“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” follows the adventures of private investigator Eddie Valiant as he investigates the murder of Marvin Acme. The motive of the murder is foreshadowed early on when Valiant hops a ride on the Pacific Electric Red Car trolley. “Hey Mister,” says a teen boy on the train. “Ain’t you got a car?”
“Los Angeles has the best public transportation on the planet,” replies Valiant. “What do I need a car for?”
Then, ominously, the camera pans past a sign announcing the acquisition of Pacific Electric by Cloverleaf Industry.
If you haven’t seen the 1988 movie and would like to in the future, stop reading now, because spoilers abound.
Toward the story’s climax, Judge Doom’s evil plans are revealed. He plans to destroy Toontown to make way for a brand new freeway!
“Eight lanes of shimmering cement running from here to Pasadena,” Judge Doom expounds. “Smooth, safe, fast. Traffic jams will be a thing of the past. I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on, all day, all night! Soon, where Toontown once stood will be a string of Gas Stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food! Tire salons! Automobile dealerships! And wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see! My God, it will be beautiful.”
“Come on!” retorts Valiant. “Nobody will drive this lousy freeway when they can take the Red Car for a nickel.”
“Oh they’ll drive. They’ll have to,” responds Doom. “You see, I bought the Red Car so I could dismantle it.”
Script writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman said the story was inspired by the real life dismantling of electric streetcar systems by National City Lines, a holding company that turned out to be owned by General Motors and which was specifically tasked to replace electric transportation with cars, trucks and buses. National City Lines purchased 100 electric streetcar systems in 45 cities using funding from GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil, and Philips Petroleum. National City then scrapped the electric lines and replaced them with gas-burning buses.