Released in 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was an immediate box office success due to it’s appeal to all ages. Kids loved it for featuring all their favourite cartoon characters whilst grown ups enjoyed it for the smattering of more adult humour it contained. It went on to win 4 Oscars, including ones for it’s sound effects and visual effects, that latter of which still look believable today (well, as believable as cartoon characters mingling with humans can).
The film is based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit, the story revolving around the titular Roger Rabbit and is set in 1947 Los Angeles. The premise is that cartoon characters (collectively known as Toons) are actually alive, and cartoons are filmed on sets in exactly the same way a film starring humans would be. Roger Rabbit is a slapstick comedy Toon star who ends up being framed for the murder of Marvin Acme, owner of the Acme company (presumably the place where Wile E. Coyote always got his gadgets from). The planted evidence against Roger shows his wife Jessica Rabbit (a beautiful human Toon) playing pattycake with Marvin, which to a Toon is considered as having an affair.
Roger ends up recruiting Eddie Valiant, a human detective played by Bob Hoskins, to help clear his name. Eddie is a bit of a drunk and doesn’t much care for Toons after his brother was killed by an unknown Toon who dropped a piano on his head, but he ends up helping Roger out after he hides away in Eddie’s home.
Eddie has to protect Roger from the evil Judge Doom (played by Christopher Lloyd) who is a particularly nasty piece of work who is hoping to buy up the LA Interurban Railway and replace it with motor ways. This is bad news for Toons as the planned route for the roads goes straight through Toontown, home of all the Toons, and just so happens to be owned by the late Marvin Acme. Marvin had promised to leave Toontown to the Toons on his death, but his will appears to have gone missing, so Roger and Eddie must also try to find this.
They pay a visit to R. K. Maroon, boss of the cartoon making company that employs Roger, to try and clear his name. Unfortunately Maroon is shot in the back by an unseen assailant, who Eddie initially believes to be Jessica Rabbit. He questions Jessica, who tells him that Judge Doom is actually responsible for the murders. The finale of the film sees Eddie and Roger confront Doom and his Toon weasel henchmen in a majorly slapstick fight. It is eventually revealed that Doom is actually a Toon himself, when he is run over by a steamroller and becomes paper thin. He is in fact the self same Toon who was responsible for Eddie’s brothers death.
The bringing together of the cartoon and live action worlds in this film is nothing short of amazing work. It was featured the frankly staggering coup of bringing together so many cartoon characters from so many different studios in one film, including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (Disney), Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (Warner Brothers), Droopy (MGM), Betty Boop (Paramount) and Woody Woodpecker (Walter Lantz). Many more much loved characters are featured, but some of the standout scenes are the one where Eddie falls off a building, with wise cracks from Bugs and Mickey, and piano duel between Donald and Daffy, and Betty Boops cameo as a waitress in the club where Jessica Rabbit sings – Betty Boop is the only Toon still drawn in Black and White, thus treating her in a manner similar to one of the classic Hollywood actresses such as Greto Garbo or Audrey Hepburn.