The Disney Films That Never Were: WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT TWO - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Disney Films That Never Were: WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT TWO

Toon in for another proposed but (so far) unproduced Disney movie...

Walt Disney Pictures had purchased the film rights for Who Framed Roger Rabbit back in 1981. It's long journey to the screen is an altogether different story (with Paul Reubens aka Pee Wee Herman as the original voice of Roger) but it nearly fell in the final hurdle as Michael Eisner, then CEO, and Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company, felt the film was too risqué with sexual references.

Eisner and director Robert Zemeckis disagreed over various elements of the film throughout its production, but since Zemeckis had final cut privilege he refused to make alterations. He also had the backing of executive producer Steven Spielberg. On the basis of Zemeckis' final cut, Roy E. Disney, along with studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, decided it was not appropriate to release the film under the intended Walt Disney Pictures banner, and instead released it through the studio's PG-13 and R-rated films label, Touchstone Pictures, banner instead.

Arriving in theaters on June 22nd 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit went on to be the second highest grossing film of 1988, behind only Rain Man, and received near universal acclaim from all critics. Naturally a sequel was explored. And surprisingly quite quickly.

Steven Spielberg bought in a young J.J. Abrams to work up a draft for a sequel in 1989. If it had been fast-tracked into production, which was the intention at the time, it would've likely been Abrams first Hollywood credit as a writer (although his treatment for 1990s Taking Care of Business, written whilst he was in his senior year at college and was Abrams' first produced film, was already beginning development).

However, towards the end of 1989 Robert Zemeckis declined the offer to return as director, but would stay with the film as a producer. Abrams's outline was eventually abandoned when in the early 1990s Walt Disney Studios bought in Nat Mauldin to write a prequel titled Roger Rabbit Two: The Toon Platoon.

Set in 1941 to 1943 and similar to the original film, Toon Platoon featured many cameo appearances by characters from The Golden Age of American Animation. It began with Roger Rabbit's early years, living on a farm in the midwestern United States. With human Ritchie Davenport, Roger travels west to seek his mother, in the process meeting Jessica Krupnick (his future wife), a struggling Hollywood actress.

While Roger and Ritchie are enlisting in the Army, Jessica is kidnapped and forced to make pro-Nazi Germany broadcasts. Roger and Ritchie must save her by going into Nazi-occupied Europe accompanied by several other Toons in their Army platoon. After their triumph, Roger and Ritchie are given a Hollywood Boulevard parade, and Roger is finally reunited with his mother and father... Bugs Bunny!

Table reads of the proposed script can be found here. Whilst it languished in development hell, Mauldin retitled his script Who Discovered Roger Rabbit, but the project was abandoned when Spielberg decided he could not satirize Nazis after directing Schindler's List and left the production.

But the story of Roger Rabbit Two is not finished there, not by a long way, as in 1997 Michael Eisner commissioned Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver to come up with a rewrite, and he was keen for it the sequel/prequel to be a musical!

Although they kept Roger's search for his mother, Stoner and Oliver replaced the WWII subplot with Roger's inadvertent rise to stardom in Hollywood and on Broadway. Disney was impressed and Alan Menken was hired to write five songs for the film and offered his services as executive producer. One of the songs, "This Only Happens in the Movies", was recorded in 2008 on the debut album of Broadway actress Kerry Butler....

Although Disney reached out to him, Spielberg declined returning to the project (Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy remained as producers). Eric Goldberg, co-director of Pocahontas, was set to be the new animation director, and began to redesign Roger's new character appearance. Test footage for Who Discovered Roger Rabbit was shot in 1998 at the Disney animation unit in Lake Buena Vista, Florida...

...The mix of CGI, traditional animation, and live-action did not please Disney. A second test had the toons completely converted to CGI; but this was rejected as the film's budget would've escalate past $100 million, so Eisner felt it was best to cancel the film entirely. Apart from a few hopeful soundbites from those involved in the original film, no more work was done on Who Framed Roger Rabbit Two for a decade.

Then, in 2009 it was announced a new script for Roger Rabbit 2 was being developed. During promotion for his CGI take on A Christmas Carol, Zemeckis said that the Roger Rabbit sequel would remain hand-drawn animated and live-action sequences will be filmed, just like in the original film, but the lighting effects on the cartoon characters and some of the props that the toons handle will be done digitally. Frank Marshall then confirmed that the film would still be a prequel, similar to earlier drafts, and that the writing was almost complete.

Then, in 2010,  the film's original associate producer Don Hahn all but confirmed the sequel's development in an interview with Empire. He stated,
"Yeah, I couldn't possibly comment. I deny completely, but yeah... if you're a fan, pretty soon you're going to be very, very, very happy."
 In 2010, Bob Hoskins stated he was interested in the project, reprising his role as Eddie Valiant. However, he retired from acting in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a year earlier, and sadly died from complications in 2014.

Although Hoskins retirement may have been the time to close the book on a Roger Rabbit sequel, it wasn't to be as in February 2013, Gary K. Wolf, writer of the original novel, said he was working on a new development proposal for an animated Disney buddy comedy starring Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit called The Stooge, based on the 1952 film of the same name. It shared a lot of similarities with everything we've heard before, in that the proposed film would be a prequel, taking place five years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit and part of the story is about how Roger met Jessica, just with equal Mickey Mouse in there.

All went quiet for a few years and then in November 2016, while promoting his film Allied, Zemeckis stated that he was working on an all new sequel. One which would...
"...move the story of Roger and Jessica Rabbit into the next few years of period film, moving on from film noir to the world of the 1950s".
He also stated that the sequel would feature a "digital Bob Hoskins" as Eddie Valiant would return in "ghost form"! The 30th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit came and went with no news of the sequel/prequel or whatever it may end up being. Robert Zemeckis said he feels that...
"...the current corporate Disney culture has no interest in Roger, and they certainly don't like Jessica at all".
Asked if he could ever envisage a day when Disney finally produce Roger Rabbit Two, a slightly jaded Zemeckis said,
"I don’t think so. I don’t know where it fits in in their universe. There’s no princess in it, so I don’t know where that would be.

There’s a wonderful script sitting at Disney that is really good, but I don’t think it’s on their radar."

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