On Tuesday, news originated from the site of Gary K. Wolf, the novelist whose book “Who Censored Rogert Rabbit?” was very, very loosely adapted into the hit 1988 movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” that a proposal was coming to Disney for an animated feature that would star Roger Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. (The two characters starred together in the original ‘Roger Rabbit’ film but who’s counting?) Later, in a report to Ain’t It Cool News, Wolf clarified his original statements, although how likely this project is to ever seeing the light of day remains hopelessly muddy.
In the original post, Wolf explained that this project, entitled “The Stooge,” would be set in five specific locations around the Disneyland park and feature real-life characters like Orson Welles and Walt Disney himself. What initially raised flags was that all of these elements originally appeared in one of the many discarded sequel proposals for the follow-up to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” While this didn’t get as far as the once developing Broadway-set prequel “Who Discovered Roger Rabbit,” it was still a cool script that was centered around Disneyland as a safe haven for Toontown’s toons (at one point an idea was floated by production to shoot at the still-under-construction EuroDisney park). Mickey was obviously a huge part of this concept.
Later, in the clarification post to Ain’t It Cool, Wolf admits to planting the story originally as a way to drum up interest in his new Roger Rabbit novel, “Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?,” which is out this fall. (After “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?,” Wolf decided to write a sequel that incorporated ideas from the movie and not his original novel. It was shameless and not entirely successful and most recently Wolf has been releasing e-books with horrendous covers for less than $5 a pop.) He does, however, insist that the project is real, describing it as a “musical buddy comedy” and saying, “This movie, which will be all animated, has nothing to do with the sequel to ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ They are totally different concepts and projects. It’s not a case of making one instead of the other. In an ideal, rabbit-centric world, Disney will make both.” Wolf describes himself as being involved “in a writing and creative capacity,” something that he wasn’t, at all, in the original “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” feature or any of the animated shorts that followed.
While Wolf maintains that this concept is being proposed to Disney, he’s fuzzy on specifics, and isn’t talking about the man most responsible for Roger Rabbit’s fate over the years: Steven Spielberg. You see, it was Spielberg’s clout and wheel-greasing skills that made the original ‘Roger Rabbit’ feature work; who else could have convinced Warner Bros. (and various other animation studios) to let their most beloved characters appear in a movie produced and marketed by Disney? For all of his trouble, Spielberg was rewarded with a 50% ownership stake in the character, and over the years he has chosen to exert that control to almost Machiavellian degrees.
For instance, in 1995 a planned fourth ‘Roger Rabbit’ short, entitled “Hare in My Soup” and set to debut before “Toy Story,” was canceled (by Spielberg) after the costly production had already began. The reason, most conclude, is that Spielberg was still enraged over the fact that the second ‘Rabbit’ short, “Roller Coaster Rabbit,” played in front of Disney’s would-be summer blockbuster “Dick Tracy” instead of the Spielberg-produced horror movie “Arachnophobia” (put out by Disney shingle Hollywood Pictures that same summer). His insistence, following “Schindler’s List,” that none of his movies feature Nazis as comedic villains, also put the kibosh on “Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?” Spielberg also reportedly shuttered the possibility of a Roger Rabbit ride opening in Walt Disney World in Florida (there’s a terrific ride in California’s Disneyland).
The fact that none of Wolf’s reports even mention Spielberg’s thorny involvement is a testament to how possibly dubious this all is. It’s one thing to report on a potential project, but it’s another thing to announce details of a project, then admit that it was all part of a marketing stunt (it’s the first movie’s 25th anniversary this year, complete with a new Blu-ray disc), and then maintain that it’s legit. Someone should tell Mr. Spielberg. We’re sure he’d be interested.