One of the finest fantasy films ever to be released is entitled, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The film was released to great financial and critical success in the year, 1988. March, 2013 will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film's release and a special Blu-Ray version of the film will be released for the occasion. The wonderfully comedic and dramatic fantasy was directed by famed director, Robert Zemeckis and starred Bob Hoskins. The best films will always have a strong foundation supporting it and the foundation of this film was built upon the novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit written by the brilliant author, Gary K. Wolf.
The news that Gary is currently involved in a new film prequel that will star the equally beloved Mickey Mouse together with Roger Rabbit has sent the equivalent of an 8.0 magnitude earthquake throughout the entertainment business. The proposed film will be a parody that will be loosely based on the 1952 film that starred Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis which was entitled, The Stooge. The new Gary K. Wolf prequel will also utilize that title. It was this topic and many more that this Examiner.com columnist was privileged to talk about with the gifted author.
The origin of the idea behind Roger Rabbit was a logical beginning for the interview and Gary happily obliged. Wolf responds, "it goes way, way back to when I was growing up in Earlville, Illinois-a little farm town with fourteen hundred people. My Dad ran the pool hall there and my Mother worked in a school cafeteria. These two people were children of the Depression and my Dad had to drop out of school in the third grade to go to work. My Mother had to drop out of the eighth grade to go to work. My Mother could read and write, but my Father could not." Gary continues, "my Mother always told me that the one thing that I could do to make sure that I didn't end up staying in Earlville to run my Father's pool hall was to read. She just encouraged me to read. She didn't place any restrictions on what I could read and the reading material of my choice was comic books. When you look at Roger Rabbit, you can see the comic book influence. The other thing I was really fascinated by was cartoons. Comic books and cartoons!"
There are moments that shape and influence the direction of your life and sometimes you are fortunate to have identified it. One such moment is recalled by Gary K. Wolf. Gary reminisces, "this story kind of shaped who I am today and I hope to always be! I was in the third grade and the teacher had given us an assignment. The assignment was that she handed us a picture. In that picture was a farmhouse, a barn, a pasture and a cow out in the pasture. She wanted us to color the picture with the only requirement was that we needed to stay within the lines. I knew there was no one better at staying within the lines-I am the world's expert at staying within the lines" Wolf states with humor. The tale continues, "I colored the farmhouse yellow and I colored the barn-red because barns are red! I then looked at the cow out all alone in the field. My Mother had always told me that when people were all alone, they got sad and were blue. If it worked for people then it worked for cows, so I colored that cow-blue! I turned it in the next day and the day after that the teacher passed them all back except for mine. She asked me to come up to the front of the class and she turned me around to face the class. She held the picture up over my head said, 'class-look at this stupid, stupid picture! Everybody knows that cows are black, brown and white and never, never-blue!' She then called my Mother to tell her that she thought there was a problem with me and that she should talk to me." Gary K. Wolf concludes his fascinating tale with an unexpected twist. Wolf continues, "even as a kid, I knew this was not going to have a happy ending. My Mother had said, 'Gary, your Father talked about it and decided that the next time you want to color a cow blue-go right ahead!' That was the first validation I had of my own creativity and since then have colored a million cows blue! I owe it all to those two people from Illinois who never graduated from grade school."
Gary K. Wolf's reputation as a science fiction author was firmly established by the time he had decided to write the tale of a rabbit named Roger in the novel entitled, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Titles that Mr. Wolf became very well known include the science Fiction novel called, Killerbowl. Gary comments, "in the circle of readers that do not know as Roger Rabbit's father, I am the guy that wrote Killerbowl. It is my most popular science fiction novel ever. It is an ultra-violent novel about Football played as a blood sport in the future. I still get ten to fifty letters a month on Killerbowl. In fact I just finished writing a screenplay based on it called Street Lethal of which my manager and his producing buddy are shopping around"
It is amazing to consider that the novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit was initially rejected by a number of publishing firms. Gary K. Wolf recalls, "it was the first reject I ever had in my life! I called up my editor and asked him why he rejected it for I believed it was clearly the best thing I had ever written! He told me that there was never anything like it before, that it was so different than anything they had ever published before so I had to talk to the marketing department. The marketing department had told me that there was no category for it and no shelf space. They told me that it was not a mystery, not a children's book and it's not science fiction-there was no category for the book and they couldn't sell it!" It was a fascinating and frustrating predicament that Gary found himself in and he cleverly responded to them, "here's a question for you. What would happen if somebody today gave you Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz-what would you do with those?"
Who Censored Roger Rabbit was eventually published, but not without further complications. Wolf speaks, "it was finally sent to an editor at St. Martin's Press who had just published a major best seller and as a perk, they told her she could publish whatever project she had wanted. She showed my manuscript to the president of St. Martin's and said this is the book I want to publish. She stood her ground and told him that either you publish this book or I quit! I owe my career to that woman! They published the book in very, very small quantities and if you look on Ebay I have seen it go for a thousand dollars or more!" Gary humorously adds, "I should have bought them all when the book first came out. I could have retired to the coast of Spain, just by selling those first editions." Wolf delves deeper into the tale and states, "what really made my career was that somebody at St. Martin's sent the manuscript to Disney. Apparently movie studios have their little agents who operate inside of publishing agencies and send them first looks at books that they think movie studios will like before they get published. One day my phone rang and on the other line was Roy Disney. I thought-yeah right! He said I just read your book and I thought it hasn't been published yet, but he said he had read the manuscript. They gave me more money for it than I had made in my entire writing life!"
Most authors are realistic when it comes to the notion that their material may see the light of day as a film-major or otherwise. Gary K. Wolf explains, "the novel was published in 1981 and Disney came to me in 1980. It took eight years! They kind of spun their wheels and I lost interest after the first two or three years and thought it was never going to happen because most don't. But, then it was 1985 when Michael Eisner brought in Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and then finally, Bob Zemeckis and the rest was history!"
The often debated question about whether authors are perturbed by how their material eventually ends up on the screen is a fascinating question. Gary tackles the subject and responds, "the book is the book and the movie is the movie. The book was written, so readers that read it had to use their imagination. You cannot ask an audience sitting in a dark theater to imagine this-it has to be visualized! In early versions of the movie-they tried using word balloons, but they realized that it would end up being a silent movie." In Wolf's book, Roger Rabbit is killed and Gary addresses this, "I am a realist! You don't want to make a movie where your lead character and your most adorable character dies at the end. Boy, that would kill doll sales! The story had to change, the presentation of the story had to change, but the things that didn't change were the important things. The concept is still the concept. You still have cartoon characters and real people co-existing. They still have their separate, but equal worlds. They still used my characters-Roger, Jessica, Eddie Valiant and Baby Herman. How can you have a problem with a movie where Steven Spielberg is hands on with and Bob Zemeckis directing?" Wolf generously adds the final word on this oft-mentioned topic, "I have no complaint! I can't honestly say there was any way to do it better than what Disney had done. They made it into a wonderful movie that exactly mirrored what I was trying to say in the way I was trying to say it!"
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released in the year, 1988 and proceeded to garner dramatic domestic and international gross financial numbers. The film industry will always pay attention to numbers like the film was earning, so the idea of a follow-up would seem to be obviously logical. Gary recalls the fascinating beginning to what appears to be a future blockbuster called The Stooge. Fox comments, "I got involved with it at a relatively short time ago because I am Facebook friends with Charley Fleischer who was the voice of Roger Rabbit. He had posted this poster on Facebook for something called The Stooge and I didn't know what it was! I put a little comment on it telling him that it looked pretty cool! I then received a note from Erik Von Wodtke who is the development producer. The more he started telling me about it, the more enthusiastic I became!"
Gary K. Wolf was naturally hesitant to reveal details, but during the course of the interview-there were several intriguing ideas that he discussed. The film will differ from the previous Roger Rabbit film in that The Stooge will be completed animated. Wolf speaks, "think about it as travelling vaudeville show. Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit are partners in the act and they are travelling on the Toon Train. The Toon Train visits what are basically the lands of Disneyland. It incorporates the lands of Disneyland and makes them real. It takes place in 1942 before the events of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I proposed the idea of having Minnie Mouse and Jessica Rabbit as a sister act. It is what is called an act where two young women dress alike and perform. This is the movie where Roger meets Jessica!"
Seemingly brimming with energy and ideas, Gary K. Wolf is also in the midst of writing his third Roger Rabbit novel entitled, Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? which is scheduled to be published by the end of the year, 2013. This columnist is also pleased to pass along this possible scoop of which Gary K. Wolf has received from development producer, Erik Von Wodtke. Wolf reveals, "we are hoping that they will be a contract and that it is between Disney and Robert Zemeckis for Roger 2!" He amusingly adds, "it will be the year of the rabbit!"
Gary K. Wolf's optimism and enthusiasm was and is very contagious which should not be surprising as he created the world of Roger Rabbit. Wolf concludes, "this is my character co-starring with Mickey Mouse. On the first movie it was a dream come true, but this is the dream come true-part 2. When the first movie came out, I thought it couldn't get better than this, but now it has gotten better!"