Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Only in Los Angeles is it considered "ordinary" to border a town filled with walking, talking cartoon characters. In LA, it's hard to tell who's real and who's just animated.
Call To Adventure
Private eye Eddie Valiant, (a human), gets a case from R.K. Maroon (also a human), to investigate the wife of Roger Rabbit (not a human).
Refusal Of The Call
Eddie initially refuses Maroon's request. He no longer wants to work for Toons. We'll later find out why: a Toon killed Eddie's brother. That's the saddest thing involving a Toon…at least before the first ten minutes of Up made you bawl your eyes out.
Meeting The Mentor
Roger Rabbit doesn't really have a mentor, but it does have Jessica Rabbit, a Toon who would look human if humans looked like walking, talking Barbie dolls.
Jessica ushers Eddie back into the Toon world with her possibly deadly combination of humanity and sexuality. Also filling a mentor role is Roger, who will eventually help Eddie regain something very important: his sense of humor.
Crossing The Threshold
Eddie's still in his comfort zone when he begins his investigation. Maroon tells him the club where Jessica works is "strictly humans only." He only means the clientele, but Eddie's still in the majority as a human amongst Toons. He can still convince himself that he's in control of the situation as long as he isn't in the minority.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
As a modern film noir, this part of the Hero's Journey is all about learning who Eddie can trust…and who will stab him in the back. (Or in Eddie Valiant's case, who will hit him over the head with a giant cartoon hammer.)
Eddie finds that he can trust Roger, rely on Dolores, and be very, very afraid of Judge Doom.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
Eddie's journey forces him to confront his biggest fear: Toontown. Ever since his brother was killed by a Toon, Eddie doesn't like the goofy colorful beings. But in order to find Jessica, whom he believes may have committed the murder, he has to travel to Toontown, where he'll be the only person thicker than a piece of paper.
The Toontown sequence is a masterful blend of slapstick humor and sight gags…for the audience. For Eddie, it's a harrowing life-or-death ordeal that he barely survives.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
For surviving Toontown, Eddie finally learns the truth. Jessica reveals that she was being blackmailed by R.K. Maroon, and Eddie goes on to learn that even Maroon was having his strings pulled by another party: Judge Doom.
The Road Back
Eddie and Jessica are brought back to Los Angeles, but this time, they're in danger. Judge Doom holds them captive in Acme's old warehouse. Those cartoon mallets, anvils, and bombs are good ol' harmless fun for Toons, but they can be deadly to someone made of flesh and blood instead of ink and paint.
Eddie saves the day by performing a song-and-dance routine that has Judge Doom's weasels dying with laughter. Literally.
This triggers a chain reaction that leads to Doom's true identity as a psychopathic Toon being revealed, and Eddie's able to kill him once and for all. Doom may be dead, but Eddie's sense of humor—and Toontown's hope for the future—have been brought back to life.
Return With The Elixir
When the disappearing ink reappears, Eddie realizes that Acme's will was written on the "blank" piece of paper that Roger wrote a love letter to Jessica on. The will is recovered, and Toontown is saved.