Episode 41: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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We’re on the second part of the “L.A. Trilogy,” and Sean and Cody are joined by two very special guests: John Dorney and Tom Salinsky, two of the three hosts of the Best Pick movie podcast! The Best Pick guys thought Who Framed Roger Rabbit should have won Best Picture in 1988, and they’re here to make their case. In this zany live-action and animated comedy film noir send-up, cartoon star Roger (voiced by Charles Fleischer) is effing up at his job in 1940s Hollywood when he thinks his wife Jessica (voice of Kathleen Turner) is playing pattycake on him with one of L.A.’s biggest landlords. Private gumshoe and sometime alky Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets dragged into the case, which involves a mega-conspiracy to bulldoze Toontown’s rail transit to build a bunch of ugly freeways. The major environmental question of the film is a big one in L.A. and American history: did a consortium of automakers and real estate developers deliberately sabotage the transit system? We puzzle out the answer, as well as the details of one of the most beloved films of all time in this toontastic episode of Green Screen.

What’s the real story behind the “Red Car” train that used to grace L.A.’s streets? Why were nine U.S. companies convicted in antitrust court in 1949 of conspiring to kill rail transit, and why did that case not solve the issue? Did something like the “Cloverleaf company” depicted in this film really exist? How and why did the Automobile Club of Southern California sketch out a plan to use freeways as a tool of ethnic cleansing in Los Angeles? Was the script for this film really first intended as “Chinatown, Part III?” How did the creators of this film manage to make such a huge technical achievement look so easy? What would the cartoon version of Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard look like? How is the film radically different than the book it’s based on? Is Judge Doom the most terrifying cinema villain of all time? Who’s Eddie Deezen and what does he have to do with this movie? All these questions and many, many more are bumping the lamp in this, one of the most fun episodes of Green Screen ever.

Big thanks to John Dorney and Tom Salinsky of the Best Pick podcast, which has been a major influence on Green Screen.

Original 1988 trailer for Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
For the first (and only) time in movie history, Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured Warner Brothers cartoon characters together with Disney characters. A highlight was this unforgettable piano duel between Daffy Duck and Donald Duck.
The introduction of Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), a villain who traumatized a generation of childhood moviegoers. Richard LeParmentier, one of the “That Guys” discussed in the episode, appears briefly in this scene.
Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) shows his appreciation for the Red Car transit system by catching a ride without paying a fare. The Red Car really did exist and was a fixture of early L.A. history. 
SPOILER ALERT: Judge Doom reveals his ultimate plan to turn L.A. into an automotive paradise, at considerable profit. This is the central environmental issue of the picture.

Additional Materials About This Episode:

John Dorney & Tom Salinsky (Guests for This Episode)

Best Pick, the podcast they host (with Jessica Rabbit Regan)

Tom’s Twitter

John’s Twitter

Environmental History: L.A. and Mass Transit

Scott Bottles, Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City (University of California Press, 1987) (Archive.org link):
https://archive.org/details/losangelesautom00bott

Jonathan Richmond, Transport of Delight: The Mythical Conception of Rail Transit in Los Angeles (University of Akron Press, 2005) (Archive.org link):
https://archive.org/details/transportofdelig0000rich

Junked_streetcars

Former L.A. “Red Car” trolleys piled up in a junkyard at Terminal Island, 1956.

Automobile Club of Southern California’s 1938 “Elevated Motorway” proposal, archived at the Daily Mirror of Los Angeles History, June 15, 1938:
https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2008/06/june-15-1938.html

thats-racist

U.S. v. National City Lines, the opinion in the antritrust case against various defendants related to conspiracies involving urban transit systems, 186 F.2d 562 (7th Cir. 1951) (Archive.org link):
https://web.archive.org/web/20100514005923/http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/186/186.F2d.562.9943-9953.html

Bradford C. Snell, American Ground Transport: A Proposal for Restructuring Automobile, Truck, Bus & Rail Industries, U.S. Government report, 1974, the infamous “Snell Report”:
https://www.worldcarfree.net/resources/freesources/American.htm

Martha J. Bianco, “Kennedy, 60 Minutes and Roger Rabbit: Understanding Conspiracy-Theory Explanations of the Decline of Urban Mass Transit,” Discussion Paper, Portland State University, November 17, 1998:
http://marthabianco.com/kennedy_rogerrabbit.pdf

The Movie:

“Bumping the Lamp,” the in-depth video essay about the making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, referenced several times in the episode.

calhoun vs lloyd

U.S. Senator and Vice-President of the United States John C. Calhoun (left) vs. Christopher Lloyd. Why was a film never made to make this casting choice a reality?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096438/
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/who-framed-roger-rabbit/

Next Movie Up: Nightcrawler (2014)

The image associated with Who Framed Roger Rabbit is presumably copyright (C) 1988 by Touchstone/Buena Vista Pictures. Its inclusion here is believed permissible under fair use. We are not the uploader of any YouTube clips embedded here.
The main episode includes a musical composition, “I Knew a Guy,” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com, used under Creative Commons 4.0 license.

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