One of my favourite films has just finished on BBC 1. Any broadcaster who sticks the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? into their DVD player and presses the play button is great in my eyes (assuming that’s how it works when they show movies). The film always gets me thinking just how great a collaboration can be. Fair enough, sticking Sir Paul McCartney together with Stevie Wonder created the dreadful Ebony and Ivory but then think of The Pogues Feat. Kirsty MacColl with Fairytale of New York or U2 and Mary J. Blige singing One. Both these prove one thing, in music, a collaboration really can be a wonderful thing!
Film has consistently achieved bigger and better mixtures of awesomeness!! This is when we come back to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. The film, released in 1988, directed by Robert Zemeckis and released by Disney (through Touchstone pictures). The ★★★★★ rated movie mixes an impressive combination of:
- Unique characters (e.g. Roger and Jessica Rabbit)
- Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Dumbo, Pinocchio and even Mary Poppins’ penguins (Walt Disney Animation)
- Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (Warner Bros.)
- Betty Boop
- Woody Woodpecker
- and many others
The collaborative relationship from all these studios (coming together in part thanks to Steven Spielberg as producer) gives the audiences an exciting combination of childhood favourites. Whilst the other studios had no part in the production of the film, they did allow Disney to make use of their characters in a way never really done before and since. It’s not often you see Mickey and Bugs in the same scene. From this, the film just wouldn’t be the same without all these famous characters living together in Toon Town. An entire town with just Disney characters wouldn’t have the same feel (This is what the Disney Parks were built for!). The influx of characters from different producers is possibly partially what made the film so successful eventually making $330 million at the box office.
More recently, two other Disney films, (this time both fully animated) that have successfully brought in cross-business collaborations has been Toy Story (1995 ★★★★★) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012 ★★★). The films have made a combined $833m worldwide and although looking at very different ideas have made the use of original characters mixed with copyrighted ones.
Toy Story, the first fully computer animated movie, wowed audiences with its use of the then modern technology. The directing power of John Lasseter (now chief creative officer at Pixar and Disney Animation and adviser at Disney Imagineers (makers of the Disney Parks and rides)). The three films have launched a multitude of new characters such as Buzz, Woody, Rex, Hamm, Jessie, Bulleye and Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear. These characters have become classics with merchandise quickly selling out when sold in stores. The best use of the films has been the inclusion of various licensed products. Toy Story 1 brought toys such as Mr Potato Head and Etch A Sketch with Toy Story 2&3 adapting even more well-known characters such as Barbie and Ken. Just like in Roger Rabbit, Toy Story is unlikely to have reached the same success had it not been the relationships created to include these well-known toys within the films. The uses evokes the feelings of childhood. My granny had a Fisher Price Chatter Phone when I was a kid. The first thing I thought when I saw Toy Story 3!
The second film I mentioned was Wreck-It Ralph. The film, even though it wasn’t quite as good as Toy Story, made similar use of licensed material. The characters such as Ralph, Vanellope von Schweetz, Fix-It Felix Jr., Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun and others were created especially for the main story of the film. They’re joined by characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac Man, Bowser, Frogger, Doctor Eggman and other well-known game characters make cameos within the film. This article by IGN looks at the 10+ different cameos featured in the trailer alone.
After wittering on through this entire blog post, its clear the success that a successful collaboration between various different companies can be. The relationship etched by Steven Spielberg between Disney and multiple animation studios has shown how working collectively improves the potential success achieved by these sorts of films. Would Who Framed Roger Rabbit? really have been such a huge success without the inclusion of non Disney material like Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny?
After all that, there’s only one thing for it…I’m off to watch the Roger Rabbit shorts created after the full film!