Since the movie was being made by Disney, Warner Brothers would only allow the use of their biggest toon stars, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, if they got an equal amount of screen time as Disney's biggest stars, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Because of this, both sets of characters are always together in frame when on the screen.
The first test audience was comprised mostly of 18-19-year-olds, who hated it. After nearly the entire audience walked out of the screening, Robert Zemeckis, who had final cut, said he wasn't changing a thing.
Bob Hoskins said that, for two weeks after seeing the movie, his young son wouldn't talk to him. When finally asked why, his son said he couldn't believe his father would work with cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and not let him meet them.
With an estimated production budget of $70 million at the time of its release, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) was the most expensive film produced in the 1980s and had the longest on-screen credits for a film.
Every frame of the movie which featured a mixture of animation and live action had to be printed up as a still photograph. An animator would then draw the particular illustration for that frame on tracing paper set on top of the photo. The outline drawing then had to be hand-colored. Once that was done, the drawing had to be composited back into the original frame using an optical printer.
When Eddie takes Roger Rabbit into the back room at the bar where Dolores works to cut apart the hand-cuffs, the lamp from ceiling is bumped and swinging. Lots of extra work was needed to make the shadows match between the actual room shots and the animation for very little viewer benefit. Today, "Bump the Lamp" is a term used by many Disney employees to refer to going that extra mile on an effect just to make it a little more special, even though most viewers or guests will never notice it.
When the Special Edition DVD was released, Robert Zemeckis stated in an interview for a newspaper that Bill Murray was his and producer Steven Spielberg's original choice for the role of Eddie Valiant but neither could get in contact with him in time. Bill Murray states in interviews that when he read the interview he was in a public place at the time but he still screamed his lungs out, because he would have definitely accepted the role.
Several voice actors make cameos as the voice of the character(s) they have played before. These are Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse) and Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Bird). But most noticeable is Mae Questel as Betty Boop. Mae did Betty's voice from 1930 until the character was retired in 1939. Mae Questel then became Popeye the Sailor's friend, Olive Oyl.
To give Jessica's ample bosom an unusual bounce, her supervising animator Russell Hall reversed the natural up-down movements of her breasts as she walked: they bounce up when a real woman's breasts bounce down and vice versa.
Judge Doom's master plan to dismantle the Red Car trolley is based in fact. Private corporations conspired to eliminate public transit in the late 1940s and 1950s in order to generate demand for automobiles and ancillary industries to keep said automobiles running.
Another scene that came about by accident was when Roger and Eddie Valiant arrive at Maroon Studios to interrogate Mr. Maroon. As Bob Hoskins delivered his lines, he looked straight ahead, instead of down at a three-foot rabbit. The animators decided to have Roger stand on tiptoe against the wall to cover up the gaffe.
John Cleese expressed interest in playing Judge Doom, but both Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis refused. Because they both thought nobody would take a former member of Monty Python seriously as a sadistic villain.
Bob Hoskins claimed that Jessica Rabbit was not yet sketched by the animators when filming wrapped and he had no idea what the character would look like. Robert Zemeckis told Hoskins to imagine his ideal sexual fantasy. Hoskins claimed that his mental image was less risqué than what Jessica looked like in the completed film.
For this movie, animation director Richard Williams set out to break three rules that previously were conventions for combining live-action and animation: first, move the camera as much as possible so the Toons don't look pasted on flat backgrounds; second, use lighting and shadows to an extreme that was never before attempted; third, have the Toons interact with real-world objects and people as much as possible.
The Ink and Paint Club's policy of only letting toons onto the premises as entertainers and employees, not as customers or audience members, is a reference to the real-life Cotton Club, which, along with many other segregated clubs before the Civil Rights movement, only allowed Black people to enter as performers.
During production, one of the biggest challenges faced by the makers of the film was how to get the cartoon characters to realistically interact with real on-set props. This was ultimately accomplished in two different ways. Certain props (such as Baby Herman's cigar or the plates Roger smashes over his head) were moved on-set via motion control machines hooked up to operator who would move the objects in exactly the desired manner. Then, in post, the character was simply drawn 'over' the machine. The other way of doing it was by using puppeteers. This is most clearly seen in the scene in the Ink & Paint club. The glasses held by the octopus bartender were in fact being controlled by puppeteers from above, whilst the trays carried by the penguin waiters were on sticks being controlled from below - both the wires and the sticks were simply removed in post and the cartoons added in.
Judge Doom picks up a record and reads its label: "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down". Then he says, "quite a loony selection for a bunch of drunken reprobates." The song "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is the familiar theme song for the Looney Tunes cartoons.
In the original VHS release, when Eddie and Jessica are thrown out of the car, you can see for a few short frames that Jessica was going commando under her dress! This was edited out in all future versions for obvious reasons.
During filming, Charles Fleischer delivered Roger Rabbit's lines off camera in full Roger costume including rabbit ears, yellow gloves and orange cover-alls. During breaks when he was in costume, other staff at the studios would see him and make comments about the poor caliber of the effects in the "rabbit movie".
Benny the Cab drives across a bridge while being pursued by the Weasels. The bridge is the "Hyperion Bridge," which crosses a freeway near the OLD Disney Studio down in Hollywood; the one they had before they built the one in Burbank (around 1939).
A list of the classic cartoon cameos in the film (which is supposed to be set in 1947, though quite a few post-1947 characters appear), grouped by studio: Warner Bros (Looney Tunes): - Bugs Bunny - Daffy Duck - Porky Pig - Tweety - Sylvester - Yosemite Sam - Foghorn Leghorn - Marvin the Martian (first appeared in 1948) - Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote (first appeared in 1949) - Marc Anthony the bulldog from Feed the Kitty (1952) - Sam Sheepdog from Don't Give Up the Sheep (1953) - Speedy Gonzales (first appeared in 1953) Max Fleischer/Paramount: - Koko the Clown (Out of the Inkwell (1919) - Betty Boop Walter Lantz: - Woody Woodpecker MGM: - Droopy
The gag of the toon pelican falling off his bicycle came about by accident. Originally, the pelican would have ridden straight past the camera, but the effects technicians were unable to keep the bike upright. The filmmakers decided to let the bicycle fall and animate the pelican losing his balance.
Animation director Richard Williams strove for three things while creating this film's animation: Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes-type characters; Disney-quality animation and Tex Avery-style humor..."but not so brutal."
Joel Silver's cameo as the director of the Baby Herman cartoon was a prank on Disney chief Michael Eisner by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. Eisner and Silver hated each other from their days at Paramount Pictures in the early '80s, particularly after the difficulties involved in making 48 Hrs. (1982). Silver shaved off his beard, paid his own expenses, and kept his name out of all initial cast sheets. When Eisner was told, after the movie was complete, who was playing the director - Silver was nearly unrecognizable - he reportedly shrugged and said, "He was pretty good."
Famous Studio/Paramount characters Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl, Superman, Little Lulu and Casper the Friendly Ghost, as well as Pat Sullivan's Felix the Cat and MGM's Tom & Jerry, were all scripted to appear in a scene revolving around Marvin Acme's funeral, but the rights to the characters could not be obtained in time, although a photo of Felix shaking hands with R.K. Maroon is seen in Maroon's office when he first hires Eddie.
The Disney Afternoon character Bonkers Bobcat was created because Amblin Entertainment, co-owner of all of the characters created for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" refused to allow Disney to produce a TV series incorporating characters from the film. At the time, Amblin was working with Warner Brothers on the animated series Tiny Toon Adventures (1990) and Animaniacs (1993).
Eddie Valiant's initial 30 second stroll through Maroon Cartoon Studios, was so complex that it involved over 180 individual elements, that when assembled with the film pieces, created stacks 8 feet in height.
To convince the Disney and Amblin executives that they could make the movie, the filmmakers shot a short test involving Roger bumping into some crates in an alley and then getting picked up by a version of Valiant played by Joe Pantoliano (this test can be seen in the Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit (2003) documentary on the Vista Series DVD). After viewing the test, several of the Disney executives were convinced they had seen a traditional 'man-in-a-suit' gag with added animation. They couldn't believe it when they were told that it was 100% animation.
Roger Rabbit is described (design-wise) as having a "Warners face", a "Disney body", a "Tex Avery attitude", Goofy's overalls, Mickey Mouse's gloves, and Porky Pig's bowtie. Animation director Richard Williams says he based his Roger color model on the American flag (red overalls, white body, blue tie) so that "everyone would subliminally like it".
The weasel's names are not mentioned in the film. They are Smart Ass (who is the leader), Psycho (in the straight jacket), Stupid (in the striped shirt), Greasy (the "suave" one in green), and Wheezy (the smoker).
The piano duet between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck was storyboarded by animation director Richard Williams and Chuck Jones, who was working as a consultant. Williams drew Donald, while Jones drew Daffy.
At the movie theater where Eddie tells Roger his back story, the short Goofy Gymnastics (1949) is being played, which didn't come out for another two years from the period the film is set in (1947). Crew members claimed to have chosen this particular short, despite its inaccuracy, because it was the zaniest thing they could find in the Disney Vault.
326 animators worked full-time on the film. In total, 82,080 frames of animation were drawn. Including storyboards and concept art, animation director Richard Williams estimates that well over one million drawings were done for the movie.
The song played by Daffy and Donald Duck in the Ink and Paint Club is the Second Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt, a song featured in numerous cartoons, including the Oscar winning Tom & Jerry short The Cat Concerto (1947) and the Bugs Bunny Merrie Melodie, Rhapsody Rabbit (1946).
Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, who briefly appear in the final "roll call" shot, actually had not been created at the time the movie was set (1947). The characters were given a small cameo anyway at the insistence of Steven Spielberg.
One of the photos in Roger's wallet is of him and Jessica dining at the Brown Derby. The caricatures on the walls are of some of the filmmakers, including Robert Zemeckis, Richard Williams, and Steven Spielberg, as well as one of Mickey Mouse.
The Judge Doom character was originally going to have an animated pet vulture that sat on his shoulder, but that idea was dropped in the interest of saving time. However, the vulture later resurfaced with Judge Doom when a bendable action figure was produced.
The Animation director of this movie, Richard Williams, jokingly described the Ink & Paint Club (which has never existed) as the place Walt Disney discovered the penguin waiters to use in his film Mary Poppins (1964).
Writers 'Jeffrey Price' and Peter S. Seaman admired the film Chinatown (1974). There was to be two sequels to that film, the first was The Two Jakes (1990), which was later filmed. The second was to be about the corruption in Los Angeles when the streetcar system was removed and freeways were built to replace them. It was to be called "Cloverleaf." Though it is an animated comedy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) pretty much tells the story of this dark period in Los Angeles history.
According to Robert Zemeckis, a major brewing company offered to pay to have their name visible on the liquor bottle that Roger drinks from early in the film. Zemeckis reminded them that Roger "turns into a steam whistle" after taking a shot, but the brewing company reps didn't care, apparently figuring that the publicity they would receive would be priceless. Ultimately, this product placement could not be included as the film was being distributed by Disney.
A brief sequence was prepared to test the techniques used to combine live-action with animation. The footage, which showed Eddie Valiant (played by Joe Pantoliano) walking in an alley with Roger Rabbit, touched on all the challenges expected of the production - shading on the cartoon characters, interaction with the live-action actors and environment, matching with the constantly moving camera, etc. The brief, one-minute film, budgeted at $100,000, convinced the filmmakers that the effects could create the illusion of cartoons and live actors occupying the same reality.
Chevy Chase who prefers to do family-oriented movies, turned down the role of Eddie Valiant, as he was afraid a movie where a woman is happily married to a rabbit would affect his family-friendly image.
An elaborate funeral scene for Marvin Acme set at the famous Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale was discarded from the shooting script in pre-production. It came complete with Foghorn Leghorn delivering the eulogy and the Harvey Toons jack-in-the-box logo springing out of Acme's casket to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel" with a giant funeral wreath attached; also in this scene were many cartoon cameos that were eventually cut including Casper the Friendly Ghost (who eventually sends everyone fleeing), Tom and Jerry, Screwy Squirrel, Superman and Lois Lane, Felix the Cat, Chip and Dale, Baby Huey, Mighty Mouse, Crusader Rabbit, Little Lulu, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Wimpy, Heckle and Jeckle, Cinderella, Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Peter Pan and Wendy, Herman and Catnip, and Little Audrey among others.
Bob Hoskins watched his young daughter to learn how to act with imaginary characters. He later had problems with hallucinations. Hoskins' son was reportedly furious that his father hadn't brought any of his cartoon co-stars home to meet him.
Judge Doom originally had a vulture on his shoulder, and seven weasels accompanying him, rather like the Seven Dwarfs. He ended up only having five. He was also to have a jury of kangaroos, as in "Kangaroo Court." These elements were all dropped because animating these extra characters would be too costly.
The photograph that Eddie takes of Marvin Acme and Jessica playing "patty-cake" was created during pre-production, and features an earlier design of Jessica than the one that is used in the final character animation. The one shot that was re-done to incorporate the new Jessica design was the insert shot of the picture after it is first developed.
While on set to provide Roger Rabbit's voice for the human cast, Charles Fleischer insisted on wearing a specially-made Roger Rabbit suit, despite reminders that he wouldn't actually be appearing on screen. Perhaps because of this incident, Bob Hoskins later referred (jokingly) to Fleischer as "completely nuts".
Four phrases appear in both this film and Zemeckis's previous one Back to the Future (1985): "didn't hear you come in", "you're a sight for sore eyes", "I'm gonna ram him", and (referring to a piece of land) "as far as the eye can see". The latter was said in both films by Christopher Lloyd.
To create the animation, over 85,000 hand-inked and painted cels were created and composited with the live-action backdrops, live-action characters, and hand-animated tone mattes (shading) and cast shadows using optical film printers. NO computer animation was used in creating the animations. Some scenes involved up to 100 individual film elements. Any live-action that had to be later composited was shot in VistaVision to take advantage of the double-area frame of the horizontal 35mm format. The finished film thus does not suffer from the increased grain that plagued previous live-action/animation combos such as Mary Poppins (1964).
Lena Hyena, the hideously ugly Jessica Rabbit impostor that Eddie meets in Toontown, is based on the creation of the same name by artist Basil Wolverton. She was first conceived in 1946 for a contest by Al Capp to depict "the world's ugliest woman" to be featured in his "Lil' Abner" comic strip.
Among the song selections on the Acme "Select-a-Tune" (the device that Eddie "sings" to in order to make the weasels laugh themselves to death) are "Jolson Medley", "Merry-Go-Round Broke Down", "Broadway Selection" and "Mickey's Melody".
Peter Renaday auditioned for the role of Eddie Valiant. In the test footage with an animated Jessica Rabbit (animated by Darrell Van Citters), he resembled Eddie as he did in the books; slender and with a beard.
An exposure sheet (a chart for keeping track of the drawings to be shot for animation) can be seen in R.K. Maroon's desk. The exposure sheet can also be seen clinging to Eddie Valiant as Roger jumps up screaming after drinking scotch in Maroon's office.
Robert Zemeckis wanted to do the Robert Clampett version of Daffy Duck, but Chuck Jones wanted to do his version of the character and had very personally disliked Clampett. Zemeckis had has way and this was one of the main factors in Jones' dislike of the film.
Originally when Lena Hyena caught Eddie in her arms, as she kissed him she was to stick her tongue in his ear and it would come out through the other ear, it was cut because they didn't want too many cartoonish things happening to him.
Given the extraordinary process of making this film by shooting the live action first then the animation, which alone took twice as long, left little to no options in the way of editing the final composite. Coupled with the fact that animation could not begin until all the dialogue was prerecorded practically meant finishing the film before it was finished. This also ruled out the option for alternate takes and re shoots, because the animation for those scenes would have been too expensive and the animation for those scenes was already completed respectively. As such, cutting even part of a scene for timing meant the entire scene had to be taken out animation and all.
Chuck Jones received a credit as "animation consultant" but disavowed the movie forever after, complaining that there was something wrong with a movie where the live-action hero got more sympathy than the animated-cartoon star did.
The film's original budget was projected at $50 million, which Walt Disney Productions felt was too expensive. The film was finally green-lit when the budget decreased to $30 million. However, when the film's shooting schedule lasted longer than originally expected, the budget escalated until it reached $70 million.
While the film was very well received by critics, it has not been without criticism, especially - and surprisingly - among actual Golden Age veterans and fans. Chuck Jones in particular, who worked on the film, ended up loathing the final product, citing it as a obnoxious, witless misunderstanding of the old cartoons it set out to homage and even accused Robert Zemeckis of robbing Richard Williams of any creative input - and for apparently ruining the piano sequence that he and Williams had planned together. Cartoon historian Michael Barrier derided the animation direction as "disastrous", and Frank Thomas of Disney's Nine Old Men was strongly disappointed in Richard Williams failing to have any actual pathos come from the main character himself. John Kricfalusi has also not spoken highly of it, thinking that it had "great animators" but was "misdirected", "filled with takes and zany movement but no character or wit."
Before he was the official voice of Goofy, Bill Farmer had his first job as a voice over artist singing ensemble for the closing song, "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!". He snuck in the voice of Goofy during this song.
Terry Gilliam was initially offered the job of directing this movie, but turned it down because he considered it "conceptually inauthentic to use the Looney Tunes genre/character stable as a springboard for a variation on the Howard the Duck (1986) story".
Both Bob Hoskins and Charles Fleischer would later go onto voice the character Boris Goosnivov in the Balto film trilogy. Hoskins voiced Boris in the original whilst Fleischer voiced him in the 2 sequels.
Making this film, filming the live action first then spending another 7-8 months on the animation and post-production, precluded it from being edited like most are. In most cases, editing is simply cutting for time, using different takes or re-shooting. This was not the case because such unusual filming made even the rough cut very linear. So linear that cutting for time even just a little meant entire scenes had to be removed. Furthermore, any problematic scenes could not be re-shot because the animation had already been done for those scenes. Going to an alternate take was not an option either, because the animation for those takes would have been too time-consuming and expensive.
The opening track on the Sting album "...Nothing Like the Sun", the song "The Lazarus Heart" was originally written as the movie's musical finale, at an early stage of the movie's production when the book's tragic ending, where Roger is killed in the crossfire during the final duel, was still in the script. When the studio ordered its default ending to be used at the film's end, in which Roger is alive at the end of the duel, however, the song was deleted from the script and ended up on Sting's album instead.