I have missed the 50th anniversary milestone of the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey by exactly one week. I am only off by less than 0.04%, but that degree of error would cause a capsule re-entering the atmosphere to skip off to parts unknown… maybe off to Jupiter, like the crew of the ‘Discovery’ in the Stanley Kubrick film.
2001: A Space Odyssey has a few connections with Who framed Roger Rabbit. It remains one of the ultimate ‘space’ films – and all of those special effects were done without the aid of computers. The other ‘ultimate’ space film was Star Wars – released in 1977. John Musker, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Jerry Rees, Tim Burton, Mike Peraza, and so many other of the future stars of animation and film were in CalArts at the time… and watched Star Wars with wonder. It was the film that the Disney Studios should have made… and when they joined the Disney Studios they understood why that couldn’t be. Disney was looking backwards rather that forwards. In the same way, Disney had ‘Who Censored Roger Rabbit?’ in its hands and it couldn’t get the traction internally to give it a green light. It took new blood… in the form of Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis to make it happen.
When Dick Williams became involved, he would exhort the crew by saying, “This is STAR WARS!!!!,” to indicate how important he thought Who framed Roger Rabbit would be in cinematic history and how important it would be to the careers of every person working on it.
In fact, two people worked on both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Who framed Roger Rabbit. It was a time when film crews were largely uncredited on the screen. Robert Watts, producer of Who framed Roger Rabbit, was the production manager on 2001: a Space Odyssey. Roy Naisbitt, who did the layout for the Maroon Cartoon at the start of Who framed Roger Rabbit, was uncredited as an animation artist on 2001: A Space Odyssey. A friend had told him about a space film being done in secret by Stanley Kubrick. He required somebody who could airbrush at MGM Borehamwood, next to the Elstree Studio. Naisbitt met Doug Trumbull and signed on for five months of work (at double his current salary). The gig lasted for two years. They had a 4-foot diameter globe over which vacu-formed clouds were placed. Naisbitt airbrushed photo-real clouds on the globe, painted models, and worked on the Starchild.