Over the last three decades, “Roger Rabbit” has emerged as one of those great ’80’s films — like “Buckaroo Banzai,” “Goonies” and “The Last Starfighter” — that fans will always wish had received a sequel, but probably never will. Now, one of the hottest directors in Hollywood is stoking the flames, teasing cinephiles with the knowledge that he once came thisclose to making “Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2.”
Over the years, Robert Zemeckis has often considered making a sequel to his smash 1988 comedy about a hard-boiled detective and his unlikely partnership with a slapstick-loving cartoon rabbit. On a recent Nerdist podcast, “Force Awakens” filmmaker J.J. Abrams revealed that he once met with “Roger Rabbit” producer Steven Spielberg to discuss writing a sequel.
“When I was sixteen, Kathleen Kennedy called Matt Reeves and I,” Abrams recalls of the time that the longtime Spielberg collaborator and “Roger Rabbit” executive producer reached out to Abrams and his future “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”-directing friend. “[She] asked if we would repair these 8mm films Steven had made when he was a kid. It happened because we were in a film festival, and she had read about us in the LA Times.”
Much of that connection informed Abrams’ film “Super 8,” but it also got him into the “Roger Rabbit” sequel stratosphere. “Of course, we said yes and did the repairs. Years later, I got to meet Steven. I went into a meeting,” Abrams recalls. “Actually, it was for a Roger Rabbit sequel. It was a whole thing. I actually have some storyboards for a Roger Rabbit short.”
At the time, it was decided that a Roger Rabbit short would be made before a full-on sequel. Although several shorts (“Tummy Trouble,” “Roller Coaster Rabbit” and “Trail Mix-Up”) have been made in the years since, and were well received, the sequel never arrived. But rumors have persisted, all the way up through a 2013 pitch that would have made the sequel with Roger teaming up alongside no less than Mickey Mouse.
“Honestly, we never really got to that phase [where things got serious],” admits Abrams, a longtime fan of the anarchic character. “We were writing an outline, but it honestly went away before it was anything.”
“This was a long time ago; Zemeckis probably would’ve been a producer on it,” says Abrams, who insists that he can’t remember many more details about the project that seems lost forever to Hollywood history. “This was 1989.”