Roger Rabbit, Steven Spielberg, and Abraham Lincoln

'Stop fighting and make me a sequel!'

'Stop fighting and make me a sequel!'

As you may or may not be aware, an epic movie distribution deal between Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks and Universal Pictures recently fell apart, leaving Spielberg the need to complete a deal with his second (or far from second) choice – Disney. Well I never thought I’d see the day. Or at least, that’s what I thought until I did some digging and discovered that I had already seen the day. No, I’m not talking about some sort of Lost-centric time travel anomaly – I’m talking about Roger Rabbit.

The budget-heavy film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, though ultimately worth every penny, had a slow start. Originally envisioned in 1981, the project didn’t take off until 1985 when Disney CEO Michael Eisner approached Amblin Entertainment and asked for help producing the film from Spielberg himself.

By the time it was released, I guess I was too busy enjoying Roger Rabbit accidentally flushing himself down the toilet (I was 8) to realize how unusual it was that such a popular children’s character disappeared without a movie sequel or at least a cereal endorsement. Although Roger Rabbit left a small legacy of animated shorts, Disney rides, a dance move, and even pornographic renderings of Jessica Rabbit (don’t ask me where you can find them), the franchise couldn’t get a second wind thanks to the Eisner-Spielberg partnership. The ill-fated partners just couldn’t agree on the next steps and even battled over ownership of the rabbit.

How is this fair???

How is this fair???

FYI- an early version of the proposed Roger Rabbit prequel film showed how Roger first meets Jessica Rabbit (maiden name, Krupnick) by saving her from the Nazis (this is all true). Spielberg turned this idea down because he felt that satirizing Nazis would negatively impact the integrity of his recently completed film, Schindler’s List. Eisner commissioned a gentler rewrite in 1997 (now 9 years after the release of the original film) where Roger searched for his father (Bugs Bunny), but despite these efforts, Spielberg (now heavily engaged with establishing DreamWorks), pulled out of his partnership with Disney in all of its ironic glory!

So here we are in 2009, wondering what this born-again partnership will mean. The official press release announced on February 9th that Disney will be handling distribution and marketing for six live action DreamWorks films a year for at least 5 years. So Spielberg now has to decide which film to choose as his directorial debut under the regime of Disney, and rumor is that Disney is pushing for Lincoln – his previously announced film about our 16th President.

These rumors actually stem from Disney’s steadfast (and almost tyrannical) religion called synergy. Synergy is Disney’s excuse for creating a theme park ride out of every successful movie (even Spielberg’s Indiana Jones), a movie out of every successful theme park ride (see Pirates of the Caribbean), and forcing ABC and ESPN employees to wear Disney badges at all times. How far does Disney’s synergistic thirst go? This time around, one of the big suits down in Orlando is already talking about refurbishing Disney’s Hall Of Presidents attraction yet again (currently being refurbished to include Obama) to re-record the voice of Abraham Lincoln with a celebrity by the name of Liam Neeson – the actor currently slated to play said role in Spielberg’s upcoming film. In other words, Disney doesn’t need an official press release to begin sinking their teeth in.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I’d like to indicate the name of this partnership should be spelled, D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. The differences in creative opinion between Disney and Amblin in the past should not be overlooked as foreshadowing. Admittedly, things have changed – Spielberg has moved on to Dreamworks and there’s a new prez in town at Disney – but the key players remain the same, and both sides have only become more stubbornly successful. Although the new CEO of Disney, Robert Iger, is said to be a brilliant man when it comes to modern media, he’s certainly no Spielberg, and Steven won’t easily let him forget that.

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2 comments to Roger Rabbit, Steven Spielberg, and Abraham Lincoln

  • Joey

    I love Who Framed Roger Rabbit! One of my favs and am glad it is represented at Disney or at least it used to be in the once named MGM park. I have not been in 10 years (hangs my head in shame) but I have begun planning my next trip! So excited!

  • ian steward

    i like you i see you on roger rabbit and i also like baby herman with you