Even in our CGI era the combination of cartoons and live-action has a magical dynamism that makes for bombastic viewing. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was one of the first, preceding Space Jam by eight years, to mix animated drawings and real people in a Spielberg production of 1988. The fantasy-comedy was a massive hit, hauling in $330 million at the box office and scoring 97% on Rotten Tomatoes today.
So why wasn't there a sequel? Roger Rabbit kick-started the Disney Renaissance of 1989-'99, and many of the originals from this golden era saw a pile of follow-ups. Admittedly most of these sequels constituted a crash-and-burn pile-up, with direct-to-video movies like The Little Mermaid II, Lady and the Tramp II, Cinderella II, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Mulan II, Tarzan II, Bambi II, etc.. But among the flayed carcasses there were some living gems, like The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride; '80s kids must have wondered why under the stampede of IIs the game-changing bunny in a blue bow tie didn't have another cinematic adventure.
But there almost was one! And still may be... Director of the original Robert Zemeckishas has been wondering about bringing Roger back for years. J.J. Abrams himself was rumored this month to be have discussed writing a sequel with Spielberg. There were even 3-D screen tests in 2010 for a version Bob Hoskins (star of the original) was keen to join.
Roger Rabbit 2: The Toon Platoon
"Enter screenwriter Nat Mauldin, who in 1999 was commissioned with churning out a RR script as quickly as he could in order to capitalise on the first movie's success, and in an uncanny foreshadowing of the movie industry's future he figured that the best way to move forward was to move back so he pitched a prequel called 'Roger Rabbit 2, the Toon Platoon'.
Nat Mauldin is an American screenwriter known for such movies as Dr. Dolittle, The In-Laws and The Perfect Holiday. Janisse describes how Mauldin wrote that in The Toon Platoon Roger is the adopted son of two live-action parents in 1942 (six ears before the first movie). Somehow he doesn't figure he is not their biological son until he is 18. When he does, he moves to L.A. on a quest to find his mother. He falls for a young Jessica Rabbit, but her lecherous boss gets in the way.
Bossman turns out to be a Nazi spy, and when Germany and America announce war he kidnaps Jessica and returns to his Hitler-run home country. Roger joins the army and follows in pursuit. With some 'toon buddies he uses an armada of cartoon weapons to defeat live-action Hitler and his Nazis and prevent a rocket from killing Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. They get a parade for beating the Nazis, Roger meets his mom, a live-action rabbit (of course), who tells him that his dad is Bugs Bunny. Sounds a whole lot better than the first one, right?
However production was hindered by numerous obstacles: Steven Spielberg, producing war epic Schindler's List at the time, apparently turned his nose up at the new movie. There were also issues in getting all the studios to play nice, as Janisse explains:
"In order to get the first movie made there had to be an almost perfect alignment between executives at Disney, Warner Bros., Amblin Entertainment and director Robert Zemeckis. If any one of the studios involved with the original movie had any disagreement with how their characters would be used in the film, or more importantly were unsatisfied with their licensing agreements to use said characters, then there just couldn't be another Roger Rabbit movie again."
With Abrams potentially on board for another one I'm hoping he'll draw from the '90s script of Mauldin and get the toon platoon back on the march.
Watch the Rejected Ideas video:
Watch a clip from the original:
Would You Watch Roger Rabbit 2: Toonful Toons?
Source: Rejected Ideas