Cool World 25th Anniversary: A Naughty Roger Rabbit

I was looking forward to Cool World in 1992 and I don’t remember being disappointed, nor was I upset that it did not become a commercial or critical success. It’s not exactly what it said it was. As a hormonal 14-year old, the idea of a grown up Who Framed Roger Rabbit? seemed obvious. That movie was all innuendo about Jessica Rabbit, so why not make a movie that was honest about fucking a cartoon?

The actual plot of Cool World is unnecessarily complicated. Holli Would (Kim Basinger) and the Cool World aren’t an artist’s drawings come to life. They already existed and Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) drew them from his dreams. It was part of a plot for Holli to seduce him and become human when he slept with her. It even begins with characters who aren’t the leads. A Cool World scientist brings Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) into their world in the ’50s after a motorcycle  accident kills his mother. Because I guess they need a human cop?

If the character is a comic book artist, then the Cool World should absolutely be his own creation. If it already existed, why go after someone who draws? Go after a fan maybe, but the perhaps unintentional message of Cool World is that the creator didn’t create anything. He copied it. He’s a tracer like Jason Lee in Chasing Amy.

Cool World doesn’t hold a candle to Roger Rabbit in terms of artistry and craftsmanship. It feels like instead of talking to the people who made Roger Rabbit to find out what went into all the interaction of live action and animation, Ralph Bakshi just watched Roger Rabbit and thought he could do it too. So he told Pitt to act like he’s putting his arm around a woman and he’d draw her in later and it’d look fine. Without understanding the motion control cameras and all the other subtle techniques Roger Rabbit employed, it’s amateur hour.Cool World

I do think the physical sets are cool. They are two dimensional like a bunraku, so just the idea of a Hollywood movie with artificial but practical environments is bold. It’s only when the doodles interact that it looks half-assed. Even Frank smoking an animated cigarette doesn’t look right.

As a brooding teenager I related to the idea that the real world was pain and the Cool Word was all pleasure. Frank’s life was war and tragedy so he escaped into the Cool World. He screamed when he had to return. It’s pretty superficial though. The Cool World doesn’t offer much: dancing and cartoon slapstick. Sex too, I guess, but I wouldn’t spend my life listening to nn ts nn ts nn ts nn ts music just to get laid.Cool World

But the answer to Frank’s problem was there all along. At the end of the movie we learn that getting killed by a doodle turns you into a doodle. So if Frank would rather live in Cool World, why didn’t he just have a doodle kill him so he could get with with his animated lover?

In HD there are a lot of artifacts in the animation, lots of white specs peppering the drawings. We’re the cells not even completely filled in, or did they just not survive from film to streaming?

It is cool to see 1992 Las Vegas. It wasn’t quite Disneyland yet. When it’s overrun with doodles, that’s a striking contrast, even the sleazy Ralph Bakshi doodles.

Cool World Hollywood signThis was still six years before I ever set foot in Los Angeles so I had no idea that they put a Holli Would on the Hollywood sign. I wish I could’ve been here to see that. I don’t recall any other film being bold enough to do PR on the Hollywood sign, but then no film ever named another character with such a pun. If they do the Burt Banks story they can use some Burbank landmark.

I still think it’s amazing Cool World got made by a studio. I’m sure the pitch of a grown up live action/animation hybrid sounded like a summer movie, even though they got cold feet and went PG-13. I’d love to have seen the version Bakshi set out to make too, but given the convoluted mythology of Cool World, it might’ve made even less sense. That could’ve been more fun though. Perhaps if it had been without A-list stars, it could’ve been made cheap and ben an interesting experimental live-action/animation hybrid.

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