal research, I’d have learned that Harvey was originally a play, written in 1944 by Mary Chase.

You’re welcome for sharing.

2. Kathleen Turner doesn’t sing “Why Don’t You Do Right?”

The actress provides the speaking voice of Roger’s sultry cartoon wife Jessica Rabbit, in an un-credited turn, but another actress is responsible for character’s most famous scene:

Jessica’s big entrance, where she performs “Why Don’t You Do Right?” at the Ink and Paint Club, was actually sung by Amy Irving, who received a 1983 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Yentl. And can sing, obviously.

3. I used to terrorize my little sister by impersonating Judge Doom.

Photo Credit: LiveJournal

And not the mellow version either, I mean post-getting flattened by a steamroller then coming back as the horrifying red-eyed ‘toon with the “high squeaky voice” who killed Eddie Valiant’s brother Teddy – that Judge Doom.

Those bug eyes and that smile are a surefire way of scaring the sh*t out of any 4-year-old. Do what you will with that info.

4. Bob Hoskins is retired.

Photo Credit: Blogspot

Despite an illustrious career that included dramatic leading roles in The Long Good Friday (1980) and Crying Game-director Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa (1986), Hoskins will always be Eddie Valiant to me. He was absolutely perfect for that role.

But apparently, he retired from acting last year, throwing a wrench in my long-gestating (and possibly true) dreams of a legitimate Roger Rabbit sequel. Why, Bob? Why?

5. Making this film was ridiculously difficult (not for me, obviously).

Photo Credit: Digital Polyphony

For example: the scene in the Ink and Paint Club with all the cartoon penguin waiters running around. Because the film was made before CGI was a thing, the animated characters had to be hand-drawn and painted directly onto the frame. Yet many of them still handled live action props.

In the penguins’ case, these props meant waiter trays. To make this actually work, the Ink and Paint stage had to be built eight feet above the ground so that puppeteers could move around below wielding long poles to which the trays were attached.


Photo Credit: NTL World

In closing, many of the facts I’ve presented are based on the assumption that the reader has seen the film. If this isn’t the case, however, I urge you to drop whatever you’re doing and go check it out immediately. It’s a great one that truly stands the test of time, and holds up well after repeated (in my case, hundreds) viewings.

Anyway. That’s all, folks.