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P-p-p-please say it isn't so! Roger Rabbit sequel is stalled, or so says veteran Disney producer Don Hahn

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P-p-p-please say it isn't so! Roger Rabbit sequel is stalled, or so says veteran Disney producer Don Hahn

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Let's get the bad news out of the way first. We probably won't be returning to Toontown anytime soon.

During the  Q & A portion of a panel celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit? ," a San Diego Comic-Con attendee asked if the rumors online were true. That there was in fact a sequel to this Robert Zemeckis movie in the works.

Cover of proposed Roger Rabbit prequel script, "Toon Platoon."
Which was originally submitted for consideration back on May
22, 1989. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Veteran Disney producer Don Hahn (who served as the moderator of this panel) broke the bad news as gently as he possibly could. After first marveling at the fact that it had actually been a quarter of a century since this Academy Award-winner had first been out in theaters, Don then admitted that ...

There have been scripts (for 'Roger Rabbit' sequels & prequels) floating around for the past 25 years. There's none actively in discussion right now.

Hahn (who served as the associate producer of this Touchstone Pictures / Amblin' Entertainment) then went on to explain why it would probably be next to impossible these days to replicate the conditions that the first "Roger Rabbit" film was produced under.

Don Hahn (standing at podium) looks over the participants at his panel
celebrating the 25th anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
theatrical release. Photo by Jim Hill

... you (wouldn't)  want to make this movie again without Robert Zemeckis, without Charlie (Fleischer, the voice of Roger Rabbit), without Steven Spielberg, without these gentlemen ...

Hahn then gestured to the other distinguished members who made up San Diego Comic-Con's "Roger Rabbit" panel: Visual effects wizard Dave Bossert and master animators James Baxter, Andreas Deja, Nik Ranieri and Tom Sito. Then Don got somewhat philosophical.

I think that -- in this day of multiple sequels -- that it's nice to have a movie that may possibly be just a one-off.

Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin'
Entertainment. All rights reserved

But in spite of that downer of an ending for this panel, there were still  lots of great behind-the-scenes stories shared at this 25th anniversary celebration of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Take -- for example -- the details of that deal Steven Spielberg worked out with Steve Ross, the then-Chairman of Time Warner, for the rights to use the Warner Bros. characters in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" According to the original terms of this deal, only eight Warner Bros. characters were originally supposed to appear in this motion picture. These characters were:

  • Bugs Bunny
  • Daffy Duck 
  • Yosemite Sam
  • Tweety Bird
  • Foghorn Leghorn
  • Sylvester the Cat
  • Porky Pig
  • Elmer Fudd

Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin' Entertainment. All rights reserved

But as soon as Spielberg showed Ross a work-in-progress version of this Robert Zemeckis film (More importantly, once Steve saw how great Warner Bros. animated  characters looked in this Touchstone Pictures & Amblin' Entertainment production), Ross reportedly said to Spielberg, "Wow, this movie is going to be huge. Feel free to use as many of the Warner Bros. characters as you want."

And -- to be blunt -- the animators were assigned to work on the finale of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (i.e. that moment in the movie where dozens of characters from Toontown suddenly pour into the Acme Warehouse to view the then-dipped body of Judge Doom and then wonder aloud about the true identity of this twisted toon) needed all the extra characters that they could get their hands on. Given that they then had to fill up this cavernous space with row after row of cartoon royalty.

This is why -- if you're paying close particularly attention during this part of the movie -- you'll notice that the backmost portion of the Acme Warehouse is filled with the largest Disney characters possible. We're talking the Reluctant Dragon and Dumbo's Mom. All in an effort to make life a little bit easier for the poor animators who'd been charged with filling this scene with classic cartoon characters from the dawn of Hollywood right up to the mid-to-late 1940s.

Check Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner and Speedy Gonzalez in the left-hand corner of
the above image. Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin' Entertainment.
All rights reserved

Speaking of which ... It's always rubbed a few toon history buffs the wrong way that the Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote make a quick cameo appearance inside of the Acme Warehouse during this film's finale. "And what's the problem with these two Warner Bros. characters popping up in this portion of 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,' " you ask. Well, if this Steven Spielberg production is supposedly set in the Hollywood of 1947 and the first Road Runner & Coyote cartoon (i.e., "The Fast and Furry-ous." Which was directed by Chuck Jones) wasn't released to theaters 'til September of 1949, then what are those characters doing in Toontown?

There are actual two explanations to this cartoon conundrum. One is that Richard Williams -- the director of animation on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" -- was / is a huge fan of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. He wanted those Warner Bros. characters to pop up somewhere in this movie. Which is why Wile E. & the Road Runner wound up in the Acme Warehouse towards the end of this movie.

The other explanation will no doubt appeal to all you toons-are-real fans out there. In this version of reality, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote were already living in Toontown in 1947. They just hadn't been discovered by the powers-that-be in Hollywood yet so they hadn't made their first cartoon for Warner Bros. Studios.

Copyright 1988 Touchstone Pictures / Amblin' Entertainment. All rights reserved

And just in case you're wondering: This animated rationalization also explains why the penguins from Disney's "Mary Poppins " who (in the period of Hollywood history covered by "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?") are working as waiters at the Ink & Paint Club. These poor flightless marine birds will have to wait another 15 years before the talent scouts at Disney finally discover them and then have these penguins dance with Dick Van Dyke in the big screen version of P.L. Travers' book.

Anyway ... That's just a few of the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" -related stories that were shared at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this month. I promise to share even more of these rabbit tails ... tales once I finally get caught up on my Comic-Con coverage.

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  • Another reason why no sequel is that today's kids aren't as familiar with the classic cartoon characters.  When I grew up, we still watched classic Mickey Mouse shorts, and WB stuff . . . because it was all in reruns decades later!  Nowadays, with CGI, it seems that it is easier to come up with new cartoons of all types.  Remember when the Simpsons was a big deal and everybody would wait to see the new episode?  Now we've got a ton of stuff, a lot of it I haven't even had the time to see.  Family Guy, etc . . .

    Then there's the issue of CGI characters . . . where would Buzz Lightyear and Wall-E fit?  Kids would wonder where they are, and they, and others, would have to be put into the movie.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love a Roger Rabbit 2 . . . but I doubt they'll ever do it.  If they do it, it would probably be a reboot, and without all the famous non-Disney toons . . .

  • I think Mr. Hahn was just lying to try and get people to stop bugging him about it.

  • Do enough people really want a sequel?  The movie was a big novelty back in the day, but if you watch it now, it doesn't hold up well.

  • Jim how does the movie not hold up well?

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