The Great Unmade?: Who Discovered Roger Rabbit / Toon Platoon


Even cartoons get the blues. After raking in the dollars, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was surely as deserving of a sequel as any mainstream studio film. However, rivalry between production partners Disney and Amblin Entertainment, escalating costs and disputes over the script, plugged Roger Rabbit before he could interact with hapless humans again. A script was produced however, a prequel which would show how Roger came to be the star of Toontown, and how he first met the girl who wasn’t bad, “just drawn that way.”

Both Steven Spielberg’s Amblin and Michael Eisner’s Disney were behind the success of WFRR, and things seemed peachy with the animated shorts that followed. Until that is, Amblin’s Arachnobia and Disney’s Dick Tracy each wanted Roller Coaster Rabbit to play in support. Spielberg lost out to Disney, and nixed the next short, Hare In My Soup. He also vetoed the first draft of the proposed prequel film, Toon Platoon. That film opened like a pastiche of Steve Martin’s The Jerk. Living on a simple Kansas farm in 1941 with his human parents and siblings, Roger Rabbit is delivered a bombshell on his 18th birthday – he’s adopted. “Now I know why all the guys at school stare at me in the shower,” he says. Roger sets off for the bright lights of Hollywood with a cropped (bottom half) photo of his mother to find her, and perhaps his “special purpose”.

Replacing Bob Hoskins’ private eye Eddie Valiant this time is Richie Davenport, a wannabe Army Air Corp applicant who’s scared of heights. Turned down, he’s on his way to Tinseltown to make it as an actor, and picks Roger up hitchhiking, the pair eventually becoming buddies.

In L.A, Roger mistakes a Radio drama called Mr Keene, Tracer Of Lost Persons, as a public service, and disrupts the live broadcast, meeting his future wife. Jessica Krupnick as she is then longs to make it in movies, but her Toon abilities to mimic any sound make her perfect for radio. That, and her mousey appearance. She gets her va-va-voom when she is called upon by Government agents to seduce a Nazi agent, her radio boss Otto. When he rumbles her, he kidnaps her and her human room mate Wendy. He takes them to Germany where Jessica becomes a femme fatale, Axis Sally type, forced to broadcast propoganda to the folks back home and on the front.

Roger and Richie, who had been dating the dames, enlist in the army. Richie is transferred to Roger’s supply depot, completely run by Toons. It seems the Top Brass wanted a Toon unit that would be indestructible, and could conjure up any weapon imaginable. Trouble is, the Toons just can’t kill – they have an overwhelming urge to entertain.

The screwy plot then has Roger, Richie and a couple of new Toon sidekicks set off to rescue the women, along the way foiling an Axis plot to blow up Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at the Yalta conference. The gang are all given a ticker tape parade down Hollywood Boulevard, where Roger’s father pops up in the crowd – it’s Bugs Bunny, who winks at the camera. “Gee, Ain’t I a stinker?”

This script was by Nat Maudlin, who had written for TV shows such as Barney Miller and Newhart. Spielberg wasn’t impressed, so Eisner authorised a rewrite in 1997. Hoping to appeal to Spielberg, he enlisted two writers from the Amblin produced Animaniacs show, Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver. They dropped the whole army angle and instead focused on Roger’s early career in Broadway and the movies. The search for his mother was retained. Disney’s Oscar winning songwriter Alan Menkin (Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas) scored five songs for the film, now retitled Who Discovered Roger Rabbit. Eisner offered Spielberg associates Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy co-producer credits.

Test footage mixed traditional animation, live action and CGI, but wasn’t deemed successful. An all CGI approach was favoured in the next test for Roger and his Toon chums. The budget to animate so much had ballooned since Roger’s debut – estimates put the cost of the prequel as high as $100 million. Disney chose instead to funnel this money off to Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor, and long mooted sci-fi update of Treasure island, Treasure Planet (which tanked).   What a Looney Toon decision.

Although it would be nice to see Roger’s slapstick schtick alongside live action again, do we at this late stage want a sub-par follow up? The original film is a warm, witty, nostalgic laugh riot, and damn near perfect. So lets remember it unsullied, with Roger’s own words:

“A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we have.”

Originally posted 2012-09-19 15:33:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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