In addition to being a just plain fun movie and tribute to so many classic hand-drawn cartoon characters (Disney characters! Warner Bros. characters! and Fleischer characters! All together!), Who Framed Roger Rabbit is also a tribute to the Hollywood of yesteryear – when Hollywood the industry actually existed in Hollywood the place, and the Hollywood sign was still a big advertisement for the “Hollywoodland” real estate development (Fun fact: a Hollywoodland poster makes a cameo in the film, but when you see the sign and Cahuenga Peak in the background outside Eddie Valiant’s office, it only says “Hollywood” – it wasn’t actually changed until two years after the film takes place. Yes I am a nerd.). I love that it’s all about the real Los Angeles, where it was founded – what’s inland a bit, surrounding the river (the Glendale-Hyperion bridge does make an appearance!), not just palm trees and beaches like those shown in far too many films.
Oh, and apparently back then people said things like, “Who needs a car in LA? We’ve got the best public transportation system in the world!” Yea, that’s about when I started laughing/crying/exclaiming about how now they’re just picking on me, a car-free transit geek. It had been a few years since I’ve seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so I got caught off guard and a little emotional. But at first it was wonderful, when just a few minutes in one of those Big Red Cars with “Sunset Blvd” splayed across the top pulled into frame, and I was transported into some magical version of Los Angeles where the public transportation vehicles and the automobiles co-existed in happiness along our city’s major thoroughfares (I get so sad every time I remember that the big median down Eagle Rock Blvd. is just covering up where the Red Car tracks used to be!).
For most people, this is a movie about cartoons and a fun take on showbiz with the underlying theme of the big transportation shakeup in Los Angeles and the arrival of the freeway. But, for me, it’s a movie about the death of our once well-respected transit system set against the backdrop of this whole “Toon” thing. You see just as much of fictional neighborhood Toon Town as you do the watering hole across from Eddie’s office, which is located at the train terminal and is decorated with model trains, old signs, the light shining through a red “Pacific Electric” sign instead of a window, and a big huge map of the Pacific Electric Railway system up on the wall behind the bar. Someday I will own a bar and I will decorate it just like that. Or maybe I’ll just decorate my bathroom that way.
Basically, the cartoons are just there as a framing device to make the story a little more accessible, right? I mean, come on, the movie’s villain is out to buy up all of Toon Town (he already bought the Red Car system) just so he can build a freeway through it, then make tons of money by creating an economy of gas stations, off-ramp restaurants and billboard advertising spots. And who would ever want to live in a place like that?