Animation, Classics, Comedy, Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

as: Eddie Valiant

No movie blew my mind as a kid like Who Framed Roger Rabbit did. The movie’s seamless blend of live action and cell animation achieves a level of awesomeness that has still not been matched. “What about Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies?” you ask. “Was that not a brilliant blending of the real and animated?” It undeniably was, but that’s kind of the problem—Gollum (and other the fancy high-falutin’ CGI characters that have graced the silver screen since) looks too good, too real for it to really register as animation. In Roger Rabbit, the cartoon characters are supposed to look like cartoon characters interacting with real, live humans in a real, live, Bizzaro version of old-timey Hollywood.

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A big part of what makes those interactions work is that the live-action cast totally sells it. As the film’s lead (human) character, Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant spends the lion’s share of his screen time with one ink and paint creation or another. And, though the late, great Hoskins turns in a predictably excellent performance, there is another actor who we think could’ve given the part a little something extra. That actor is, of course, Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

In the film, Eddie Valiant is shown to be a washed up has-been, a private detective whose high profile career working on cases around Hollywood and Toon Town (roughly the equivalent of a Little Italy, but with cartoon characters) petered out after his brother Teddy was killed by a rogue ‘toon. Once a strapping, barrel-chested hero, he’s now balding, borderline alcoholic, and more than a little doughy in the midsection. This, of course, was right in Bob Hoskins’ wheelhouse, since that’s what he looked like in real life.

With Tom Wopat in the role, however, we’d have to alter Eddie’s character a little bit. He’d still be a down on his luck sad-sack, and still something of a drunk. But, instead of letting himself go all soft, he’s dedicated himself to staying fit. This would not only fit Wopat’s physique better (especially back in 1988 when the movie was made—he was but 37 then), but would allow for scenes in a 1940s-style gym, where boxing is the main draw.

Really, we’re just looking for an excuse for old-timey gym trunks, the kind with a build-in belt and that come up well past a fella’s belly button. Those are always funny.

Also, it would allow for a scene recreating some of the finest slapstick comedy in the history of the Looney Tunes: the kangaroo boxing short starring Sylvester the cat (titled “Pop ‘im Pop”). Instead of Sylvester, it would, of course, be Eddie Wopat in the ring with a cartoon kangaroo. If the thought of a live-action actor getting slapped around by an animated kangaroo doesn’t make you at least crack a smile, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for you, sir or madam.

Photo credit: Castles, Capes & Clones via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Animation, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Futurama

as: Himself (Head in A Jar)

The brilliant, yet woefully underappreciated, animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama had more than its share of celebrity guest stars during its run. Despite being set 1,000 years in the future, the show brought in such modern-day figures as Al Gore, Beck, and (almost) the entire cast of the original Star Trek series—and all of them played themselves.

Well, technically they played their still-living, detached heads in jars, which was one of the series’ most used (and least explained) futuristic technological advancements. Even historical figures who, in reality, died many years before the show began—and, therefore, prior to the in-series invention of technology that keeps heads alive in jars—popped up from time to time.

So, why not Wopat?

Futuramafitti

Episode: Good Ole Bots

Futurama’s protagonist, Philip J. Fry (usually called just “Fry”), was an ‘80s kid who was accidentally cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve 1999 and unfrozen on New Year’s Day 3000. Fry’s penchant for the pop culture of his youth came into play in a number of episodes, encompassing everything from his days in a breakdancing crew to his love of Katrina and the Wave’s “Walking On Sunshine.”

In “Good Ole Bots”, Fry and the Planet Express gang would attend a fundraising gala at the Smithsonian. An auction is held to clear out some of the museum’s older exhibit pieces (a thousand years in the future, they have more stuff than they know what to do with) to make way for new items of historical significance.

Fry is delighted to learn that the original General Lee is one of the items to be auctioned off. Few, if any, people in the year 3000 share Fry’s enthusiasm for The Dukes of Hazzard, so he wins it with a bid of $8 (every penny he currently has to his name).

After the event, Fry’s co-worker/love interest Leela suggests that they load the General Lee into the cargo bay of the Planet Express ship and simply fly it back to New New York. Fry has other plans, however—as it was and is one of the greatest automobiles in television history, he wants to drive it back home from Washington D.C. Bender, the lovable, beer-swilling, cigar-smoking robot, decides to join him on his road trip.

Shortly after they set out, Fry and Bender hear unusual noises coming from the trunk of the car. They pull over, open the trunk, and discover living-head-in-a-jar versions of Tom Wopat and John Schneider inside. They explain that they (in their jars) have been in the Smithsonian just as long as the General Lee, as part of the same exhibit. Eventually, they were placed in the trunk to save space and forgotten about.

Now riding in the front seat between Fry (driving) and Bender (shotgun), the erstwhile Duke boys regale their new friends with tales of their TV adventures. This inspires a typically-mischievous Bender plot: he convinces Fry that the two of them should run a load of moonshine north as they go. Unsurprisingly, Bender “knows a guy” in the moonshining business.

Numerous hijinks ensue, with the quartet dodging local law enforcement (a robot sheriff that closely resembles Rosco P. Coltrane, along with his deputies), rival bootleggers, and an amorous ladybot with eyes for Bender en route to Planet Express headquarters.

Ultimately, Fry, Bender, Wopat, and Schneider find themselves in a high speed chase with the sheriffbot in hot pursuit. By a happy coincidence, a road construction project on the streets of New New York has created an ersatz ramp. Fry guns the engine, the General Lee goes airborne, and, just as the four of them are about to crash into the Planet Express building, the scene freeze-frames.

“Looks like them Duke boys have got themselves out of the frying pan,” The Balladeer states, “and into the fire.”

End credits.

Photo credit: Mayu ;P via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA