… there’s this transition in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that has always bothered film buffs.
You know the scene that I’m talking about, right? It’s that moment about midway through the movie where Eddie Valiant — after he saws his way out of those handcuffs — entrusts Roger to his longtime girlfriend, Dolores. Eddie then tells Dolores that he’s going back to his office to check on something.
But the next thing we see is … Jessica Rabbit’s silhouette as she slips into the office of Valiant & Valiant. Eddie is clearly surprised to see Roger’s wife as he steps out of his bathroom, shirtless and damp. And the toon and the detective now begin to banter as …
Wait a minute … Judge Doom and his weasels are hot on Roger’s trail. It’s literally life-or-death time for this Hollywood hare. But Eddie choses this exact moment to go and take a shower. Does that make sense to you?
Well, there’s a reason that it doesn’t. In Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman‘s original screenplay for this Robert Zemeckis film, an entire day went by between the time Eddie exited the Terminal Bar & Grill and the moment that Valiant encountered Jessica Rabbit as he stepped out of his office bathroom.
Wanna know what this hardboiled detective was originally supposed to be doing during those missing 24 hours?
“Who Shot Roger Rabbit” – 1986 Screenplay
Well, what follows is an excerpt from Price & Seaman’s September 1986 screenplay. Which was then titled “Who Shot Roger Rabbit.”
The way that Jeffrey & Peter saw the action playing out … After Eddie left Roger with Dolores, the detective climbed aboard a Red Car. Which then took him to …
EXT. FOREST LAWN CEMETERY – RED CAR STOP – DAY
A Red Car pulls up. Valiant climbs off. He calmly crosses the street and ducks behind the cemetery entranceway as Maroon’s Packard ROARS through.
VALIANT:(impressed) Love that Red Car.
As Valiant starts to walk up the hill … CUT TO:
THE ACME FUNERAL SITE – LONG SHOT – DAY
A hearse, and a line of black limos are parked in the lane. Nearby, Marvin Acne’s funeral is inprogress. Clustered around a gravesite are the mourners … TOONS of every stripe. There’s MICKEY MOUSE comforting MINNIE. TOM AND JERRY. HECKLE AND JECKLE. CHIP ‘N DALE. Everyone from the famous to the not-so-famous is in attendance. The eulogy is being delivered in a familiar blustery Southern VOICE. It’s FOGHORN LEGHORN.
FOGHORN LEGHORN Today we commit the body of brother Acme to the cold, I say cold, cold ground. We shed no tears for we know that Marvin is going to a better place. That high, high, I say that high-larious place up in the sky.
Foghorn Leghorn dramatically points skyward.
TOONS:(in unison) A-men!
NEW ANGLE – VALIANT
is leaning up against a palm tree on the hill. We have been watching the proceedings from his POV. Now he sees Maroon’s car pull up. He moves around to the other side of the tree as Maroon passes and starts wending his way through the crowd.
Foghorn Leghorn nods to the funeral DIRECTOR, a pasty-faced human in a black mourning coat. The Director starts to turn the crank lowering the coffin into the grave.
FOGHORN LEGHORN:Give us a sign, brother Marvin, that you’ve arrived …
Much to the funeral Director’s amazement, the crank starts PLINKING out the tune to “POP GOES THE WEASEL”. Now the Toon mourners pick up on it and join in.
TOONS (singing) Round and round the mulberry bush,The monkey chased the weasel …
The crank and SONG start going FASTER AND FASTER.
TOONS: (continuing: singing) The monkey said it was all in fun POP!Goes the weasel.
Suddenly half of the lid to Acme’s coffin flies open and a harlequin CLOWN BOI-YOI-YOINGS out. The funeral Director faints dead away as the Toon SOBS turn to LAUGHTER. The Toons turn and head away from the grave comforted by a funeral befitting a gag king. They climb into their cars and SCREECH off like the start of the Indy 500.
One mourner is left at the gravesite. Sitting in a chair dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief is Jessica Rabbit. Maroon walks up behind her.
MAROON: So … Trying to pull a fast one on me, huh?
Jessica turns, startled. She stands and faces Maroon.
smiles and leans in. This is the moment he’s been waiting for. Now just as the conversation begins, it is drowned out by the NOISE from a LAWN MOWER. Valiant turns to see a GARDENER riding around on a small tractor cutting the grass. Valiant tries to flag him down as he watches Maroon and Jessica having an argument. There’s accusatory finger pointing. In pantomime. Maroon gestures into his pocket as if describing the position of Acme’s will.
Jessica tries to leave. He grabs her arm. They’re screaming at each other but we don’t hear a word. Valiant waves frantically for the Gardener to cut the machine. But the Gardener misconstrues it as a friendly greeting and waves back. Valiant turns in time to see Jessica kick Maroon in the groin and stomp off to a red Auburn Speedster. She jumps in and speeds away as Maroon staggers back to his car. The Gardener stops the tractor next to Valiant. He SHUTS OFF THE ENGINE. The cemetery is completely still again.
GARDENER: Somethin’ you want, mister?
VALIANT: Not anymore …
EXT. INK & PAINT CLUB – ALLEY – NIGHT
A Steinway piano truck is parked next to the stage door. TWO husky PIANO HOVERS are rolling a baby grand up the ramp to the stage door. They knock on the door. The Gorilla opens it and they muscle the piano inside. After a moment, they reemerge. We FOLLOW them back to the truck where a second baby grand stands ready to be moved.
MOVER #1:I don’t know about you, but it makes me sick to think of these beautiful pianos gettin’ chopped into match sticks every night by those screwy ducks.
Struggling, they push this second piano into the club.
INT. CLUB – BACKSTAGE
They roll the piano over to the wall and park it next to the first.
MOVER #2: (shakes head) And they call it entertainment.
As they go out the stage door, MOVE IN on the baby grand.
INSIDE THE PIANO – VALIANT
is lying prone — using the Steinway as his own Trojan Horse. He lifts the piano lid to climb out. but then HEARS FOOTSTEPS approaching. He lowers the lid again. Now someone starts testing the keys. We see the hammers strike the strings, RUNNING UP THE SCALES until they reach the one under Valiant’s nose. The hammer whacks Valiant’s nose on the backswing and strikes the string making a terrible SOUR NOTE.
DONALD DUCK (V.0.) (exasperated QUACK) Phooey! Out of tune again!
DAFFY DUCK (V.0.) Not to worry, Donald. We can fix that with my sledgehammer.
DONALD DUCK (V.O.) Never mind. Daffy. I’ve got an axe in my dressing room.
Valiant’s eyes widen.
ANGLE ON PIANO
as the VOICES of Daffy and Donald recede. Valiant raises the lid and quickly climbs out. He eases over to Jessica’s dressing roon. As he starts to open the door, he HEARS SCUFFLING from inside. Valiant puts his ear to the door. More SCUFFLING. Valiant straightens, then suddenly whips the door open and flicks on the light.
INT. DRESSING ROOM
Nobody’s there. Perplexed, Valiant closes the door behind him and checks behind the dressing screen. In the closet. No one. He shrugs and starts to search the room. He goes to Jessica’s dressing table and rifles the drawers. In her purse he discovers a Toon revolver. He examines it.
VALIANT: Girl’s gotta protect herself.
Valiant puts the gun back in the purse and closes the drawer. As he stands, he pauses to consider a Hurrel-like black-and-white photo of Roger Rabbit in a silver deco frame. He’s dramatically posed with a cigarette like he was Tyrone Power. Valiant shakes his head and turns from the table. Something catches his eye.
ANGLE ON FLOOR
Behind the dressing table, the corner of a piece of blue paper peeks out. Valiant stoops down and fishes it out. lt’s a cover for a legal document. “Last Will and Testament — Marvin Acme.”
stands, pleased. He opens the blue folder. But it’s empty, Valiant puts it in his inside pocket and turns to go when suddenly an unseen hand flicks the lights off.
VALIANT: Son of a bitch…
We can’t see anything in the darkness. But we hear the SOUND of A FISTFIGHT. There’s the CRASHING of lamps and furniture breaking. Now the door opens for a second as the assailant escapes. Light floods in the room, illuminating Valiant on the floor with a curtain wrapped around his head. As he struggles free the door closes. The room is dark again. Valiant scrambles to the door. When he whips it open, REVEAL the Gorilla framed in the doorway. Valiant is frozen. The gorilla flicks on the light. He smiles wickedly.
GORILLA: And here I tought we had mice.
Valiant tries to make a break for it. WHAM! The Gorilla lays him out cold with a right cross.
FADE IN: VALIANT’S POV FROM FLOOR
As his vision comes INTO FOCUS, Valiant sees the Gorilla, Jessica Rabbit, the Weasels and Judge Doom are standing over him.
GORILLA:… I caught him rummagin’ around in here. Then I called you, Judge, on a counta you be da one we pay juice to.
DOOM: (clears throat)You did the right thing, Bongo.
pull a groggy Valiant upright and plop him in a chair in front of Doom.
DOOM:Being caught breaking and entering is not very good advertising for a detective. What were you looking for, Mr. Valiant?
Valiant nods toward Jessica, who stands coolly smoking a cigarette.
JESSICA RABBIT:Last week some heavy breather wanted one of my nylons as a souvenir. Maybe that’s what he was after.
VALIANT:Look, doll, if I wanted underwear, I woulda broken into Frederick’s of Hollywood. I was lookin’ for Marvin Acme’s will.
DOOM:Marvin Acme had no will. I should know, the probate is in my court.
VALIANT:He had a will, all right. She took it off Acme the night she and R.K. Maroon knocked him off. Then she set up her loving husband to take the fall.
JESSICA RABBIT:You, Mr. Valiant, are either drunk or punch drunk. Probably both.
DOOM:These are bold accusations, Mr. Valiant. I hope you have some proof?
VALIANT:I found the cover the will came in behind the dressing table.
Valiant reaches into his pocket. But the blue envelope is gone.
VALIANT: (continuing)They must’ve taken it off me
VALIANT:The other people who were in here lookin’ for the will. I woulda caught ’em if Cheetah here hadn’t interrupted me.
The Gorilla makes a move for Valiant. Doom stops him.
DOOM:Take it easy, Bongo. We’ll handle Mr. Valiant our own way … downtown.
VALIANT:Downtown? Fine. Get ahold of Santino, I’d be more than glad to talk to him.
DOOM:Oh, not that downtown. Toontown.
The mention of Toontown has a visible impact on Valiant.
VALIANT: (nervous)You’re not takin’ me to downtown Toontown?
DOOM: Indeed we are. We’ll continue the interrogation there.
VALIANT: (very agitated)I ain’t tellin’ you nothin’! Get me Santino.
DOOM:You’re a very stubborn man, Mr. Valiant. Very pig-headed. Boys. show Mr. Valiant how we handle pig-headed men at the Toontown station …
The Weasels drag Valiant out of the room …
VALIANT: (screaming)No… you bastards! Leggo of me!
EXT. STREET – NIGHT
The Toon Control Wagon streaks along with the cat SIREN WAILING. It flashes by then slams on the brakes at the entrance to an eerie tunnel. A sign next to the tunnel says: “Toontown”.
The Weasels look over at the bound and gagged Valiant. One of them turns Valiant’s head to look at the Toontown sign.
WEASEL #1:What’re you shakin’ for? Didn’t you have a good time last time you were here?
With a wicked WHEEZE, the driver floors it.
The wagon disappears into the murky darkness. PAN UP to the night sky.
THE SKY – MORNING
PAN DOWN to the Tunnel. We can’t see into the darkness but we HEAR HOOTING and HOLLERING from within, GUNS going off, FIRECRACKERS EXPLODING, WHIPS CRACKING, all accompanied by the WHEEZING LAUGHTER of the Weasels.
WEASEL #1: (0.S.)Soo-eey! Soo-eey!
WEASEL #2: (O.S.)Let him go, boys. I think he’s got the message.
After a beat, Valiant comes staggering out of the tunnel. He’s got a burlap sack over his head tied around his waist. Behind him, the Weasels emerge holding paint cans and brushes. They watch as he trips and falls by the side of the road. The Weasels GIGGLE victoriously and head back inside.
Valiant lies there for a moment, catching his breath. Then he struggles to free his hands. Finally he rips the sack off his head and sits up.
CLOSE – VALIANT
We see he’s got a huge Toon pig with a goofy grin painted over his head. Valiant pulls and tugs on it, but this is a costume that won’t come off. Valiant curses, gets to his feet and stumbles down the road.
EXT. RED CAR STOP
Valiant gets in the back of the line of PASSENGERS boarding the Red Car.
INT. RED CAR – VALIANT
steps aboard. The Trolleynan, who we recognize as Earl from the Terminal Bar, does a double-take when he sees the ridiculously silly looking man/Toon.
EARL:Here’s one for the books … a Toon wearin’ human clothes.
VALIANT:Earl … it’s me, Valiant.
EARL:Eddie? Jesus, what happened?
VALIANT:Toon cops worked me over.
EARL:Boy, I’ll say. They gave you a real Toon-a-roo.
VALIANT: (apprehensively)What am I, Earl?
Earl breaks the news to Valiant soberly.
EARL:You’re a pig… a happy-go-lucky pig.VALIANT:No …
EARL:Does it hurt?
VALIANT:Not much. lt’s hard to talk.
EARL:Uh, Eddie, do me a favor. Could you sit in the back so you won’t cause as much of a commotion.
Valiant tries to pull the brim of his hat down. But it’s comically small on the huge head. He makes his way down the aisle past a veritable gauntlet of RAZZING, poking, tripping PASSENGERS. Finally he finds an empty seat in the back as the Red Car starts up,
A LITTLE KID
wearing a baseball cap is sitting a few seats away with his MOTHER. The Kid looks back at Eddie and laughs. He leans over and whispers something to his Mom.
KID:Can I, Mom?
MOM:Go ahead, darling.Take your bat.
The Kid takes his baseball bat and approaches Valiant innocently.
KID:Hi, Mr. Pig. If I hit you on the head, will you make me a cuckoo bird?
The Kid starts to take a swing with the bat.
VALIANT:Kid, if you hit me on the head. I’m gonna throw you out this window.
The Kid’s eyes widen in terror. This is not a typical Toon response.
INT. VALIANT’S APARTMENT – BATHROOM – DAY
We hear the SOUND of the SHOWER. Valiant’s hand reaches out past the shower curtain and grabs for a bottle. But it’s not shampoo. It’s turpentine.
CLOSE – TUB DRAlN
The water swirling down the drain is tinged with paint of different colors.
CLOSE – VALIANT
He scrubs manically until the last of the pig head is gone. He rinses off and he feels around his face. The absence of the Toon mask seems to bring him some relief. He shuts off the shower and slides the shower curtain back.
VALIANT’S POV – JESSICA RABBIT
is leaning up against the door jam, dressed as usual, in a black cocktail dress with elbow length gloves and pearls.
JESSICA RABBIT:Hello, Mr. Valiant. I rang the doorbell, but I guess you couldn’t hear it.
VALIANT:That’s because I don’t have a doorbell.
Jessica, caught in her lie, flutters her eyelids nervously.
JESSICA RABBIT:Oh… well, I … I just had to see you …
VALIANT:Okay, you’ve seen me. Now give me a towel.
As she hands him a towel, she stares down at his anatomy.
JESSICA RABBIT:What’s that thing?
Valiant looks down at what she’s referring to.
VALIANT:Come on, lady, haven’t you ever seen a mole before?
JESSICA RABBIT:Toons aren’t given imperfections.
VALIANT:No? I guess we’re not counting lying, stealing and murder.
And after that exchange … This screenplay’s story pretty much plays out the way the finished version of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” does.
Cut Scenes from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” Show Toons as Second Class Citizens
Me personally? I have to admit that I find some of the ideas that Price & Seaman included in their script (Which was the third draft of the “Roger Rabbit” screenplay, by the way) to be pretty provocative. The idea that Eddie (once he had that pig head painted onto his body) was asked to sit at the back of the trolley … Well, if that had remained in the finished film, that would have really nailed home the idea that Toons were second class citizens in Hollywood.
Likewise having Eddie pull back the shower curtain and find Jessica waiting there for him in the bathroom … Well, it would have been interesting to see what the folks at the MPAA would have made of that whole “What’s that thing?” exchange … Whether they would have really hammered on Disney for daring to include that sort of double entendre in an animated film.
FYI: Several of the sequences featured in this version of the script (To be specific: Valiant & Doom’s confrontation scene in Jessica’s dressing room, Eddie being chased out of the Toontown tunnel by the weasels as well as his shower with turpentine) actually were shot and fully animated. But due to studio concerns about “Roger Rabbit” ‘s tone (Many Disney execs felt that this Steven Spielberg co-production was ‘way too dark for what was originally supposed to be a family-friendly film) and the movie’s length, these scenes were eventually cut out of the picture.
Cut Scenes Found in 15th Anniversary DVD
But the good news is … Those scenes that were cut out of the theatrical release of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” eventually found their way into the 15th anniversary edition DVD for this film. So if you’d like to see more than just the image captures that I used to illustrate today’s article, then I suggest that you pick up a copy of this disc.
Anyway … That’s a look at “Roger Rabbit” could have been like. So what do you folks think? Do you prefer the finished version of the picture, or would you like to have seen some of the excerpted elements from Jeffrey & Peter’s screenplay folded into the film.
“Indiana Jones and the Search for Indiana Jones”
News came late last week that NBC was cancelling the “Magnum PI” remake. This series (which obviously took its inspiration from the Tom Selleck show that originally debuted on CBS back in December of 1980 and then went on run on that network for 8 seasons. With its final episode airing on May 8, 1988).
Anyway … Over 30 years later, CBS decided to remake “Magnum.” This version of the action drama debuted on September 24, 2018 and ran for four seasons before then being cancelled. NBC picked up the “Magnum” remake where it ran for one more season before word came down on June 23rd that this action drama was being cancelled yet again.
FYI: The second half of Season 5 of “Magnum” (10 episodes) has yet to air on NBC. It will be interesting to see when that final set of shows / the series finale gets scheduled.
This all comes to mind this week – out ahead of the theatrical release of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” because … Well, if CBS execs had been a bit more flexible back in 1980, the star of the original version of “Magnum PI” (Tom Selleck) would have played the lead in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Which was released to theaters back on June 12, 1981.
That’s the part of the Indiana Jones story that the folks at Lucasfilm often opt to skim over.
That Harrison Ford wasn’t George Lucas’ first choice to play Doctor Jones.
Auditions for Indiana Jones – Harrison’s Not on the List
Mind you, Steven Spielberg – right from the get-go – had pushed for Ford to play this part. The way I hear it, Lucas showed Spielberg a work-in-progress cut of “The Empire Strikes Back.” And Steven was so taken with Harrison’s performance as Han Solo in that Irwin Kershner film that he immediately began pushing for Ford to be cast as Doctor Jones.
Whereas Mr. Lucas … I mean, it wasn’t that George had anything against Harrison. What with Ford’s performances first in “American Grafitti” and then in “A New Hope,” these two already had a comfortable working relationship.
But that said, Lucas was genuinely leery of … Well, the sort of creative collaboration that Martin Scorcese and Robert DeNiro. Where one actor & one director repeatedly worked together. To George’s way of thinking, that was a risky path to follow. Hitching your wagon to a single star.
Which is why – when auditions got underway for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1979 — Mike Fenton basically brought in every big performer of that era to read for Dr. Jones except Harrison Ford. We’re talking:
- Steve Martin
- Chevy Chase
- Bill Murray
- Jack Nicholson
- Peter Coyote
- Nick Nolte
- Sam Elliot
- Tim Matheson
- and Harry Hamlin
Casting a Comedian for Indiana Jones
Please note that there are a lot of comedians on this list. That’s because – while “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was in development — Spielberg was directed his epic WWII comedy, “1941.” And for a while there, Steve & George were genuinely uncertain about whether the movie that they were about to make would be a sincere valentine to the movie serials of the 1930s & the 1940s or more of a spoof.
It’s worth noting here that three of the more ridiculous set pieces found in “Temple of Doom” …
- the shoot-out at Club Obi Wan in Shanghai
- Indy, Willie & Short Round surviving that plane crash by throwing an inflatable life raft out of the cargo hatch
- and that film’s mine cart chase (which was not only inspired by Disney theme park favorites the Matterhorn Bobsleds & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but some of the sound effects that you hear in this portion of “Temple of Doom” were actually recorded after hours at Disneyland inside of these very same attractions)
… all originally supposed to be in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I’ve actually got a copy of the very first version of the screenplay that Lawrence Kasdan wrote for the first “Indy” movie where all three of these big action set pieces were supposed to be part of the story that “Raiders” told. And I have to tell you that this early iteration of the “Raiders” screenplay really does read more like a spoof of serials than a sincere, loving salute to this specific style of cinema.
Casting Indiana Jones – Jeff or Tom
Anyway … Back now to the casting of the male lead for “Raiders” … After seeing virtually every actor out in LA while looking for just the right performer to portray Indiana Jones, it all came down to two guys:
- Jeff Bridges
- and Tom Selleck
Jeff Bridges as Indiana Jones
Mike Fenton was heavily pushing for Jeff Bridges. Having already appeared with Clint Eastwood in 1974’s “Thunderbolt & Lightfoot” (Not to mention that “King Kong” remake from 1976), Bridges was a known quantity. But what Fenton liked especially liked about Bridges when it came to “Raiders” was … Well, at that time, Jeff was just coming off “Heaven’s Gate.”
Mind you, nowadays, because we’ve all now had the luxury of seeing the director’s cut of this Michael Cimino movie, we recognize “Heaven’s Gate” for the cinematic masterpiece that it is. But 40+ years ago, that honestly wasn’t the case. All audiences had to judge this movie by was the severely truncated version that United Artists sent out into theaters. Which – because “Heaven’s Gate” had cost $44 million to make and only sold $3.5 million of tickets – then became the textbook example of Hollywood excess.
Long story short: Given that being associated with “Heaven’s Gate” had somewhat dinged Bridges’ reputation for being a marketable star (i.e., a performer that people would pay good money to see up on the big screen), Jeff was now looking to appear in something highly commercial. And the idea of playing the lead in a film directed by Steven Spielberg (the “Jaws” & “Close Encounter” guy) and produced by George Lucas (Mr. “Star Wars”) was very, very appealing at that time. Bridges was even willing to sign a contract with Spielberg & Lucas that would have then roped him into not only playing Indiana Jones in “Raider of the Lost Ark” but also to appear as this very same character in two yet-to-be-written sequels.
Better yet, because “Heaven’s Gate” had temporarily dimmed Bridges’ star status, Jeff was also willing to sign on to do the first “Indy” film for well below his usual quote. With the understanding that – should “Raiders of the Lost Ark” succeed at the box office – Bridges would then be paid far more to appear in this film’s two sequels.
That seemed like a very solid plan for “Raiders.” Landing a known movie star to play the lead in this action-adventure at a bargain price.
Ah, but standing in Mike Fenton’s way was Marcia Lucas.
Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones
Marcia Lucas, who had seen Tom Selleck’s audition for “Raiders” (And you can see it as well. Just go to Google and type in “Tom Selleck” and “Indiana Jones.” And if you dig around for a bit, you’ll then see a feature that Lucas & Spielberg shot for “Entertainment Tonight” back in 2008 [This story was done in support of the theatrical release of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”]. And as part of this piece, George and Steve share Tom’s original audition for “Raiders.” And what’s genuinely fascinating about this footage is that Selleck’s scene partner is Sean Young. Who – at that time, anyway – was up for the role of Marion Ravenwood) and kept telling her husband, “You should cast this guy. He’s going to be a big star someday.”
And given that George was smart enough to regularly heed Marcia Lucas’ advice (She had made invaluable suggestions when it came to the editing of “American Graffiti” and the original “Star Wars.” Not to downplay George Lucas’ cinematic legacy, but Marcia Lucas was a world-class storyteller in and of her own right), Lucas then reached out to Spielberg and persuaded him that they should cast relative unknown Tom Selleck as Doctor Jones over the already well-known Jeff Bridges.
Now don’t feel too bad for Jeff Bridges. When he lost out on playing the lead in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Jeff then accepted a role in the very next, high profile, sure-to-be-commercial project that came along. Which turned out to be Disney’s very first “TRON” movie. Which was eventually released to theaters on July 9, 1982.
Back to Tom Selleck now … You have to remember that – back then – Selleck was the handsome guy who’d already shot pilots for six different shows that then hadn’t gone to series. Which was why Tom was stuck being the guest star on shows like “The Fall Guy” and “Taxi.” Whereas once word got out around town that Selleck was supposed to play the lead in a project that Spielberg was directed & Lucas was producing … Well, this is when CBS decided that they’d now take the most recent pilot that Tom had shot and then go to series with this show.
That program was – of course – the original “Magnum PI.” And it’s at this point where our story started to get complicated.
“Magnum PI” – Two Out of Three Say “Yes”
Okay. During the first season of a TV show, it’s traditionally the network – rather than the production company (which – in this case – was Glen A. Larson Productions. The company behind the original versions of “Battlestar Galactica” & “Knight Rider”) or the studio where this series is actually being shot (which – in this case – was Universal Television) that has all the power. And in this particular case, the network execs who were pulling all the strings behind-the-scenes worked for CBS.
And when it came to the first season of “Magnum PI,” CBS had a deal with Glen A. Larson Productions and Universal Television which stated that the talent which had been contracted to appear in this new action drama would then be available for the production of at least 13 episodes with an option to shoot an additional 9 episodes (This is known in the industry as the back nine. As in: the last nine holes of a golf course).
Anyway, if you take those initial 13 episodes and then tack on the back nine, you then get 22 episodes total. Which – back in the late 1970s / early 1980s, anyway – was what a full season of a network television show typically consisted of.
Anyway … The contract that Selleck had signed with Glen A. Larson Productions, Universal Television & CBS stated that he had to be available when production of Season One of “Magnum PI” began in March of 1980. More to the point, Tom also had to be available should CBS exercise its option to air 22 episodes of this new series on that television network over the course of “Magnum PI” ‘s first season.
Which then made things complicated for George Lucas & Steven Spielberg because … Well, in order for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to make its June 12, 1981 release date, that then meant that production of the first “Indy” movie would have to get underway no later than June 23, 1980.
But here’s the thing: Production of Season One of “Magnum PI” was scheduled to run through the first week of July of that same year (1980). So in order for Tom Selleck to play Indiana Jones in “Raiders,” he was going to need to be wrapped on production of “Magnum PI” by June 22, 1980 at the absolute latest.
So Spielberg & Lucas went to Glen A. Larsons Productions and asked if Selleck could please be sprung from his “Magnum PI” contractual obligations by June 22nd. And they said “Yes.” Then Steven & George went to Universal Television and asked executives there for their help in clearing Tom’s schedule so that he’d then be available to start work on “Raiders.” And they say “Yes” as well.
Spielberg & Lucas now go to CBS. But instead of the quick “Yeses” that they got from officials at Glen A. Larson Productions and Universal Television, it takes those suits at the Tiffany Network weeks before they then decided to say “No, they couldn’t release Tom Selleck early to go work on ‘Raiders’ “ because …
I’ve never really been able to get a straight answer here as to why CBS execs dug in their heels here. Why they flat-out refused to release Selleck early from his “Magnum PI” contractual obligation and allow him to go shoot “Raiders.”
Payback from “The Star Wars Holiday Special” Trash Talk
That said, it is worth noting that “The Star Wars Holiday Special” aired on CBS back in November of 1978. And given that – in the years that followed — Lucas wasn’t exactly shy when it came to saying how much he hated that two hour-long presentation (Or – for that matter – how George really regretted caving into the requests of CBS execs. Who had insisted that television stars long associated with the Tiffany Network – people like Art Carney, Harvey Korman & Bea Arthur – be given prominent guest starring roles in “The Star Wars Holiday Special”). And I’ve heard whispers over the years that CBS executives preventing Tom Selleck from appearing in “Raiders” could be interpreted as the Tiffany Network getting some payback for what George had said publicly about the “Star Wars Holiday Special.”
Harrison Ford Comes to Rescue “Indiana Jones”
Anyway … It’s now literally just weeks before production of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is supposed to begin and Spielberg & Lucas have just learned that that they’ve lost their film’s star. CBS is flat-out refusing to release Tom Selleck early from his “Magnum PI” contractual obligation. So Steven & George now have to find someone else to play Indy … and fast.
The real irony here is … The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists would go on strike in the Summer of 1980. Which then shut prematurely shut down production of the first season of “Magnum PI.” (As a direct result, the first full season of this action drama to air on CBS only had 18 episodes, rather than the usual 22). And because this job action lasted ‘til October 23rd of that same year … Well, this meant that Tom Selleck would have actually been free to start shooting “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on June 23, 1980 because production of Season One of “Magnum PI” was already shut down by then due to that AFTRA strike.
But no one knew – in May of 1980, anyway – that this job action was going to happen in just a few weeks. All that Steven Spielberg & George Lucas knew was that they now needed a new lead actor for “Raiders.” And circling back on Jeff Bridges was no longer an option. As I mentioned earlier, Jeff had agreed to do “TRON” for Disney. And – in the interim – Bridges gone off to shoot “Cutter’s Way” for MGM / UA.
So this is where Harrison Ford enters the equation. As he recalls:
In May of 1980, I get a call from George Lucas. Who says ‘I’m messaging a script over to you this morning. As soon as it gets there, I need you to immediately read this script. Then – as soon as you’re done – I need you to call.
So the script arrives and it’s for ‘Raiders.’ I read it and it’s good. So I call George back and say ‘It’s good.’ And he then says ‘Would you be interested in playing Indy?’ I say that it looks like it would be a fun part to play.
George then says ‘ That’s great to hear. Because we start shooting in four weeks. Now I need you to meet with Steven Spielberg today and convince him that you’re the right guy to play Indy.’
Of course, given that Spielberg had been pushing for Ford to pay Indy ever since he had first seen that work-in-progress version of “The Empire Strikes Back” … Well, Harrison’s meeting with Steven was very, very short. And just a few weeks later, Spielberg, Lucas & Ford were all at the Port de la Pallice in La Rochelle. Where – on the very first day of shooting on “Raiders” (which – again – was June 23, 1980)– the scene that was shot was the one where that Nazi sub (the one that Indy had lashed himself to its periscope by using his bullwhip as a rope) was arriving at its secret base.
And all of this happened because Harrison immediately agreed to do “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the part of Indy was first offered to him in mid-May of 1980.
Before “Star Wars” was “Star Wars”
So why such a quick yes? Well, you have to remember that “Empire Strikes Back” wouldn’t be released to theaters ‘til May 21, 1980. And no one knew at that time whether this sequel to the original “Star Wars” would do as well at the box office as “A New Hope” had back in 1977 (FYI: “Empire” would eventually sell over $500 million worth of tickets worldwide. Which is roughly two thirds of what the original “Star Wars” earned three years earlier).
More to the point, the four films that Harrison had shot right after “A New Hope” / prior to “Empire Strikes Back” (i.e., “Heroes” AND “Force 10 from Navarone” AND “Hanover Street” AND “The Frisco Kid”) had all under-performed at the box office. So to Ford’s way of thinking, taking on a role that Tom Selleck was no longer available to play – one that had the potential of spawning two sequels – seemed like a very smart thing to do. Especially after three years of cinematic stumbles.
By the way, whenever this topic ever comes up, Harrison Ford is very gracious. He always makes a point of saying that he’s grateful to have gotten this career opportunity. More to the point, that he still feels kind of bad that Tom Selleck never got the chance to play this part.
Tom Selleck After “Indiana Jones”
That said, we shouldn’t feel too bad for Tom Selleck. After all, the original “Magnum PI” proved to be a long running hit for CBS. And in an effort to smooth over any residual bad feelings that may have resulted from Tom being forced to give up “Raiders” back in May of 1980, Selleck was eventually allowed to create his own production company (i.e., T.W.S. Productions, Inc. As in Thomas William Selleck Productions). Which – after the fact – was then cut in on some of those “Magnum PI” -related revenue streams.
More to the point, while “Magnum PI” was on hiatus following its second year in production, Selleck flew off to Yugoslavia. Where he then shot his own Indiana Jones-esque film for theatrical release. Which was called “High Road to China” in the States, but – overseas – was promoted as “Raiders of the End of the World.”
FYI: Warner Bros. released “High Road to China” stateside 40 years ago this year. On March 18, 1983, to be exact. It didn’t do all that great at the box office. $28 million in ticket sales versus $15 million in production costs.
And over the years, there’s even been some talk of finding a way to maybe set things right here. By that I mean: Finally finding a way to officially fold Tom Selleck into the world of Indiana Jones.
Could Tom Selleck Work with Indiana Jones?
The way I hear it, between the time when “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was theatrically released in May of 1989 and when “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” debuted in May of 2008, there were a number of ideas for Indiana Jones sequels tossed around. And from what I’ve been told, there was at least one treatment for a fourth Indiana Jones film written that proposed pairing up Harrison Ford & Tom Selleck. With the idea here being that Selleck was supposed to have played Ford’s brother.
Obviously that film was never made. And – no – I don’t know what state Indiana Jones’ brother was supposed to be named after.
Will “Metro” – that “Cars” Spin-Off Which Disney Developed – Ever Get Made?
First came “Cars” in June of 2006.
This Pixar Animation Studios production did so well (Of all the high grossing films released that year, “Cars” was No. 2 at the box office. Only “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” sold more tickets in 2006) that Disney execs asked John Lasseter to develop a sequel.
“Cars 2” came out in June of 2011 and also did quite well at the box office (It took the No. 7 slot in the Top-Ten-for-ticket-sales that year). Which is why Disney then asked Pixar to prep a follow-up film.
“Cars 3” would eventually arrive in theaters in June of 2017. But in the meantime, Disney & Pixar began exploring the idea of expanding this film franchise. Largely because the amount of money that the Mouse was making off of the sales of “Cars” -related merchandise was … To be blunt here, mind boggling.
Don’t believe me? Well, then consider this: In just the first five years that the “Cars” film franchise existed, global retail sales of merchandise related to these Pixar movies approached $10 billion. That’s billion with a “B.”
So is it any wonder that – while Pixar was still trying to get a handle on what “Cars 3” would actually be about – the Mouse (through its DisneyToon Studios arm. Which produced home premieres like those “TinkerBell” movies) began actively looking into ways to expand this lucrative franchise?
“Planes” – The First “Cars” Spin-Off
The first “Cars” spin-off to arrive in the marketplace was “Planes.” This Klay Hall film (which was set in “The World Above Cars”) was released theatrically in August of 2013, with the Blu-ray & DVD version of “Planes” hitting store shelves in November of that same year.
“Planes: Fire and Rescue” followed in the Summer of 2014. And while a “Planes 3” was definitely put in development (At the Disney Animation panel at the 2017 D23 Expo, John Lasseter not only shared a clip from this film. But he also revealed that this project – which, at that time, was entitled “Space” – was slated to be released theatrically in April of 2019) … This animated feature was abruptly cancelled when DisneyToon Studios was shuttered in June of 2018.
But wait. There’s more … In addition to the aborted “Planes 3,” Disney had other “Cars” spin-offs in the works. One was supposed to be built around boats. While yet another was supposed to have shined a spotlight on trucks.
“Metro” – The World Below Cars
And then there was “Metro.” Which was supposed to have been set in the inner city and focused on what went on in “The World Below Cars.” As in: Down in the subway system.
Just in the past week or so, a few pieces of concept art for “Metro” have surfaced online. Giving us all an intriguing look at what might have been. These preproduction paintings suggest that this “Cars” spin-off would be far grittier than … Say … the sort of adventures that Lightning McQueen & Mater would typically have out in Radiator Springs.
That said, it’s worth noting here that – just in the past year or so – we’ve seen Disney & Pixar attempt to expand the turf that these two characters could comfortably cover. Take – for example — “Cars on the Road,” that nine-part series which debuted on Disney+ back in September of last year. This collection of animated shorts literally sent Lightning McQueen & Mater off on a road trip.
So who knows?
Given that Bob Iger (at Disney’s quarterly earnings call held earlier this week) revealed that the Company now has sequels in the works for “Frozen,” “Toy Story,” and “Zootopia” … Well, is it really all that far-fetched to think that – at some point further on down the road – Disney & Pixar will put yet another sequel to “Cars” in the works?
One that might send Lightning McQueen & Mater off to explore the gritty inner-city world that we glimpsed in all that concept art for “Metro,” that never-produced “Cars” spin-off.
Time will tell.
Park’s Closed: “Vacation ’58” Inspired by Seasonal Closing at Disneyland
This year is the 30th anniversary of the release of National Lampoon’s “Vacation.” Warner Bros. released this Harold Ramis movie to theaters back in July of 1983.
John Hughes adapted his own short story (i.e., “Vacation ’58,” which had run in “National Lampoon” magazine less than four years earlier. The September 1979 issue, to be exact) to the screen.
Key difference between “Vacation ‘58” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation” is that the movie follows the Griswold family on their epic journey to Walley World. Whereas the short story that Hughes wrote (i.e., “Vacation ‘58”) follows an unnamed family to a different theme park. The actual Disneyland in Anaheim.
Let me remove any doubt here. Here’s the actual opening line to John Hughes’ “Vacation ’58.”
What’s kind of intriguing about the plot complication that sets Act 3 of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” in motion (i.e., that – just as the Grisworld arrive at Walley World [after a harrowing cross-country journey] – they discover that “America’s favorite family fun park” is closed for two weeks for cleaning and to make repairs) is that … Well, it’s based on something that Hughes learned about the real Disneyland. That – from 1958 through 1985 [a total of 27 years] the Happiest Place on Earth used to close two days a week during the slower times of year. To be specific, Mondays & Tuesday in the Fall & early Winter as well as in the late Winter / early Spring.
Want to stress here: Two days a week versus the two weeks each year in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
When Did Disneyland Start Opening 7-Days a Week?
It wasn’t ‘til February 6, 1985 that Disneyland Park formally switched to being a seven-day-a-week operation. This was just four months after Michael Eisner had become Disney’s new CEO. And part of his effort to get as much profit as possible out of Disney’s theme parks.
Which is a trifle ironic. Given that – back in December of 1958 – Disneyland deliberately switched over to an open-five-days-a-week-during-the-off-season schedule in an effort to get Anaheim’s operating costs under control. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Early Disneyland Operations – Ticket Books and Ticket Booths
So let’s start with the obvious: When Disneyland Park first opened in July of 1955, there had never been one of these before. So the Happiest Place on Earth was a learn-as-you-go operation.
So things that are now closely associated with a visit to Disneyland back in the day (EX: Having to purchase a book of tickets before you entered that theme park. Which then pushed Guests to go seek out various A, B, C & D Ticket attractions around the grounds) … Well, that form of admission media didn’t come online ‘til October 11, 1955. Some three months after Disneyland Park first open.
Prior to this, if you wanted to go on a ride at Disneyland, you had to first get on line at one of the Park’s omni-present ticket booth. Once you got to the front of that line, you then had to open your wallet and purchase enough tickets for your entire family to enjoy that attraction. Only then could you go over to the actual attraction and get in line for that experience. Where – just before boarding that ride – you then surrendered that ticket.
Disney Parks Getting Too Expensive
Interesting side note: It’s now an established part of the on-going Disney theme park narrative that “Going to the Parks has just gotten to be too expensive and/or complicated,” what with the institution of Lightning Lane and then forcing people to use virtual queues if they want to experience newer attractions at the Parks like “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind” at Epcot or “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway” out in Anaheim.
Walt Fixes “Expensive” Impression
What fascinates me about the parallels here is that … When Walt began to see the same thing bubble up in press coverage for his new family fun park (i.e., All of those Summer-of-1955 stories in newspapers & magazines about how expensive it was to visit Disneyland. How – whenever a Guest visited this place – they were constantly being forced to repeatedly open their wallet), his immediate reaction was “We need to fix this now. I don’t want people coming away from their visit to Disneyland with this impression.” And by October 11, 1955 (less than 3 months after Disneyland Park first opened), they had a fix in place.
Lightning Lane – Raising Prices
Counter this with Lightning Lane. Which was first introduced at Walt Disney World in October of 2021. Which has gotten miserable press since Day One (and is a large part of people’s growing perception that it’s just gotten too expensive to take their family on vacation to WDW). Disney Corporate knows about this (hence the number of times questions about this perception has bubbled up in recent surveys that Resort has sent out).
And what does the Company do with this info? During the 2022 holiday season, Disney Parks actually raised the prices on individual Lightning Lanes for popular attractions like “Rise of the Resistance” to $22 a person.
Conclusion: Disney knows about all the bad press the Resort is getting lately but doesn’t care. They like all of the short-term money that Lightning Lane is pulling in right now and are deliberately overlooking all of the long-term implications of the narrative getting out there that going to WDW is getting too expensive.
“Spend Dollars to Get People Back” – Disney Cutting Corners on Projects
Which reminds me of something Walt once said when an Imagineer suggested that the Company could save a few bucks by cutting corners on a particular project: “If people ever stop coming to the Park because they think we cut corners on a project, the few cents we saved ultimately aren’t going to matter. We’re then going to have to spend dollars to get those people back.”
That’s what worries me about Disney’s current situation. What’s the Company ultimately going to have to do convince those people who now think that a trip to WDW has just gotten too expensive for the family to come back.
Disneyland Parking Closing on Mondays & Tuesdays
Back to Disneyland Park closing on Mondays & Tuesdays during the off-season … When did this practice start? Let me share something that I just found in the 1958 edition of Walt Disney Productions’ annual report. This document (which was published on December 23, 1958) states that:
So – reading between the lines here – in Disneyland’s second year of operation (July 1956 – June 1957), the folks down in Anaheim experimented with keeping Walt’s family fun park open six days a week during the slower times of the year. Which – I’m told – resulted in all sort of angry people at the entrance of Disneyland’s parking lot. Who had to drive down to Anaheim for the day to experience the Happiest Place on Earth only to find said place closed.
Okay. So for Disneyland’s third year of operation (July 1957 – June 1958) on Walt’s orders, Disneyland is then kept open seven days a week all year long. Which proves to be a problem on the off-season, given that there are days in the late Fall / early Spring when there are more Cast Members working in the Park than there are Guests coming through the turnstiles.
Which explains this line in the 1958 version of Walt Disney Productions’ annual report. Which – again – I remind you was published on December 23rd of that year:
So did this change in the way that Disneyland Park ultimately operated off-season ultimately work out? Let’s jump ahead to the 1959 version of Walt Disney Productions’ annual report. In that document (which was also published on December 23rd of that year) states that:
Making it Right for the Disneyland Hotel
Okay. So this change in the way that Disneyland Park operated during the off-season made things easier for Walt and Disney’s book-keepers back in Burbank. But what about Jack Wrather, the guy that Walt went to back in the Late Winter / Early Spring of 1955 and begged & pleaded for Wrather to build a hotel right next to Disneyland Park?
What happened to the Disneyland Hotel in late 1958 / early 1959 when – in the off-season – Disneyland Park goes to just a five-day-a-week operating schedule? At this point, the Disneyland Hotel is the largest hotel in all of Orange County with over 300 rooms.
It’s at this point that Walt personally reaches out to Jack and says “I know, I know. This operational change at the Park is going to affect your bottom line at the Hotel. Don’t fret. I’m definitely going to make this worth your while.”
Extending the Monorail to the Disneyland Hotel
And Walt followed through on that promise. In June of 1961, he extended Disneyland’s monorail system by a full 2 & a half miles so that this futuristic transportation system rolled right up to the Disneyland Hotel’s front door. Which was a perk that no other hotel in Orange County had.
And just in case you’re wondering: The cost of extending Disneyland’s monorail system over to the Disneyland Hotel was $1.9 million (That’s $19 million in 2023 money).
Magic Kingdom Golf Course at Disneyland Hotel
That very same year, Walt had some of his staff artists design a miniature golf course that could then be built on the grounds of the Disneyland Hotel. This kid-friendly area (called the Magic Kingdom Golf Course) featured elaborately themed holes with recreations of attractions that could be found right next door at Disneyland Park.
- Hole No. Three was Sleeping Beauty Castle
- Hole No. Five was Matterhorn Mountain
Other holes featured recreations of popular Disneyland attractions of the 1960s. Among them the TWA Moonliner, the Submarine Voyage, the Painted Desert from Frontierland (this is the area Guests traveled through when they experienced Disneyland”s “Mine Train thru Nature’s Wonderland” attraction), Tom Sawyer Island, the Fort in Frontierland, not to mention Skull Rock as well as Monstro the Whale from Disneyland’s Fantasyland.
This area was specially illuminated for night-time play. Which meant that the Magic Kingdom Golf Course at the Disneyland Hotel could operate from 10 a.m. in the morning ‘til 10 p.m. a night seven days a week.
Additional Disneyland Hotel Expansion and Offerings
It’s worth noting here that – from the moment the monorail was connected to The Disneyland Hotel – that hotel achieved 100% occupancy. Which is why – even after Disneyland Park switched to a 5-day-a-week operating schedule during the off-season – Disneyland Hotel launched into an aggressive expansion plan. With its 11 story-tall Sierra Tower breaking ground in 1961 (it opened the following year in September of 1962). Not to mention adding all sort of restaurants & shops to the area surrounding that hotel’s Olympic-sized pool.
All of which came in handy during those Mondays & Tuesdays during the Winter Months when people were staying at the Disneyland Hotel and had nowhere to go on those days when the Happiest Place on Earth was closed.
It’s worth noting here that the Disneyland Hotel (with Walt’s permission, by the way) on those days when Disneyland was closed would offer its Guests the opportunity to visit Knott’s Berry Farm as well as Universal Studios Hollywood. A Gray Line Bus would pull up in front of that hotel several times a day offering round-trip transportation to both of those Southern California attractions.
Likewise the Japanese Village and Deer Park over Buena Park. It was a different time. Back when Disney prided itself in being a good neighbor. Back when the Mouse didn’t have to have ALL of the money when it came to the Southern California tourism market. When there was plenty to go around for everyone.
Walley World Shooting Locations
And back to “National Lampoon’s Vacation”… The Walley World stuff was all shot at two Southern California attractions.
The scenes set in the parking lot at Walley World as well as at the entrance of that fictious theme park were shot in the parking lot & entrance of Santa Anita Race Track (Horse Track).
Any scene that’s supposed to be inside of the actual Walley World theme park was shot at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
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