Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit

US live-action/Animated Movie (1988). Warner/Touchstone/Amblin. Pr Frank Marshall, Robert Watts. Dir Robert Zemeckis. Spfx Industrial Light & Magic. Anim dir Richard Williams. Screenplay Jeffrey Price, Peter S Seaman. Based on Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (1981) by Gary K Wolf. Novelization Who Framed Roger Rabbit * (1988) by Martin Noble (1947-    ). Starring Joanna Cassidy (Dolores), Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant), Stubby Kaye (Marvin Acme), Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom), Alan Tilvern (R K Maroon). Voice actors Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Porky Pig/Sylvester/Tweety Bird), Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit/Benny the Cab/Greasy/Psycho), Lou Hirsch (Baby Herman), Amy Irving (Jessica Rabbit's singing voice), Kathleen Turner (uncredited; Jessica Rabbit's speaking voice), Richard Williams (Droopy Dog). 103 mins. Colour.

Private eye Valiant has turned to drink since the murder of his brother by a Toon – one of the animated characters who co-exist with humans in 1947 Tinseltown. Another Toon, Roger Rabbit – co-star in Maroon Cartoons' Baby Herman series of animated shorts – is fluffing his lines because concerned his wife Jessica has become involved with the owner of Toontown, Marvin Acme. Valiant, a confirmed Toon-hater, reluctantly accepts from studio boss R K Maroon the commission to dog Jessica and capture her indiscretions on film, thereby hopefully shocking Roger out of his anxiety. Valiant takes the photographs, but then Acme is murdered and Roger is chief suspect. Judge Doom, sadistic arbiter of all matters Toonish, pronounces Roger guilty without trial and declares the rabbit will be, on apprehension, dissolved in a fluid called The Dip. More devious crookery is afoot: Acme's will – reportedly leaving Toontown to the Toons – has gone missing. Valiant is informed by girlfriend Dolores that a combine called Cloverleaf Industries is buying up everything in the hope of turning Los Angeles into a freeway-dominated waste; if Acme's will is not found by midnight, Toontown too will fall to Cloverleaf. Aided by a sentient taxi (Benny the Cab), Valiant pursues Jessica into Toontown where he encounters a cornucopia of historical animated characters – Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Droopy Dog (voiced by Richard Williams) etc. – and is shot at by Judge Doom, revealed as the true villain behind Cloverleaf. Captured by Doom and his weasel/bent-cop sycophants the Toon Patrol, Valiant and Jessica prepare for death. Doom's plan is mass murder – to spray Toontown with The Dip, erasing it from the face of the Earth. Valiant uses Trickster means to sabotage this plot and save Toontown and our heroes.

WFRR is a landmark in the history of the Animated Movie – a glance at the credits list above is evidence of that – and may even be regarded as a culmination of the second phase of that genre (if the first is taken as having ended with the integration of colour and sound). The interaction between live and animated characters is masterfully handled; Williams's team, using largely traditional animation techniques, achieved an effect so commonplace in live-action movies as usually to go unnoticed, but rare in animated movies, that of allowing the camera to roam rather than be fixed, and thus the principal animated characters have a realism and solidity to match their live counterparts. But technical considerations should not outdazzle the fact that WFRR is among the Cinema's most significant achievements in the sphere of fantasy. The heart of this Instauration Fantasy is an exploration of the relationship between two worlds, one based firmly in Reality (the mundane events in the movie are based on a genuine 1940s corruption scandal) and the other belonging to Myth and Magic: we can make a direct analogy, reading the Toons as Fairies in Technofantasy guise (and, by definition, capable of such fairy-like feats as Shapeshifting), between the plot of WFRR (beneath its convoluted, Chandleresque surface story) and the situations depicted in classic Fairytales. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.