It’s been a long time since I saw this movie last. It’s evidently a notoriously difficult film to come by on DVD, but I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine get it for me for Christmas this year. I’m not surprised by the difficulty, the film features two major rivals in cartoon production (Disney and Warner Brothers) who actually worked together to pull off what is really the penultimate work of the live-action/animation film genre. There is a lot of legal paperwork that cross company productions like this need to go through and oft times results in questionable arrangements for post-theatrical distribution rights causing highly limited runs of the films on personal medium. I don’t know the details behind this film, and I don’t know for sure that this is a case, but I do know how hard of a movie this is to find. The moral of the story is, when you find it, pick it up.
As for the movie itself, it simultaneously captures the absurd zaniness of golden age cartoons and the dark suspenseful mood of film noir, and it does so seamlessly. Ever since I first saw this movie I’ve wished that I could live in a world with cartoons, and that wish has not faded with time, it really seems like the cartoons are part of the live action scenes and not that they are just drawn after the filming. I’m sure with today’s animation ruining CGI (I’ll write a longer post on this topic sometime in the future) they could slap together a film like this one no problem, but it wouldn’t have the same mystique. There is not enough praise that can be given to Robert Zemeckis for pulling this off (not to mention doing it in the midst of filming another masterpiece the “Back to the Future” series), same goes for Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd for being able to act with cartoons.
One thing I noticed (that may make for an interesting paper somewhere along the line) that I don’t think too many people have picked up on before, is that to a degree the film can be seen as an allegory for racial relations and racial harmony. The biggest indicator of this allegory is the Ink and Pain Club, it’s a toon review club with a human’s only audience policy. At one point there were clubs that had only black performer that only whites were allowed to attend (in this day and age I can’t even begin to imagine how something like that could be successful, let alone legal and not considered the high of absurdity). Christopher Lloyds’ character of Judge Doom can also be seen as a caricature of corrupt Jim Crow era hanging judges. I’m sure there are more examples if you look hard enough. The fact that both Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons were not only seen in the same movie but at times even in the same frame can be viewed as multiple races living together in harmony, an idea that is, unfortunately in today’s world with Ferguson and Isis Et. al. is getting harder and harder to believe in.
So where does this movie rank for me? It’s up there, that’s definitely true. I would love to say that it is my all-time favorite film, but unfortunately it just doesn’t quite make that mark. It’s easily in my top ten maybe even top five. Regardless I am more than glad to find it among my personal DVD Library.