Are You Bumping The Lamp?

February 26, 2017
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

"Bumping the lamp" refers to a scene in Disney's 1988 hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in which Bob Hoskins character Eddie repeatedly hits his head on a hanging lamp while trying to free himself from a handcuff mishap with Roger. The light from the lamp swings around the room throwing shadows this way and that as it passes the characters on screen. In the first draft of this scene, the lamp was avoided and the set lighting was stationary, a much easier scene to incorporate the animated rabbit into. However, director Robert Zemeckis thought having Eddie continually bump into the lamp would add to the scene, and be a lot funnier.

The scene was shot again with the lamp gag put back in. This meant the animators had to redraw all of Roger's frames to include the dynamically shifting light. That's hundreds of hand drawn, and colored, frames that had to be remade. Each with great attention to where the swinging lamp's light was and how it would interact with our star. Remember, this was years before CGI animation as we know it today was introduced. The re-shoot animation was an extremely laborious and detailed task adding days to production.

All for what? Do you even remember that scene? Most likely not. But for those animators, at that time, it showed an extra level of detail, of care, in their work. Doing something correctly not because others would ever notice, but because it was the correct way to do it. Disney still uses the "Bumping the Lamp" story in it's art institute to motivate animators to go the extra mile when paying attention to those, often overlooked, details.

In my professional world, the world of web development and design, it's easy to cut corners and say "no one will notice". No one could ever know this isn't the best it could be. No one will know except me. But that's just it. I will know and if I know it can be done better, I should do it better. Those animators didn't put in the extras time and resources for a pat on the back, they did it because the details matter. They matter to the people taking the time to complete the task. So next time your at that "eh, it's good enough" point take a step back - ask yourself if it could be done better - and bump that lamp.

Here is that scene for your viewing pleasure, appreciate those shadows!