Friday, August 12, 2011

Film Friday: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is nearly a perfect film. It’s truly rare that I rank comedies in that league, but Roger Rabbit has earned it. There is literally nothing I would change with this film if I could. What’s more, it grasps the essence of cartoondom, something almost no one in Hollywood understands anymore.

** spoiler alert**
Why This Film Is Perfect
My definition of the perfect film is quite simple. I ask myself, “is there anything I could change to make the film better?” The closer to NO I get, the better the film. In this case, the answer is a resounding NO.

The Plot: Nope. Nothing to change here. Roger Rabbit has a surprisingly complex plot for a movie ostensibly aimed at children, and it works brilliantly.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Roger Rabbit is a film noir comedy involving detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), who reluctantly tries to solve the murder of studio magnate R.K. Maroon and find his will in time to save Toontown, the home of cartoon stars in 1947’s Hollywood. Valiant is a grizzled detective who crawled into a bottle when a toon killed his brother. . . by dropping a piano on his head. Valiant becomes involved with this when Maroon hires him to follow the wife of cartoon star Roger Rabbit. The studio believes Roger’s wife Jessica (Kathleen Turner) is having an affair with Marvin Acme, the head of ACME Studios. Then the murder happens, Roger is framed, and soon things start spinning out of control as Valiant discovers a plot to destroy Toontown and turn it into a freeway. He also finds himself protecting fugitive Roger Rabbit from the evil Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).

Within this structure, the film has all kinds of interesting twists and turns, it’s fast paced, yet it never feels rushed, and it never once feels like it bends the plot to set up a joke. The plot also does a wonderful job of giving a surprisingly realistic sense of history. Indeed, in many ways, this film and L.A. Confidential are on a par, both with regard to the feel they create and their fictionalization of actual events -- here it’s the dismantling of public transportation trolley lines in the 1930s and the coming of the highways to Los Angles.

The Characters: Again, nothing to change. There isn’t a dud in the bunch. Each character has a specific role that is vital to the film and each character plays that role perfectly. There is no fluff, but the film also never feels “small” or “narrow” because of having too few characters, nor do the characters feel like they just exist to serve the plot.

What’s more, Roger and Jessica Rabbit are unforgettable characters. Roger is so perfectly made that he feels like a classic character who has always been there along with Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, rather than being a new creation. Moreover, he is so lively that he actually makes Bugs and Mickey seem shallow by comparison. Similarly, Jessica Rabbit is unsurpassed as a cartoon sex symbol. Judge Doom and Eddie Valiant too could not be improved upon in any way. Further, these actors/voice actors were chosen because of their talent and their fitness for the roles, not because they are famous, as is the case with cartoons today. Thus, rather than having Brad Pitt’s voice awkwardly come from the rabbit, we hear a voice that fits the rabbit and which we can believe belongs to Roger.

The Writing: The writing is great. The dialog is witty and sharp. It clips along from one punchline to the next while staying 100% faithful to the characters and the plot, i.e. the punchlines never feel set up. It also never assumes the audience is stupid and never stops the film to explain or highlight jokes. Further, the script is rich with top notch puns and double entendres which come naturally from plot-related dialog rather than tortured set ups.

For example, consider when Eddie’s girlfriend Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) mentions that she’s late because she “had to shake the weasels.” This bit of humor derives perfectly from the plot. Judge Doom is using weasels as deputies. In film noir, it was common to say “I had to shake the cops.” Thus, Dolores saying she had to shake the weasels is a line we should have expected because it fits the plot perfectly. . . but it also happens to have a couple other meanings or connotations that make this hilarious. That is excellent writing, and the script does this over and over again.

The Effects: The effects are incredible. Indeed, this film sits at the zenith of human interaction with animation. These cartoon characters are as real as any actor. They can touch the real world, they leave finger prints, they seem entirely solid, and yet they are cartoons. Even when Eddie goes to Toontown, he seems to really be there. Nothing prior to Roger Rabbit and nothing since has come close. In fact, shortly after this film was released, CGI became the rage and cartoons took a big lurch backward, leaving Roger Rabbit as the ultimate evolution of animation to this day.
The Essence of Cartoons
Lastly, we come to the heart of the film: its grasp of the essence of cartoondom. Cartoons in the 1980s became long commercials for toys. In the 1990s, they became politicized and cynical. In the 2000s, they went for horror and sex as they turned Japanese. Pixar changed this pattern by making cartoons that were essentially animated versions of live action films. Other studios followed. Animation thrived, but the cartoon was dead.

Unlike all these others, Roger Rabbit is a genuine homage to the age of cartoons. It grasped ideas like cartoon physics, i.e. the idea that physical laws bend depending on the situation. Thus, a roadrunner can run through a painted tunnel, but a coyote can’t. Characters can walk off a cliff and not fall until they look down. They can take a merciless pounding with no real damage. This has vanished in Pixar’s world, but Roger Rabbit had it all. Indeed, one of the greatest, most-insightful moment in cartoon history happens when Valiant is trying to saw handcuffs from his wrist so he can detach himself from Roger. Roger slips out of the handcuffs to steady the box upon which Valiant is sawing. An irate Valiant asked “you could do that all the time?!” And Roger replies: “No. . . only when it was funny.” That is the essence of cartoon physics.

Finally, Roger Rabbit grasps the very nature of cartoon characters themselves. These characters are not angst ridden, malicious, sex fiends, killers, planet crusaders, or sellers of products. They are wise-asses and children who never grew up. They are mischievous, pranksters, clowns. . . they are cartoons. Roger Rabbit captures that perfectly.

66 comments:

BoilerRoomElf said...

Little known fact - the original concept of this movie was "Who Framed Elmer Elf?" But there were union issues during then negotiations and things just fell apart. Sad...

"I don't bake cookies, I'm just drawn that way."

AndrewPrice said...

Who Framed Elmer Elf! LOL! Nice!

And double nice on the quote!

And why am I not surprised that union issues caused this to collapse!

Tennessee Jed said...

I very much agree with this analysis, Andrew, although it is hard for me to get really specific since it has been quite a long time since I saw it last. I was even thinking it was one of the very first interaction cartoon/human films, but probably not. Regardless, there is no question it is probably the best. PLUS, I am a sucker for film noire p.i. crime flicks in the Sam Spade mold.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed! This film has so much going for it. Not only is it an excellent noir film, but everything else works so well too.

There were prior human interacting with cartoon films, but not a ton. And what there was, was generally primitive. This one was the first where the characters actually could act in the real world by moving things and touching things.

After this, it all became CGI. In fact, they've said the only reason they never did a sequel (Toon Platoon) was that they lost interest because CGI had become "the new frontier." Too bad.

Ed said...

Excellent review of an excellent film. I too think there is something missing from modern cartoons and I think you've put your finger on it -- modern cartoons are angst ridden live action films that someone just animated rather than acted. These aren't "cartoons" in any sense of the word.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed. I think that's the core of the problem. They engineer these "cute" characters and then put them in a real, but animated world that plays by all the rules of the real world and where the acting is all well within the realm of the real world. There is very little fantastic about it, and that's what animation is at it's core.

So even though films like Up and WALL-E are enjoyable, they aren't really cartoons so much as animated films.

Joel Farnham said...

I miss the old cartoons. I think what killed them off was Hanna-Barbera and Sesame street. Hanna-Barbera because of the cut in cells printed. Sesame street because of the constant PC junk.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think political correctness has been very bad for cartoons. Humor in the cartoon world largely involves poking fun at things and exploiting things like stereotypes. Political correctness makes everyone too scared to even attempt humor like that. Add in the thought police eliminating cigarettes from old cartoon, whining about "diversity" ("hey, that duck isn't black enough!'"), and generally crapping on everything people enjoy... and you have a recipe for the destruction of cartoons.

That's why the things they turn out today are so full of angst and fear -- because they have nothing else left they can use.

Also, look at the villains today. In the past, they weren't villains so much as the hero's nemesis. You had the cat chasing the mouse, the dog chasing the cat, the hunter hunting the rabbit. Today, the villains you get are these lame James Bond villains who want to take over the world and usually display all the traits of liberal boogeymen.

The whole world of cartoons has been destroyed.

Ed said...

Joel and Andrew, That's an excellent point. I hadn't even noticed that the villains have changed, but they have. They've become both more life-like and yet more fantastic. Cartoons really have been transformed haven't they?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, They really have. Cartoons today bear little relation to cartoons in the past story-wise, character-wise, or even animation-wise.

On the one hand, that stinks. On the other, I think it creates a huge market opportunity for a film company looking to make genuine cartoon-cartoons. Your only competitor would be the classics.

CrispyRice said...

LOVE this movie! It's on my annual watch list. :D It is so clever on so many levels. And it never gets old.

I'm also amazed at how much CGI I can see and roll my eyes at how bad it looks, but in Roger Rabbit, it looks so perfectly connected. I CAN believe these cartoons inhabit the same space as the humans.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, I agree. CGI just looks wrong. It looks like a cartoon. But the characters in Roger Rabbit really feel real. They seem like they are actually there. It's so incredibly well done!

I agree too about this film working on so many levels. Kids can enjoy the sheer fun of it. But then you also get a more complex story, with hilarious undertones and well hidden innuendo. Half the jokes feel like they could be taken on several levels and sometimes you don't even get the full joke until you think about it later. It really is an impressive piece of writing.

If anyone hasn't seen this, they really should.

Doc Whoa said...

Great review as usual! I love this film. I saw in theaters when it first came out and it didn't disappoint. And it's absolutely held up over time.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Doc! I agree, this one has absolutely stood the test of time. It's definitely a great comedy.

Ed said...

Andrew, What other comedies would you consider great?

Tam said...

My kid watches the old looney toons and laughs/snorts. We accidentally watched the new looney toons show that comes on afterwards and it was like a really bad daffy duck/bugs bunny episode of Friends. Awful. Even worse than the new Scooby Doo. The kid was confused and I have since forbidden it.

Maybe I'll get Roger Rabbit to cleanse my cartoon palate.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, This is off the cuff -- I haven't put together a list or anything. But I would say the following should be on the list:

Ghostbusters
Night At The Opera
Airplane
Trading Places

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

I would add

Arsenic and Old Lace
My Cousin Vinny
Men In Black I and II

to that list.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, Roger Rabbit is definitely an excellent palate cleaner! :-)

I am a big Scooby Doo fan and I've just been so disappointed by the new one. It's confused, angry and sexual. What happened to just being friends and solving mysteries? Why do we need love triangles?

I haven't see the new Looney Toons show, but I've seen the ads. There's something strange about it (just based on the ads) which I haven't been able to put my finger on. Hearing that it's like Friends would explain a lot.

In terms of restricting kids to older television, I'm actually hearing that a lot these days from parents who all say that there is little on regular television that they trust as entertainment for their kids. On the one hand, that speaks volumes about the state of our culture today. On the other, it also tells me that there are a lot of good/involved parents out there.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Good call. I should have thought about those too. Believe it or not, I only first saw Arsenic and Old Lace a couple years ago. I had no idea what to expect and it was hilarious!

My Cousin Vinny actually includes some of my favorite court room scenes! I rewatch that whenever it's on television.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: They tried to outdo Roger Rabbit a few years later with Cool World starring up-and-coming heartthrob Brad Pitt. I agree with everything you said was right about Roger Rabbit. Go to Cool World to find the same recipe and find out how they got it all wrong.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Great point! I thought about mentioning that in the review, but I didn't because this one was already running kind of long. Cool World looks like it has everyone.... on paper. But the execution was just horrible and the movie never once clicked. I think the biggest difference was that whereas Roger Rabbit has real heart and you love the characters, Cool World tried to be ultra hip and you ended up not liking anyone.

ScottDS said...

I love love love this movie and it belongs on my "Man, why didn't I think of that?" list. (I must read the original novel one day.) I don't even recall when I first saw it but I remember the theatrical shorts, one of which is more or less the opening Maroon cartoon from this film.

Only when the film was released on DVD (in 2003 I think ) did I watch it and get so much more out of it. The cartoon stuff is great but, as a 10-year old, how much of the freeway plot did I understand?

On the audio commentary, one of the writers (and man, is this a great script or what!?) mentions that, had there been a second Chinatown sequel after The Two Jakes, it would've basically told this story about corruption with freeways and the LA streetcar system.

In addition to the FX and animation (which was mostly done in the UK), the practical effects also deserve praise. Any object handled by an animated character had to be somehow programmed or puppeteered.

Re: Toon Platoon - in addition to CGI, the other reason why this will most likely never get made is money. And I doubt we'll get Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on screen at the same time ever again.

I've never seen Cool World but Space Jam was just a feature-length commercial (though, as a 13-year old, I kinda liked it) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action might be Joe Dante's worst film. I read an interview with him where he admitted the studio gave him no freedom and that the film is completely different than what he originally set out to make.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

This is one of those films that I wish I had written as well. It really is one of those that just makes you think, "wow, how could I never have thought about this before it came out?!" I think that is usually a sign of something very, very special.

I could see this as a sequel to something like the Two Jakes or Chinatown. It really is a competent, adult plot. They've basically taken a real film and just made it funny.

In terms of effect, I was actually lumping practical effects and animation together. The animation in this is excellent, but it's the real world effects that make it real.

Space Jam is the idea of Roger Rabbit twisted into a cynical marketing vehicle.

Cool World just never worked. You can see where it should have worked on paper, but it just fell flat all around and was very depressing.

What would you add to the favorite comedy films above?

ScottDS said...

Great comedies? Hmm, let's see...

-Animal Crackers
-Duck Soup
-Animal House
-The Blues Brothers
-His Girl Friday (incidentally, I also loved Arsenic and Old Lace but I HATED Bringing Up Baby)
-Blazing Saddles
-Young Frankenstein
-Dr. Strangelove
-The Nutty Professor (original)
-The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
-The Producers (original)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Good list. I have to say though that I am not a fan of The Producers. Not sure why, but it never took with me.

Blues Brothers! How could I forget that! :-)

The Naked Gun was good too, though I have to say I get a bigger kick out of the television series. That was a great show... all six episodes!

ScottDS said...

I have to say though that I am not a fan of The Producers. Not sure why, but it never took with me.

[Sigh] You gentiles. :-) (Just kidding! I know that has nothing to do with it.)

I also enjoy Police Squad and I'm glad it was released on DVD a handful of years ago. When it aired, it was up against Fame and Magnum PI... which is probably why it was cancelled. If you want to see something cool, check this out.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Wow! I'd never seen that before. They must have known what they were. . .uh, borrowing? Or do you think the writers never told anyone?

On the show being canceled, I was always under the impression it was just a summer replacement -- at least, that's when I remember it being on television. There were lots of those back then and they never ran more than 5-6 episodes before the networks moved on.

I also never knew The Producers was a Jewish thing?! LOL!

ScottDS said...

Of course they knew. The show was a parody of M Squad just like Airplane! was a parody of Zero Hour.

What I did NOT know was just how similar it was! The Airplane! DVD has some side-by-side comparisons and in fact the filmmakers bought the rights to Zero Hour, technically making Airplane! a remake.

But Police Squad!... I had no idea (re: narration, camera angles, etc.).

Mike Kriskey said...

I found myself nodding along while reading this, Andrew. Especially your point about the stunt casting of celebrities in animated movies. It's always distracting to me.

This Is Spinal Tap is one of the great comedies, and if you buy the DVD, you get the actor's commentaries in character, which is like two movies for the price of one.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I had no idea how similar it was either. I mean, it's not like it's that complex of a scene, so taking the dialog literally verbatim is pretty strange.

I've never seen Zero Hour, but Airplane also does a fair job of parodying the various Airport movies.... which aren't all that bad actually.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Mike!

Yeah, that bothers me a lot. There's no point to filling the cast list with celebrities except as a stunt (as you put it) and it totally distracts from the film for me when I can see the actor reading the part in my head rather than seeing the character on screen as a whole being.

To this day I've never seen Roger Rabbit's voice and I have no desire to because I like seeing the character as real. You really can't do that when you start hearing Pitt or Clooney or someone else famous. And sometimes they make it even worse by drawing the character in a way to give it similar traits to the actor. That completely destroys the illusion for me.

ScottDS said...

The actor who voices Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer) shows up in movies now and then. He has two roles in Back to the Future Part II which Zemeckis did right after this film.

He's the old guy in 2015 who wants to "put some money on the Cubbies!" and Biff's mechanic in 1955. Presumably they're the same person.

(I hope I didn't ruin it for you!)

Re: comedies... I can't believe I forgot Spinal Tap!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Nope, didn't ruin it for me because I don't remember what he looks like and I will punch myself in the brain before I watch BTTF again! :-)

You know what was funny, speaking of voice parts. There were millions of people who had no idea what Charlie of Charlie's Angels looked like. That really seems oblivious to me, but people apparently didn't know.

ScottDS said...

I assume you mean you'll never watch BTTF Part II again. :-)

I don't want to start anything here (too late!) but all I'll say is that I find it quite fascinating and underrated as far as time-travel tales (and sequels) go. The second act is like a modern day It's a Wonderful Life.

But it's not perfect and even Zemeckis wishes he could've worked on it a little more (he was shooting III and editing/mixing II at the same time).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Ironically, I actually like Part 2 better than Part 3.

BevfromNYC said...

Though it may have been changed, when the movie originally ran, Kathleen
Turner did not have any screen credit for the voice of Jessica Rabbit. Don't know why.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I didn't know that. She has the perfect voice though for Jessica Rabbit.

Mike Kriskey said...

And that's the reason she's not an example of stunt casting. They used her because she had the perfect voice, not because she was Kathleen Turner.

AndrewPrice said...

True Mike! In fact, her voice is so perfect for the part that I can't think of anyone who could replace her. Her voice has basically become iconic in this role.

And I cringe when I think of who they would have gotten for the voice today! Ellen Page? Blake Lively? Megan Fox? Uggggh.

Not to mention that Seth Rogen would have been cast as Roger Rabbit. It would have been a tragedy.

ScottDS said...

To go back to the Airplane! stuff for a moment, I watched all the Airport movies for the first time a couple years ago. If I recall, Airplane! parodies more material from the second film. That's where the guitar-playing nun comes from.

Airport is actually a really good film, but I wanted to kill the old lady (Mrs. Quonset?) who stowed away on the plane. The second one is just fun schlock. (Karen Black could play a certain Minnesota politician, IMHO.)

The third film... more fun schlock! I kept asking myself, "What's Jimmy Stewart doing in this?!" And the fourth... when you're biggest names are Charo and J.J. Walker, well... :-)

Re: Kathleen Turner, I have no idea why she isn't credited. Amy Irving performs the singing voice.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, They do get kind of campy, especially by the time you get the small plane crashing into the cockpit of the larger one. If I remember correctly, they needed Charlton Heston to save them.

And yeah, when Charo is your biggest name, you've got problems.... or an episode of Love Boat!

I have no idea why Turner wouldn't have been credited, unless they were trying to keep her name secret or they had a contract dispute?
But the first one was a good movie, I enjoyed it a lot.

T-Rav said...

Wait, Roger Rabbit wasn't an actual cartoon character before this movie? Or Jessica Rabbit? I would've sworn up and down they were, and I'm not kidding. I guess you're right--this was a very convincing movie, in addition to being a very good one. Great review, Andrew!

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Thanks!

Nope, they first appeared in this film (though there apparently was a novel). But they are so well done that they really feel like they were created a long time ago and this was just the latest incarnation. Fascinating, isn't it?

T-Rav said...

Andrew, like everyone else here, I really like this movie and generally watch it whenever it's on TV. I hadn't really thought about its strengths much, but there's clearly a very endearing quality to it.

Since you brought it up, what do you think of the Pixar movies? I only ask because of the series BH ran a few months ago praising their stories and the animation in them.

ScottDS said...

The novel is by Gary Wolf and was published in the early 80s. I don't believe the plot of the film has much to do with the plot of the novel but there are similarities in characters. I think a sequel novel was published later but I don't know what it's about.

It would probably make an interesting read today, now that the film is considered a classic. The novel itself is out of print and most likely has been for years.

In other Disney news, the studio has cancelled their latest Johnny Depp/Jerry Bruckheimer film, a remake of The Lone Ranger. According to the article I read literally five minutes ago, the price had skyrocketed to, wait for it, $250 million. For this film?!?! What the f---? I understand Depp and Co. command high salaries but how much money could this film possibly cost?!

P.S. Andrew, I have reason to believe a complete remastered CD of John Barry's score for The Black Hole is going to be released by the end of the month. I'll let you know when. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, On Pixar, I am of two minds.

On the one hand, I generally enjoy their films. I think they are well assembled, with some nice (if very commercial) images. The stories are generally good and they are packed with conservative principles. There is even a moment or two of brilliance in each one.

On the other hand, I find them dull and lifeless. I find the characters to be too formulaic, and the storylines to be kitch and shallow. They feel workmanlike and commercial rather than artful.

I also think they are exactly what has gone wrong with the cartoon world -- adults have invaded it and it's lost its innocence. The stories are far too serious, they are full of adult angst and themes rather than the more child-like stories of older cartoons. I also find nothing in them to be "fun," nor have I ever really found myself laughing at them -- just smirking.

There are some moments that are great (typically the sadder moments), but by and large, I find them forgettable. And if this was all kids had in the way of animation then I would feel pretty sad for kids because these really feel more like they are aimed at what adults want kids to like rather than what kids actually like.

What about you?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's ridiculous. You could do that film for the cost of the camera crew, the celluloid, and the rental on the horse. $250 million is obscene.

On the novel, that's too bad that it's out of print. I'd be curious to read it too. I'm actually finding that a lot lately, that I'm running across films based on books that are no longer in print.

As an interesting aside, I actually got my hands on the book on which Breaker Morant is based (Scapegoats of the Empire by George Witten) because a friend of a friend knew someone who found a copy in an ancient library in Australia and bought it for me. :-)

Cool... I'm glad your sources have alerted you to the John Barry release. I will definitely buy it when it becomes available.

ScottDS said...

My source is simply a post on a message board by the guy who runs the record company: "If all goes according to plan, one Disney/Intrada co-branded release that is completely remixed, expanded to completeness, and sucks." I believe "sucks" is the key word here. :-)

An ancient library in Australia? Wow! I got my hands on the Barry Lyndon soundtrack because a fellow film score fan happened to find a copy in his local record store in the UK and we made a deal.

Amazon has used copies of Wolf's book going for $19.99 and the Kindle version for just a couple of bucks.

AndrewPrice said...

It's amazing how the world works these days, isn't it? A small world indeed.

A Kindle version... awesome. I think it's time for a buy. :) I'm amazed that more old books aren't put on Kindle. It's basically free to do it.

Sucks? That's encouraging.

Koshcat said...

Your review is nearly perfect. I wouldn't change a thing.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

Breaker Morant is a great movie. It is on NetFlix.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Koshkat! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, It's one of my favorite films. It's got so much going for it. Great court room scenes, great sense of history, an interesting glimpse into a war we know little about (the first modern war actually), fascinating parallels to today, great acting, great writing, and it's just an excellent drama.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, Andrew!

I must have seen this film dozens of times after it came out on VHS.
My daughters loved it so much they would've watched it all day eveyday if I didn't remind them there was other flicks out there, lol.

Although very few flicks, relatively speaking are perfect or near perfect like WFRR.

I sure can't think of a way to make this film better. Ecept maybe to make it longer, but that's a complaint I have with every film that's this good.
It's so much fun you don't want it to end.

There haven't been many memorable toons since WWRR and the Looney Toon world that inspired it.

I could say that Batman was good, and it was, but it's not cartoony.
To borrow your phrase, Andrew, it's an animated movie more geared for adults and teens set in a fictional yet still realistic world.

I enjoyed the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z series a lot.
These were much funnier than Batman or X-men, but again, other than the powers of some of the characters and some of the creatures they faced one could hardly call them looney, to coin a phrase.

The only one that comes to mind is Pinky and the Brain.
Funny AND looney in the Coyote and Roadrunner vein (the Coyote being Brain and the Roadrunner being The World. Pinky was just along for the ride and to say "narf" and "poit" and other funny and odd things).

Still, it could be argued that Pinky and the Brain ain't quite as edgy as Looney Toons or WWRR?.
Not quite but it still counts as a toon, IMO.

Other than that I have bupkis.
So, until some enterprising and bright folks decide to create more real toons I reckon I'll have to watch WWRR? and Looney Toon reruns.
Thankfully, WWRR? and Looney Toons never gets old.

Another thing about Looney Toons I liked is the culture it teaches in glorious loony fashion.

Opera, classical music, dance, acting, singing; all the arts...high arts...looney arts, all are there just waitin' for some young minds to mold without preachin' propaganda and agitprop to them.

Good, clean fun that's deeper than most "serious" films.
And besides being great entertainment, Looney Toons and WWRR? teaches kids (and adults) that being creative is possible.

Gimli said...

BoilerRoomElf:

You won't see dwarves forming unions. We know the value of profit! Guffaw!

AndrewPrice said...

Gimli, the Boiler Room Elves are very much into profit... trust me. The union thing is just a front.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Thanks!

There really is a dearth of "cartoons" these days. There are many that I enjoy -- like the Batman series, but they aren't cartoons. As you described it, they are animated adult stories taking place in fictionalized worlds, aimed at teens and adults. I like Catwoman in particular, by the way... Gina Gershon does the voice and the character I think is really well done.

I love Pinkey and the Brain, and it's got elements of both the more modern style and some of the old style. But after that, it gets really hard to find much in the past decade or so.

As an aside, if you want an interesting comparison, look at Bullwinkle. That's a cartoon that did real adult parody in the 1960s, yet it still remained 100% a child's story as well. That's what's missing so much these days -- they get the adult part, but they miss the child aspect.

USArtguy said...

Interestingly Andrew, I cannot disagree with any of your individual comments. On the other hand, I saw this movie when it was new on the big screen and left the theater feeling disappointed (ducking as cartoon dish ware is flung in my direction). I haven't seen the movie since and can't put my finger on 'why' I felt that way at the time. I read the book "Who Censored Roger Rabbit" when it was new and at the library. Perhaps I expected the movie to follow it more closely. I've also loved cartoons all my life and the movie didn't affect me the same way.

Now it's been well over 20 years, and one thing I've learned is that some things I wasn't crazy about then, I really like when I revisit them years later. This is often the case with music, but sometimes other media as well. In fact, I couldn't begin to tell you what's in the book any more. My memory is too fuzzy. I guess it's time to rent it and "see it again for the first time"

According to this, the book and the movie don't have a whole lot in common and the second book was actually written as a sequel to the movie.

BTW, I loved Police Squad too.

AndrewPrice said...

USArtguy, Tastes differ and this may just not have been to your taste. That's always possible and that's why it is ultimately very subjective to say a piece of art is "great" because different people may see it differently.

In terms of things changing over time, I run into that all the time. I actually run into it the other way more often though -- with things I used to think were great not holding up to the test of time. But I have also run into several things that I didn't like when I was younger that I now like a lot. I guess that's all part of growing up and experiencing different things?

I also think that advances often have a lot to do with it. For example, something like a film might seem great because it's so high tech and futuristic... and then the world moves beyond the film and it feels dated and nowhere near as prophetic or forward looking as it once did.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, sorry for the delay, but I've had a busy weekend, so I've had to catch up to these posts whenever I have a little time.

Personally, I've enjoyed all the Pixar films that I've seen. I like their messages, which as you say are more conservative than not, and their ability to tell a story. I guess there is that criticism to be made that they're not really aimed at children themselves, which is probably more true of the later movies than early ones like "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life." But then again, I'm not sure they were ever meant to be aimed mainly at children. I get the sense they were designed as broader "family movies," stuff parents and their children can watch together and both enjoy. That's not to say the older animated films like Roger Rabbit can't appeal to the whole family, only that Pixar seems to be trying to get adults to think while also entertaining children. Which it's had quite a bit of success with. That's my take.

tryanmax said...

I agree, this film is the apex of live-action/animation interaction. The only thing I would change--and this is super nit-picky--are some of the mixed effects involving Christopher Lloyd's character.

Particularly, I'd lose the appendage that changes into various weapons. The concept seemed a little anachronistic when dealing with toons that were supposed to be of the 1930s. The scene took place in a warehouse full of toon props, many of which would be lethal to a human anyway. Lloyd could have just as well been scurrying about, rummaging through boxes while his disguise gives way, and displaying toon-like agility and mania in the process. Just a thought.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I would agree with that. That is a moment where the it feels like the animation lets the film down. I think your solution would have been more elegant.

tservo2049 said...

I love this movie, but the Red Car angle irks me just a teeny tiny bit. This whole idea that the postwar rise of the automobile was forced on us solely by a car/oil/tire company conspiracy to dismantle the streetcar systems, with absolutely no market forces at work -- it just feels too much like a letist propaganda argument against personal automobiles, freeways, and suburban culture.

I looked into how the streetcar conspiracy entered the public consciousness, and I don't think it's a coincidence that it was "uncovered" in part by a study group set up by anti-car zealot Ralph Nader, or that most of the people who have propagated this story have an agenda against personal transportation: http://www.baycrossings.com/Archives/2003/03_April/paving_the_way_for_buses_the_great_gm_streetcar_conspiracy.htm

It just seems too convenient. "Postwar car culture wasn't about independence and freedom of movement, the rise of the suburbs wasn't about people seeking safety and security, it was all a corporate conspiracy to rob us of our wonderful centralized, subsidized urban public transit systems!"

And if it was all a sham, then leftists aren't *imposing* public transit villages and anti-suburban policies on us, they're just setting the country back on the correct course that the evil corporations forced us away from. "Freedom is slavery."

tservo2049 said...

And after that long-winded diatribe, I will repeat: Other than that, I LOVE this movie. One of my all-time favorites.

AndrewPrice said...

Welcome Mr. Tom Servo! LOL! MST3k... great show!

I agree with you about the streetcar conspiracy. It sounds like leftist propaganda to me and not reality. Fortunately, I don't think anyone takes this film that seriously that they actually view this as being any way historical. Still, it is never good when leftist propaganda gets jammed into the popular culture.

But even considering that, I do love this movie. :)

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