1986 Test-of-Concept – part 1


Both Bob Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg had been aware of Disney’s Roger Rabbit project in its early stages, but the first formal meeting between Disney and Amblin was in October 1985.  The Amblin team of Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and Steven Spielberg were Executive Producers.  Robert Watts was chosen as the Producer.  Bob Zemeckis was selected as the Director and with him were selected key production supervisors:  Dean Cundey (Cinematographer), Alan Silvestri (Music), Arthur Schmidt (Editor), and Ken Ralston (Visual Effects).  Richard Williams eventually agreed to be Director of Animation.  A key stage-gate for proceeding with the film was a test to demonstrate that toons and humans could interact convincingly in a live-action environment.

A proof-of-concept test was filmed with Ken Ralston sitting at a table and arguing with an ‘imaginary’ rabbit.  A few interactive tricks were included, but the test was judged to be too simple and Zemeckis decided to really push things.  The next version was filmed at ILM and included neon lights, swinging lights, automobile headlights, reflections in glass panes, and reflections in water puddles.  The actor in the test film is Joe Pantoliano, who was on the Universal lot filming ‘The Goonies‘ at the time.

The test was 50-seconds-long.  Roger Rabbit was painted with 30 colors… to mimic the tone and shadow mattes that would be used in the production.  The animation was done at the Richard Williams Animation studio at 13 Soho Square in London.  Exposure tests were shot in London, then the artwork, film elements, wedge tests, and exposure sheets were sent to ILM for compositing.  After the test was complete, Amblin knew that it had a film to make.

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