What Escape Room Designers Should Learn from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” [Design Tips]

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a childhood favorite of mine, and after I rewatched it recently, I can confirm that it holds up.

BoingBoing shared a video about live animation lessons from Roger Rabbit and I couldn’t help but watch. I also noticed how these lessons translated to escape room design.

Here are a couple of key takeaways for room escape designers:

Live actor film was unchangable

In Roger Rabbit, all of the live action shots were filmed and wrapped prior to animation. They could not do any reshoots, so the animators had to work with what they had. Even with that brutal constraint, the animators managed to maintain eye-lines and the narrative’s internal logic.

I’m always impressed when I encounter an escape room company that is limited by physical space, but succeeds in building a believable world.

Fire code and gamespace idiosyncrasies such as, “there’s a giant fixture that the landlord won’t let me move” are examples of this. The art is in turning those liabilities into actual game features that make sense in the escape room.

Screen clip of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Eddie and Roger are handcuffed together. Eddie is attempting to cut the cuffs open with a hacksaw.

“Bump the lamp”

This concept is brilliantly explained in the YouTube video; it refers to adding extra details into the work that nearly all viewers would never notice. The level of detail in Roger Rabbit is staggering.

In the film, and in escape rooms, the details sell the effect at a subconscious level. Players will never lose themselves in a room that hasn’t truly minded the details. The room can still be fun, but achieving immersion will only come from a gamespace that feels real enough that players stop thinking about it as a gamespace and simply accept it as their world.

2 thoughts on “What Escape Room Designers Should Learn from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” [Design Tips]

  1. This is a fantastic article that inspires me to keep showing the kind of attention to detail that I sometimes fear is wasted on everyone except me, my partner and our staff. Thank you for writing this, and thanks for inspiring me to keep bumping the lamp.

    1. I used to build model airplanes with my father when I was a kid; he is exceptionally talented at it.

      When building a WWII bomber, he had me painting all of the internal details within the body of the plane. I distinctly remember painting a fire extinguisher when I asked him, “When I’m finished with this, I’m going to seal up the body, and no one will ever see the work I’m doing.” He simply responded, “But you’ll always know that it’s there.”

      Internal details notwithstanding, minding details always comes through. Sometimes the players can tell how meticulously things were created without being able to point at specific things and realize what makes them special.

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