Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Movies about Planning: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Who'da thunk it? Although this isn't the first time I discovered that a favorite childhood cartoon was actually an allegory or a story with a much deeper meaning.

One of the themes in the film pertains to the dismantling of public transportation systems by private companies who would profit from an automobile transportation system and freeway infrastructure. Near the end of the film, Judge Doom reveals his plot to destroy Toon Town to make way for the new freeway system. This is an indirect historical reference to the dismantling of public transportation trolley lines by National City Lines during the 1930s in what is also known as the Great American streetcar scandal. The name of Doom's company, Cloverleaf Industries, is a reference to a common freeway-ramp configuration—an image of which was prominently displayed in the opening credit sequence of The Wonderful World of Disney.

The assertion that a conspiracy caused the demise of electric urban street railways was the subject of a session at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board entitled "Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Conspiracy Theories and Transportation", which concluded that such systems met their demise for a number of other reasons (economic, cultural, societal, technological, legal) having nothing to do with a conspiracy, even though it was true that National City Lines, Inc. (NCL) was a front company—organized by General Motors' Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. in 1922, reorganized in 1936 into a holding company — for the express purpose of acquiring local transit systems throughout the United States. "Once [NCL] purchased a transit company, electric trolley service was immediately discontinued, the tracks quickly pulled up, the wires dismantled ..." and General Motors buses replaced the trolleys.

The message was kind of blatant when you watch the clip.