Released 35 years ago today, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was originally too intense and scary
The original version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit would have traumatised an entire generation of kids. And probably adults, too.
Released in cinemas on 22 June 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit has remained something of an anomaly in Hollywood, perfectly mixing animation with live action in a very entertaining way (sorry, Space Jam fans), while keeping its jokes perfectly spread out to be enjoyed by both the kids and the adults in the audience.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis - who was coming in hot from the success of Romancing The Stone and Back To The Future - and with Steven Spielberg on production duties, the $50 million production went on to make over $351 million at the box office, win three Oscars and an additional Special Achievement Award at that year's Academy Awards, and is still sitting pretty with 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But while the finished product feels like it is as close to perfect as this movie could get, it was a long, complicated journey to get there. Not only because of the winding road it took during production, but also on the story's actual origins, which were... well, much less family friendly.
The story of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is actually based on a 1981 novel titled Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, by author Gary K. Wolf. In that murder mystery, Roger Rabbit is actually killed close to the start of the story, and private eye Eddie Valiant looks into his murder by interviewing his estranged widow Jessica Rabbit and his former co-star Baby Herman.
Set in the 1980s, the world of real-life humans and animated characters co-existing is still there, and the character names are the same, but pretty much everything else has been changed for the movie.
During production, Disney managed to get permission to use animated characters from most of the major production houses, but some characters that Disney requested and didn't get permission to include Tom & Jerry, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Popeye.
Once Zemeckis and Spielberg had settled on the more family-friendly approach to the story, they began casting the roles. Harrison Ford was the first choice for Eddie Valiant, but reportedly, his price was too high. Chevy Chase was offered next, but didn't like the part. Bill Murray was offered the part, but due to how he operates - all offers are sent to the now infamous Bill Murray answering machine - he missed the message and didn't get the part.
Eddie Murphy also turned the part down, which has since publicly admitted to massively regretting. Just about every major star in Hollywood at the time - including Robin Williams, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Ed Harris - was considered for the role, but Spielberg picked out Bob Hoskins, believing him to look the part of a 1940s detective.
Tim Curry auditioned for the role of Judge Doom, but Zemeckis and Spielberg turned him down because they considered his performance to be TOO scary. John Cleese also was considered for the villainous role, but was considered not scary enough. Eventually, Zemeckis and Spielberg turned to Christopher Lloyd, who they had previously worked with on Back To The Future.
It was also revealed, in an earlier version of the script, that it was Judge Doom who had killed Bambi's mother. It also ended with Roger being shot to death in the climactic crossfire, before it all ends with an original song by Sting, titled "The Lazarus Heart". See? Who would bring their kids to see THAT movie??
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is available to watch on Disney+ right now.
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