While talking with MTV during one of the seemingly endless press appearances for the new “Back to the Future” Blu-ray set (which is totally worth picking up, by the way), Robert Zemeckis gave a brief update on the status of the long-in-development “Roger Rabbit” sequel. When asked if the script was still being penned by the original writers (Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey Price), Zemeckis confirmed, and said, “They’re slow.” When pressed for details if he had actually read anything, Zemeckis stated that he had and, “It’s great… I think it’s gonna be great.”
Still: we remain unconvinced until something is actually announced by the studio, which, considering how long various factions have been toiling away on a sequel, is easier said than done. And that’s before you factor in the almost insurmountable logistical maneuvering that would have to be accomplished to pull this thing off. For more on why this could be one of the more complicated movies to put together (and not just from a technical standpoint), read on.
It seems like few movies have had as many false starts as the follow-up to 1988’s exuberant animation/live action film noir. For a while, it seemed like there would be a direct sequel to the insanely popular and groundbreaking film, rumours of which which seemed to cool, only to be warmed up again in the late 1990s, with work being done in earnest, on a prequel tentatively called “Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?” and set on Broadway. (Disney‘s stalwart composer Alan Menken had penned a half-dozen songs and signed on as an executive producer.) But Disney’s sometimes contentious relationship with Steven Spielberg who, thanks to a deal struck for the original film, owned 50% of everything Roger Rabbit and had to approve anything that moved forward with the character, got the better of them.
Spielberg, who had shuttered a number of Roger Rabbit projects after the original film’s theatrical release (including nay-saying a series of animated theatrical shorts and putting the kibosh on some proposed Disney theme park attractions), took issue with the prequel’s proposed villains: Nazis. After making “Schindler’s List,” he said that Nazis would never be comic villains in anything he was involved in. (This might also explain why the compelling Nazi subplot was cut from the Frank Darabont draft of the fourth “Indiana Jones” film.) So what was once an incredibly solid script able to attract talent like Menken, got looser and more watered down as things went along. If you’ll remember, earlier this year, an animation test, with Roger rendered in three dimensions, leaked online. This was from that same period of creative development.
Like most things in Hollywood, the prequel ballooned in budget and Michael Eisner, who was responsible for striking the deal that made the original “Roger Rabbit” happen (he had given the green-light to Spielberg’s costly “Raiders of the Lost Ark” back when he ran Paramount), put the brakes on the film’s development.
A few years back, though, we began hearing that the studio was working on another take on the sequel. At the time, we were sworn to secrecy, but now everyone knows it’s been going on. It probably first coincided with Disney’s decision to acquire Robert Zemeckis’ motion capture animation studio, which would go on to only produce two films (last year’s “Christmas Carol“) and next spring’s “Mars Needs Moms,” before being quietly shut down by the studio. While that might have been a huge kink in the plans to develop “Roger Rabbit 2” (in whatever form it might take), it received the upswing it needed when Disney agreed to distribute Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks output, for the foreseeable future.
Spielberg’s got to be more than a little thankful that Disney took on the DreamWorks canon after a number of studios passed, and from what we understand, it was Spielberg who greased the wheels between the various animation houses and studios that got “Roger Rabbit” to the screen and let us see Donald and Daffy share screen time together. So while axing Zemeckis’ animation studio might have set things back some, being in bed with Spielberg could be the thing that pushes the “Roger Rabbit” sequel from tantalizing “what if?” project to actual reality.