Crossover events have always been a big deal. It’s mind-blowing that companies can get together and put their differences aside to have their major franchises join forces in one major event. This is precisely why we saw things like the DC vs. Marvel series, The X-Men team up with the crew of Star Trek or Archie Andrews meet up with the Punisher… and Archie Andrews fight off the Predator. Yes, those last two things really did happen!
Of course, most of these crossovers are created for mostly financial gain. Companies like Marvel and DC don’t allow their characters to do these joint ventures without expecting to make bank. To be fair, they usually do because fans will eat crossover events up. Even so, it does take a lot of negotiating and back-and-forth between them because, as much as it’s for monetary gain, each franchise holder doesn’t want to look like the “loser” or the weaker brand.
However, there is actually that one perfect crossover event that most people today seemingly have forgotten. It was a landmark for both film as well as what studios can do together if they put their differences aside to make something beautiful and grand.
That movie is Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The plot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is all about a private investigator named Eddie Valiant who runs into Roger Rabbit, who has been framed for the murder of Marvin Acme, the owner of Acme Incorporated. The two get involved in a web of conspiracies that will either destroy the livelihood of all the toons who live in Hollywood.
Well, that’s the basic plot. But as a kid (okay, a twelve-year old preteen) who watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit as it was released in 1988, I didn’t care all that much about the story. What I really cared about is how they managed to corral all of the classic cartoon characters into one big movie! This, to my young mind, was impossible! I never dreamed of seeing Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny in one scene or Donald Duck and Daffy Duck playing dueling pianos!
Suffice to say, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a fantastic experience and instantly became one of my most favorite films of all time. This was a movie that I watched over and over again. As in I would go to the movie theater each afternoon after school just to watch it again! At the time, I didn’t fully understand the concept of what a crossover was. I was generally familiar with things like Superman and Spider-Man teaming up or facing off against each other before realizing that they were both good guys and why that was a huge deal. It never really struck me that Disney and Warner Bros. characters being in the same film would have the same impact on me!
As I got older and watched more about Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I did learn how much more complex the movie was than just animated antics featuring Disney, Warner Bros. and many other cartoon characters. It wasn’t unheard of to have animated and live-action characters mix and mingle in the same screen at the same time. But the degree that they used the effect in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was astronomical. What makes it doubly amazing is that the movie was made at a time when digital effects wasn’t the standard!
It’s much easier to blend in special effects today thanks to computers. They can even film actors on the set and then just remove them with computer trickery. But during the time of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, they had to be really creative! They had to create robots specific for each scene so that they could be thin enough for the animators to draw over them. It was amazing then and it’s even more amazing now considering the technology they had to work with in the day!
As I got even older, I also started to see the more adult nature of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. When I was young, all I saw was a cartoon filled wonderland with fantastic and seamless special effect shots. As an adult, I started to notice a few of the more serious themes the film had. It doesn’t hit you over the head with it but Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a take on racism in the olden times wherein most of the toons are treated as second class citizens. The tearing down of ToonTown and the Red Car to make way for the “technological marvel” known as “the freeway” was probably something that was controversial at the time but we just don’t know about it now.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was, at its heard, a simple crossover film that was explicitly designed to make a lot of money. The basic idea of getting Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Droopy Dog and many other well known cartoon characters in one film was enough to make every kid drool in delight. But as I got older, it’s almost like the film grew up with me as I learned about the art of film making and storyboarding, which they had to do extensively as they had to plan where the toons will be. As the years went on, I also started to catch the little nuances of what casual racism and what controversial topics may have looked like at the time period the film was set.
It’s sad that, even though Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a milestone in filmmaking and in the realm of crossovers in general, I don’t really see or hear many people still talking about this film. One of the reasons why I’m writing about it now is because I just saw it recently and I truly believe it’s a movie that holds up even today. It’s also probably the only time this kind of mega-crossover featuring many classic animated characters will appear on the same film ever as both Disney and Warner Bros. are now shoring up defenses on their franchises thanks to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Warner Bros. desperately wanting DC Superheroes films to make it as big as their Disney counterpart.
Suffice to say, when it comes to crossovers, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is just this perfect snapshot in time when companies would actually work together to give fans a special treat… even if it is to make tons of money.
Have you seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? What other mega-crossover events can you think of? Let me know in the comments section below!