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Storyboards reveal what Marvin Acme's funeral in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" would have looked like

Jim Hill

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Storyboards reveal what Marvin Acme's funeral in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" would have looked like

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So when your winter cold (which wouldn't let go) becomes a spring cold (that just won't go away) suddenly mutates into the Black Plague ... Well, it's then finally time to do something.

That -- in a nutshell -- is what happened here at JHM. Nancy and I have been trading the same cold back & forth since late February / early March. And in the middle of a work week that featured some pretty amazing professional opportunities (i.e., being allowed to cover this year's Actors Fund Gala, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Disney on Broadway. An early press screening of Disney "Million Dollar Arm." Not to mention the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train media event down at Walt Disney World), we both went from feeling just tired & run-down to becoming really, really sick.

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And given that JimHillMedia is basically a two person shop, if we were both really finally going to get on top of this respiratory-related ailment (which -- I'm just being honest here -- hasn't been helped by pollen season), it was now time to step away from the site for a few days and just concentrate on getting healthy.

So that's what happened around here last week / earlier this week. I'm sorry that this site's content went for days without being updated. But as they say "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." And toward the end of last week, Nancy & I were both seriously over-drawn at the health bank.

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At this point, I'm about 80 - 90% back. Which is why I'm now trying to get JHM back up to speed. Whereas poor Nancy currently sounds like a harbor seal with a head cold. And if her barking cough isn't sounding any better by this afternoon ... Well, it's back to the doctor we go.

You want to know the toughest part of just shutting down for a while? The stories that slip through your fingers. Take -- for example -- what happened last week when Bob Hoskins died.

Bob Hoskins & Cheryl Crawford in
"Pennies from Heaven."

Given that I'm a short, round bald guy who's a bit rough around the edges, it probably won't surprise you to hear that I was (and still am) a huge Bob Hoskins fan. From the very moment he first burst on the scene back in 1978 as sheet music salesman Arthur Parker in the TV mini-series version of "Pennies from Heaven," it was clear that there was something special about this performer. Even when he portrayed vicious gangsters in films like "The Long Good Friday," "Mona Lisa," and "The Cotton Club," there was still something decent & very relatable about Bob's portrayal of these characters. Hoskins had a real gift when it came to playing tough guys with soft centers.

Which bring us to Eddie Valiant, the down-on-his-luck private dick that Bob played in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." When you think of all the then-A-list actors that Steven Spielberg & Robert Zemeckis reportedly pursued to come play this part (EX: Harrison Ford, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy -- to name just a few), we are just so lucky that Hoskins ultimately won this role. Because Bob brought so much reality & humanity to Eddie, a role that -- in the wrong hands -- could have really been just a cartoon.

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The next time you get the chance, sit down and watch "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and watch how Hoskins emotionally grounds this movie. There's this great scene about 20 minutes into this motion pictures where Valiant -- as he sits alone in his office, drinking -- is looking through some photographs and is suddenly undone when Eddie comes across an image of himself, his brother Teddy and Valiant's then-girlfriend / secretary Delores cavorting at Catalina.

This is then followed by this great moment in the balcony of a movie theater that Roger & Eddie have gone to hide out in, during which Valiant recounts to the rabbit how his brother Teddy was actually killed. It's a pretty ridiculous story (SPOILER: After he robbed the First National Bank of Toontown of a zillion simoleons, Judge Doom drops a piano on this pair of private detectives from 15 stories up. Eddie winds up with just a broken arm. Whereas Teddy ... He never made it). But Hoskins' matter-of-fact retelling is so real & so raw that -- from here in on in this movie -- you then just can't help but feel for this character. Especially when Valiant tries to break things off with his Girl Friday (Eddie: Dolores, you need to find yourself a good man. Dolores: But I already have a good man).

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It's an argument that I've been having with animation fans for nearly a quarter of a century now. Some say that "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was a hit because of all the classic cartoon characters Spielberg & Zemeckis crammed into this Touchstone Pictures release. Whereas I ... I've always pointed to Bob Hoskins' performance and said that this was the element that actually made that movie work. Without Hoskins' ability to see (More importantly, make the audience believe that Bob was seeing) things that weren't there, "Roger Rabbit" would have never worked.

But because we all bought into his version of Eddie Valiant, we rejoiced when this long-in-his-cups ex-cop finally let go of the bottle. And we were genuinely terrified for Eddie when he did battle with Judge Doom in the Acme Warehouse and then discovered that SPOILER ALERT Doom was the toon with " ... those burning red eyes, and that high, squeaky voice" who did in Teddy.

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It's Bob Hoskins' performance that -- I think -- elevates "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" from being just this clever movie which is loaded with witty, well-done animation to being a truly great film. Something that -- even today in our age of seamless interaction between CG characters & human performers -- actually holds up beautifully because Bob made the audience believe that Toontown & all of its residents were real.

But is "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" a perfect film? Not according to the guys who worked on it. Just last year, I attended this amazing panel at Comic-Con where animation veterans like Don Hahn, Dave Bossert, Nik Ranieri, James Baxter, Tom Sito & Andreas Deja talked about all the mistakes that were made over the course of production of this motion picture. How difficult it was -- for example -- to tie a hand-drawn Roger down in the live-action footage that Robert Zemeckis had shot.

Don Hahn (at podium) presides over the "Roger Rabbit" 25th
anniversary panel at last years's Comic-Con. Photo by Jim Hill

There was also a lot of talk during this Comic-Con panel about how -- because "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" 's June 21, 1988 release date had already been locked in -- there just wasn't enough time for the studio that Richard Williams had set up to do all of the animation for this motion picture. Which is why Disney quietly recruited Dale & Jane Baer (More importantly, Baer Animation Studios) to come take over the Toontown section of this movie.

But there was another aspect of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" that -- for legal reasons as well as its difficulty-to-animate aspect -- that wound up getting cut from this Amblin production. And that was Marvin Acme's funeral.

One of the only images from the storyboards for Marvin Acme's funeral that
were available online ... Until now.

Now previously here at JHM, I've shared a few pages from the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" screenplay which covered what was supposed to have happened graveside at the Acme funeral. But only this week, I've learned that the original storyboards for this cut sequence are floating around out there. Better yet, a complete set of these drawings are now up for bid on eBay.

Acme Funeral Title Card

And let me tell you, folks: The more I look at these images, I honestly wish that Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Richard Williams & Dale Baer could have found a way to make the Marvin-Acme's-funeral scene happen. Because the handful of drawings that I've seen to date suggest that this sequence could have become a real high point in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

"And why is that?," you ask. Because the storyboard artists took what Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman had originally written for this part of their "Roger Rabbit" screenplay and really expanded on the concept of animated-characters-attend-a-human-funeral idea. Turned this proposed sequence for this film into something that animation fans would have talked about for decades.

"How so?," you query. Well, this sequence starts out sticking relatively close to the screenplay. We see Eddie arrive at the graveyard at Inglewood. And as Valiant moves through the long column of cars that are parked near Acme's gravesite, the private detective notices R.K. Maroon exit a long black limo.

Now in the upper right-hand corner of the above drawing, you may notice an annotation which reads "Toons unload casket." Well, wait 'til you see the six classic toon stars who do the honors for Marvin.

Let me get you a close-up of these characters so you can better see the pallbearers.

Going clockwise from the middle, we have Bluto, Elmer Fudd, Herman the Mouse, Felix the Cat, Goofy and Popeye the Sailor. And carrying the casket from below (he's admittedly hard to see in the above image) is Yosemite Sam.

Just to clarify who's where, here's an additional couple of storyboard drawings which suggest camera moves and/or close-ups.

I just love how -- in the above shot -- Felix the Cat is fighting back tears as he helps to carry Acme's casket.

Now what really would have been great about this proposed sequence for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" wasn't just Marvin's pallbearers. But -- rather -- all of the classic cartoon characters from the 1930s & the 1940s who have turned out to pay their respects to Acme. I'm doubling back on the establishing shot to get you some close-ups. So below you'll see (going L to R) Catnip the Cat, Tom, Jerry & Andy Panda.

Next comes (Again going L to R ) Porky & Petunia Pig, Horace Horsecollar & Clarabelle Cow, Jerky Turkey, Tex Avery's wolf character and Droopy.

Next come (again L to R) Junior & George, one of Tex Avery's hound dogs, Practical Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Fifer Pig & Fiddler Pig.

Meanwhile, Goofy makes a joke about how tough it is to be a pallbearer.

Popeye makes a joke back about how "We're bearing Paul? I thought we were bearing Acme."

Bluto thinks that Popeye's comment is disrespectful. So a little graveside fisticuff breaks out.

Yosemite Sam winds up being the only toon left carrying Acme's casket. He struggles under the weight of the thing and eventually just tosses it into Marvin's open grave.

Which then cues Foghorn Leghorn to begin his sermon.

Meanwhile, from a distance, Valiant notices Maroon walking up to Jessica and then pulling her away from the service so that these two can find a more secluded  spot to talk.

Eddie follows these two into a near-by mausoleum. Where Jessica is none-too-happy to see that they've been trailed by this private dick.

Meanwhile, back out at graveside, as Foghorn Leghorn is wrapping up his sermon, who comes rising up out of the ground but Casper the Friendly Ghost. (Again going L to R) Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Baby Huey, Hippety Hopper, Dick Tracy & Tubby the Tuba all goggle the playful spirit for a second or two. But as soon as Casper says " Will you be my friend?" ...

... in a faithful recreation of that old cartoon cliche, both the toons & the humans at graveside scream " A G-G-G-G-G-G-GHOST !!" and then run off in terror

Mind you, there's a fun little button on this sequence. For -- as Eddie exits that mausoleum -- who comes motoring up but Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Humphrey Bogart & Clark Cable. Who -- now that Acme's funeral has wrapped up -- this famous foursome is heading off to play some golf.

They chit-chatted with Valiant for a few moment before heading off to the links and ...

Don't these storyboard drawings just make you wish that Marvin Acme's funeral had actually made it into the finished version of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" ? Mind it, it wasn't just time & money that tripped up this particular sequence. The way I hear it, even with Spielberg's clout, there were just some cartoon characters that the "Roger Rabbit" production team couldn't acquire the rights to. And as a direct result, gags that had been built around these characters' comic personas had to then be cut out of the picture.

By the way, the gentleman who has put this piece of film history up for bid on eBay ... Well, I don't know this guy from Adam. But he tells me that there are another 80 or so pages of drawings of classic cartoon characters that were storyboarded from this proposed "Roger Rabbit" sequence. What's more, what initially drove him to seek out and then purchase this amazing animation artifact was my August 2011 story about scenes that had been cut out of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Well, here's hoping that whoever wins this auction is a kind & generous soul. Because I'd dearly love to see what's in those other 80 drawings. To find out what other sorts of gags the "Roger Rabbit" production team dreamed up for Marvin Acme's funeral.

This is what sick & tired looks like a super-fun
Disney media event. Photo by Nancy Stadler

Anyway, here's hoping that you folks enjoyed today's story. And -- again -- my apologies for JHM being off the air for a week or so there. I'd also like to thank people like Leo N. Holzer, who stepped up to the plate when Nancy & I couldn't and got a new story or two out there. Hopefully by next week, I'll be able to resume JHM's 5-day-a-week publication schedule. Not to mention my two-a-week for the Huffington Post's Entertainment page as well as the monthly pieces that I write for Best of Orlando & Best of Vegas.

In closing, thanks for all your kind notes. It actually meant a lot to Nancy & myself that people had noticed that the site had gone dark for a few days and were concerned enough to send along e-mails and/or make phone calls just to make sure that we were both okay.

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Well, Nancy's still battling whatever this crud is. I can hear her coughing in the bedroom right now. Which means that I should probably close here & run out and get her some more medicine.

But -- again -- thanks for your patience as well as all your kind words. Hopefully from here on in, things will get back to normal here at JHM and we then won't miss any more huge Disney-related stories like the passing of gifted performers like Bob Hoskins.

Bob Hoskins (1942 - 2014)

That's it for now. You folks have a great weekend, okay?

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  • Get better you two - articles like this are why I keep coming back every day to JHM just to see if there's anything new up.

  • Yes, there are MANY great storyboard "roughs" of this scene that are pretty much unknown today.  One of my favorites is a version of the Fleisher Superman on his knees crying and he is holding in his hands a sobbing Mighty Mouse who is inconsolable .  Mighty is crying into Superman's chest as Superman pats him on the back.  The animator who worked on this scene told me exactly what you mentioned:  this particular moment was cut because they couldn't obtain the rights to the characters.

    Many similar type pairings were done up, basically there would be a pan showing toons reacting to Acme's death as Foghorn Leghorn or others talked.   Then, the animators would have used the segments where they got permission for the characters.  

    I also completely agree with you that Bob Hoskins is the true heart of the film.  It is not the story of Roger Rabbit and his being cleared of all charges.  It is the story of a good man who is broken who re-discovers that life still has meaning and that humor and song are a huge part of it.  I am truly surprised that so little attention has been given to Hoskins' passing while so many lesser actors and celebrities seem to be in the spotlight.   I truly can't imagine a Roger Rabbit sequel without "Eddie" in it.

    As others have mentioned, hope the two of you get better soon.

  • Thanks for the great article, Jim.

    Two things came to mind as I read this.

    First, I thought I read once, perhaps here, that the Marvin Acme funeral ended with a Jack-in-the-Box head popping out of the casket.  Here, you say it ended with everyone fleeing from Casper.  Is my memory correct?

    Second, your article made me wonder if the live action part of this sequence had been filmed, and also wonder if the voice actors recorded their lines.  It would be wonderful for a future release of the film to include this part, especially if everything is complete except the animation.  Do you have any knowledge about what level of production on this scene was completed?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: As for Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost "Will you be my friend?" being the end gag for Marvin Acme's funeral versus the jack-in-the-box gag (which -- I'm remembering -- the jack-in-the-box was supposed to be modeled after the Paramount Pictures / Famous Studios mascot / logo) ... I think, once again, that this was a case of preparing the filmmakers a number of options just in case that they were actually able to acquire the rights to use the Harvey characters in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." And in that case, it would then come down to which character-based gag would best serve that moment in this motion picture.

    And to my way of thinking, that jack-in-the-box gag (which -- if I'm remembering correctly -- was supposed to have been capped with a shot of Marvin's widow fainting from shock) always seemed kind of mean-spirited. Whereas this Casper gag that had been storyboarded ... That would have been a great way to transition out of this deliberately sad scene with an entirely-appropriate-for-the-cartoon-world gag.

    That's another thing that I love about "Who Framed Roger Rabbit ?" That it plays fair. The audience had already been introduced to the items that Eddie Valiant would use while he was battling Judge Doom in the Acme Warehouse (i.e., the portable hole, the mallet with the spring-loaded boxing glove inside) by the policemen in Act One who were investigating Marvin Acme's murder. Likewise it was previously established that Valiant could do comedy & tumbling thanks to the photos on Eddie's desk which showed that he & Teddy had grown up in the circus.

    Then when you factor in the whole Red Car / Cloverleaf / freeway side of this film (which actually plugs into a really-for-real piece of Southern California history) ... What I just love about "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is that -- underneath all of that great production design, period detail and amazing animation -- there's a legitimate mystery. A film noire that isn't as dark as it could be because of all of these technicolor toons that keep trooping through this tale.

  • Another ending gag that was storyboarded was the camera moving in to the casket after seeing all the toons grieving and a Tex Avery like sign on a stick popped out of the casket reading "Sad, ain't it?"

    Again, I think there is an honesty and reality in Hoskins performance that wouldn't have come from a bigger name star that "grounds" the looniness of thetoons.

  • ...Thank you SO much for writing this, there are so many things in this world we never get to see or that slip right by us- but im proud of humanity when some light is shed on the more beautiful aspects of it.. ie Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the many, many people we were enriched by who worked on this.

    And I never got to meet Bob Hoskins.. but no childhood will ever be the same without him. ;j No more sailing for him, hes at peace. one day we wont be separated by the gulf of societies class problems, far away from here..

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