Who Framed Roger Rabbit is celebrating its 25th anniversary of release, and remains one of the best collections of styles and animation showcases of all time. Today we’re going to take an inside look into a few aspects of the movie and what you as an animator can learn from the classic film!
Lesson 1: Go Off Script
When you’re working at a big studio, you’re getting paid to do what you’re told to do. That means making sure that your final product matches storyboards and scripts. Sometimes, though, an opportunity will present itself to make something even better.
In this scene featuring a Pelican riding a bicycle, the original idea was to have him simply ride past the camera. When the effect technicians were unable to keep the bike upright through the whole shot, someone on set had a flash of inspiration that the wobble and fall should be inserted into the final shot! As a result a huge amount of life and soul ended up in what would have otherwise been a very standard character animation. It’s this sort of life that we should strive to inject into our work. Sometimes a supervisor will be thrilled with a new idea, and sometimes they will ask you to go back to the way it was scripted. Don’t be afraid to present an alternate idea if that flash of inspiration hits you.
Lesson 2: Roll with the Punches
In animation, especially today, things are planned out to the smallest detail. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, all the live action was shot before the animation was placed on top, which meant for the most part that master plan had to be followed.
Unfortunately (or perhaps with great luck) in one scene Bob Hoskins forgot to look down to Roger height while talking to the later-inserted rabbit. Since the filming was already finished, animators used their ingenuity to add extra “cartoon” to Roger’s pose for the scene and stretch him against the wall, matching Hoskins’ eye level.
Imagine the scene with Roger simply standing by and it fails to capture the same charm and emotion as this happy accident. Sometimes you must roll with the punches when a scene is not working well, and you never know what better result you’ll discover!
Lesson 3: Do Your Best Work Every Time
Though less animation related, this story applies to everyone who embarks on a creative endeavor.
When Who Framed Roger Rabbit was being pitched, the screen writers adapted Gary K. Wolf’s “Who Censored Roger Rabbit” with the idea of up-and-coming director Robert Zemeckis taking the helm. Disney executives saw Zemeckis’ two films I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars, though, and decided that Zemeckis wasn’t talented enough to pull off the movie. That could have been the end, but it wasn’t.
Zemeckis went on to direct Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future, which won Disney over and caused a Zemeckis-led Roger Rabbit to be green lit. What can be gained here is the reminder that with every project you work on something big can come from it in the future, so it really pays to put in your very best effort. You may be doing a low-budget animation for an internet ad, for example, but you never know where it will lead. Likewise by constantly improving and trying to do better than your last work, you may find you win over even your harshest critics. So keep working hard and do your best work every single time!