Last time we were back home visiting my folks I snagged an old photo scrapbook from the closet that contained a bunch of old pictures of the Northern Illinois Region of the Vintage Chevrolet Club region that my Dad started in 1988. I've wanted to scan the old photos before they deteriorated in an effort to preserve some of the places the club had been in the 25 years its existed. I guess you'd call it my winter project.

While thumbing through the album I also came across a few photos of my brother Kyle & I from June of 1989 at the newly-created Disney MGM Studios theme park. The two of us pasty Midwestern kids spent several days seeing the sights with Grandma and Grandpa Scott. Actually, we spent most of June and July down in Orlando with our grandparents that summer because my folks were selling their house, moving into a new one that wasn't quite finished, and our younger brother Gordon was close to arriving. A few less ankle biters in the way while you're going through some major life changes is always a good idea...and as a result we got to spend time in sunny Florida at Grandma & Grandpa's! That meant good food, a huge pool, and unlimited passes to all Disney theme parks since Grandpa worked for Disney. It was a charmed life we led.

While Disney MGM was a new park and had lots of buzz around it in the summer of 1989, it wasn't the Magic Kingdom. There was no Thunder Mountain Railroad, no Grand Prix Raceway, and definitely no Pirates of the Caribbean. What Kyle & I expected was a boring theme park with nothing to offer our Nintendo-stimulated pre-adolescent brains. Once we passed through the gates our assumptions were proven wrong.

This image sums it up.

That's Kyle in the orange & blue striped shirt and I'm in the red & white one facing the old Chevy poster. The entire park (minus the other pasty Midwesterners) was a trip back in time. There were palm trees, old Art-Deco themed buildings, replicas of 1932 Chevrolet advertisement billboards, and OLD CARS parked everywhere as if we somehow were transported back to Hollywood Boulevard during the golden years. We were in awe of the sight.

Both my brother and I were into old 'things' for as long as I can remember. Kyle liked old WWII planes especially. For us, the ability to admire and actually touch old cars in a setting that looked like it came out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a dream come true. We loved that film when it came out, and Disney MGM studios was like walking around in "Toon Town" with thousands of colorful and loud creatures running amok on the city streets. Years later would I learn how close to Eddie Valiant and Roger we actually came

Kyle with a 1936 DeSoto Taxi

The DeSoto taxi cab that Kyle took a liking to actually was used in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit during one of the downtown driving scenes. Probably the one where Benny the Cab tries to lose the weasels chasing him, Eddie and everyone's favorite female cartoon, Jessica Rabbit around the crowded L.A. streets. A few blocks away, there was the replica of a mid-1940's service station, complete with  gas pumps and even a shiney Buick Super convertible waiting for a few gallons of Sky Chief.

A '47 Buick Ragtop and a Couple of Scott Boys at the Service Station.

Tucked inside the garage area of the service station sat a dusty blue Plymouth. To us in 1989 it was a neat old coupe on a service lift that we probably weren't allowed to be near...but we managed to get close enough for a photo op at least. Grandma snapped a picture, and we took in the sights of the service station scene. Another neat old car in the garage that looked ready to get an oil change and lube. If you look at the fender, you can even see old red shop rags as if Manny the mechanic just stepped out to lunch.

Looking back, the 10-year-old kids thought it was a neat old car, but from today's standpoint, I now believe this car to be one of Eddie Valiant's 1939 Plymouth coupes used in the production of Roger Rabbit.

The Plymouth above was the same year, the same body style, the same exact color, and even sported the same unique sealed-beam conversion on its headlights as Eddie Valiant's car did. And yet there it was, from the big screen to something tangible in real life.  

Eddie's Plymouth Leaving the R.K. Maroon Studios

Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) with the coupe in the background.
Kyle & I watched our VHS copy of Who Framed Roger Rabbit some...oh...roughly 4,000 times after we picked it up from the video store in Antioch. Bob Hoskins, the British actor who played the character Eddie Valiant in the film, had a cartoony Dick Tracy quality to him that appealed to us both. The character was a private detective down on his luck, and had a rough go of it in Hollywood. Roger made life even harder for this guy. And it was clear by the homely Plymouth coupe that Eddie made no money. Eddie managed to be good at his job, however. The Plymouth was the car he used to make the traumatic trip through the Mullholland Tunnel and back to Toon Town in an effort to stay on the trail of a killer. A killer cartoon character, that is. 

The Plymouth speeding towards Toon Town
Roger later steals the Plymouth and completely destroys it due to his inability to drive. The next time we see it on the silver screen, its had its top sheared off and fenders beat up. The poor coupe emerges from the Toon Town tunnel by performing a reverse 180 and skreeches to a halt while a shower of sparks shoot out from underneath. (Its 1 hour, 17 minutes, and 38 seconds into the film in case you're bored sometime). Kyle and I rewound this clip frequently and laughed every time.

Clearly, rabbits should not drive.
 From what I can tell, there were four Plymouths used for during the filming of Roger Rabbit. Joe Sherlock's 1939 Plymouth page has a few images of the movie cars sitting on the MGM Florida back lot in 2000. I also recall seeing those three coupes, including the one that Roger "customized" during a back lot studio tour in the early 1990's. The coupe Kyle & I came across in the garage may have actually been one of the nicer cars they used for exterior shots and close-ups. Just a hunch I have.

Most folks today would call Who Framed Roger Rabbit a kid's movie, and it was marketed as such. It also happened to be a great lead-in for Kyle & I to walk into MGM studios during the summer of 1989. We got to see what some of us think "old Hollywood" was like, play around with old cars, and see our favorite private eye's set of wheels. Who could argue with a summer vacation like that?


Popular Posts