How “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” Influenced Today’s Filmmakers

In between making Back to the Future(1985) and the release of its sequel Back to the Future Part II (1989), Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis (who also helmed Forrest Gump) made a little movie about a love-sick cartoon rabbit who was set up to take the rap for a murder he didn’t commit only to get help from the one person we’d least expect — a toon-hating detective with a grudge. It’s been 30 years since Oscar recognized Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) with a Special Achievement Award and Best Visual Effects win, but the film continues to impress and inspire the next wave of filmmakers coming up in Hollywood.

Set in 1940’s Los Angeles, the film uses magic realism, a technique used to include fantastic/mythical elements into what we recognize as the “real world” and accepted as the norm. In this case, cartoon characters are alive, fully functional/emotional, and co-exist with humans, although they have their own “world” to dwell in called Toontown. The thought of two totally unique worlds colliding intrigued the filmmakers at Fuzz on the Lens Productions and guided them to produce Abnormal Attraction(2018), a film starring Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Gilbert Gottfried (Aladdin), Tyler Mane (Halloween), Leslie Easterbrook (House of 1,000 Corpses), and Academy Award-nominee Bruce Davison (Longtime Companion).

Abnormal Attraction had its sold out, red carpet, world premiere at the SVA theatre in New York City on March 1st, and it takes the same route by combining real world human lifestyle with fairytale creatures such as The Tooth Fairy, Sasquatch, Leprechauns, Witches, etc. And just like anything else that’s different, there is a certain level of fascination, fear, and hatred that may follow. It runs with that theme throughout the film to show the progression of hatred in America and how we have needed to overcome that prejudice throughout history in order to advance as a civilization. The theme builds so that we may find out why Hilde the Witch despises humans much like trying to find out why Eddie Valiant hates toons. And much like Roger Rabbit, the co-existence of the world will depend upon finding an acceptance between sides.

One thing Who Framed Roger Rabbit brought to mainstream cartooning was the inclusion of adult themes, primarily sex. In the film’s trailer, the voiceover artist literally says the word as we see Jessica Rabbit, the sexiest cartoon ever drawn, sashay across the screen. Writer/Director Michael Leavy made a comedy with a strong sense of morality involved in the arc of his characters but also bringing the adult themes to fairy tales while hoping to create the next cult classic like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). “One thing we realized is there is a niche market for this type of film. If you like fairy tales as kids, why wouldn’t you like them geared towards adults? Add some slapstick comedy in there and you have yourself a formula for success. It’s our inside joke to horror fans, that’s why we chose some of the main cast.”

Up next for Abnormal Attraction will be the HorrorHound film festival in Cincinnati, Ohio the weekend of March 23rd with an expected DVD release in fall 2018. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is currently celebrating is 30th anniversary, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Craig Joseph Pisani is an avid moviegoer and aspiring screenwriter with Bachelor’s degrees in both Cinema and English.