Roger Rabbit Sequel/CGI Test


The tremendous difficulty of the special effects was on everybody’s mind whenever a sequel was discussed.  By the early 1990s, computer-generated special effect imagery was becoming commonplace in Hollywood films.  Michael Eisner ordered a test of CGI effects for a potential Roger Rabbit sequel.  A CGI test was conducted in 1998, with Jim Pentecost as producer and Eric Goldberg as director.

The sequel was planned to be a prequel, so Goldberg designed a new animation model sheet – for a younger Roger Rabbit.

Eric Goldberg drawing for CGI test
Eric Goldberg drawing for CGI test

The test included three scenes shot in live-action by Frank Marshall at the Raleigh Studio.  In the first two scenes, the toons were rendered by traditional animation and the props and effects were rendered by CGI.  In the first scene, Weasels entered the office of a Hollywood agent to ‘persuade’ the agent to schedule an audition for Roger.  The tommy guns the Weasels carried, and a breaking table, for done with CGI.  In the second scene, the live actor carries a whiskey bottle.  Roger grabs it out of his hand and drinks from it… and goes off like a rocket.  Barry Temple did the traditional character animation.  The intent of the test was to evaluate whether a live-action prop could be transitioned to CGI in a convincing way.

The third test was to evaluate whether Roger could be animated in CGI in a convincing way.  Roger appears out of a magician’s top hat and leaps across to the Hollywood agent’s desk.  He does a cartoony loop-the-loop before announcing himself.  Tom Bancroft did the traditional animation.  He put ‘extra business’ in the scene to ‘test’ the CG animators – “funky motion” and blur/smear.  The CG team, led by Eric Guaglione, worked for almost a year to have the CG animation match the traditional animation.

The cost of proceeding with a CG-animated film was judged to be too high and Eisner cancelled any further work on the Roger Rabbit sequel.  Nevertheless, the computer animation technology gains achieved by Guaglione and his team were important for the Disney organization.  They developed ‘organic’ modeling techniques that were incorporated into later CG animated films.