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Film / Cool World

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"Around here, anything goes. Anything goes except one thing...Noids do not have sex with Doodles!"
Frank Harris

A 1992 movie by Ralph Bakshi where a cartoonist finds himself in the animated world he created, and is seduced by one of his characters, a comic strip vixen who wants to be real. Cool World marked Bakshi's return to feature films after nine years. The film was originally pitched as an animated horror film about an underground cartoonist who fathers an illegitimate half-real/half-cartoon daughter who hates herself for what she is and tries to kill him.

The plot itself (if you could call it that, after all that Executive Meddling) opens with Frank Harris (Brad Pitt), a World War II veteran who finds himself transported to the titular place, a strange alternate universe inhabited by cartoon "Doodles", following the death of his mother in a motorcycle accident. There, he becomes a police officer tasked with enforcing the Cool World's single law: Noids (real people) do not have sex with Doodles (cartoons). This causes him no small amount of torment, as he has fallen in love with a Doodle girl named Lonette.

Years later, a disturbed comics artist named Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) murders his wife's lover in a fit of passion, and as a result is sent to prison. For escape (of the mental, not physical, type), Jack draws a comic book based on the dreams he is continually having of the Cool World and a voluptuous vixen named Holli Would (Kim Basinger). We first meet Jack when he is being released from prison upon the successful completion of his sentence. Through means that are never adequately explained, Holli manages to pull Jack into the Cool World and seduce him, her goal being to become a Noid and be able to experience the pleasures real people enjoy. Having broken the Cool World's law, however, Jack and Holli start a chain of events that could result in the destruction of the world. It falls on Frank's shoulders to face his devils, return to reality, and save the day.

Contrast Who Framed Roger Rabbit which is Lighter and Softer and involves more notable Toons. Not to be confused with Shirley Clarke's movie about young Harlem gangbangers, The Cool World.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Allergy: Nails is allergic to clouds. Justified as Nails is a 'doodle' and therefore subject to the Toon Physics under which the Cool World operates.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Played straight with Jack, who succumbs to Holli's charms, but averted with Frank, who has been together with Lonette for a while, but has never had sex with her in compliance with Cool World's only law, which he is obliged to enforce as a cop.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Holli Would and Lonette are both very eager to get it on with their respective men, with Lonette displaying less ability to cope with the Can't Have Sex, Ever situation that she and Frank are in. (Though considering their nature, this could be less because she's a woman and more because she's a Doodle.)
  • Alpha Bitch: Holli Would, without a doubt.
  • Anti-Sneeze Finger: When Nails is about to sneeze again after he and Frank nearly fall to their doom, Frank pinches his nose and has him sneeze through a window to get to Holli's nightclub.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Spike. It can serve as an Interdimensional Travel Device, tearing through the boundary between the real world and the Cool World. But even Dr. Whiskers knows that it is too dangerous to be in anyone's hands, most especially Holli's.
  • Ascended Extra: A meta example. Candi Milo was originally only there to feed lines to the main cast, but was impressive enough to voice two distinctive characters. She's gone on to become one of the premier voice actors in the biz, and her career is the only success to come from this movie.
  • As You Know: Instead of a more dramatic flashback, this is exactly how we find out why Jack was in prison. "Hey Deebs, why don't you do a book on the guy you murdered? You know, the one you caught in bed with your wife."
  • Badass Adorable: Nails the Spider, especially when he psyches himself up to go and take down Holli without Frank's assistance. Him being voiced by Charlie Adler also helps.
  • Become a Real Boy: The movie revolves around the toon ("doodles" per the movie's parlance) villainess Holli Would's obsession with becoming a human woman and experience everything the "noids" can. She has to break the one law of Toonworld to accomplish this: have sex with one of them. She eventually succeeds, but the worlds start to converge and turns into a chaotic anarchy as a result.
  • Big Bad: Holli Would if she could... no matter who gets hurt in the process.
  • Big "NO!": Frank yells one when Nails's cloud allergy causes them to fall while climbing up Holli's home.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Frank says "You're what?!" when he realizes that Nails is allergic to clouds.
  • Bizarro Apocalypse: Holli Would manages to climb to the roof of the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. There, she attains "the spike," which is acting as a cork that keeps the Cool World bottled. She removes it, and immediately bizarre animated characters and props start spilling into reality. Random people are transformed into cartoonish caricatures, residents of Toon Town spill into the streets spreading mayhem, and they bring their Toon Physics with them. This cartoon-ization gets worse by the minute.
  • Break the Cutie: Shortly after coming out of the pen, Nails mourns over Frank's death. It's hard not to feel sorry for him.
  • Bunnies for Cuteness: The bunny seen gambling with Holli's goons pretty much plays up to this trope. At least compared to the other bunny doodles seen in the film later besides the mother rabbit with her children. He/she even tries to use his cuteness to make the cops chase after the doodles for cheating, but goes Hair-Raising Hare by telling them to rip their faces off so their mothers don't recognize them. But once the bunny reverts to cute form, s/he does say an endearing and polite, "Pretty please," at least.
  • Call-Back: When Frank first enters "Cool World," Dr. Whiskers says the trailer line, "We may not be real to you yet...but we will be!" Near the end when Frank is preparing to return to the real world and arguing with Lonette, he says with fierce sincerity, "This is real to me, here, with you!"
  • Car Chase Shoot-Out: Holli Would and her goon squad are being pursued by "the poppers," that is, Cool World's version of the local police. The poppers are so named because their weapons are pop guns. They present no mortal danger to the fugitives, but keep firing their pop guns anyway, not really bothering to aim. Nevertheless, Holli and company have no desire to engage with them, though Slash does urinate on them once they get close enough.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Frank and Lonette. Subverted in the end, where he becomes a Doodle and the clothes come off in a hurry.
  • Celibate Hero: Definitely played straight with Frank Harris. He first came to Cool World in 1945 and when it skips over to 1992, 47 years later, he has been romantically involved with Lonette for quite a while without having sex with her and has not broken the law with any other female Doodle. And there is no clue or hint given that a human woman has come over for him to even have a quickie with (not that he would anyway). Wow.
  • Chalk Outline: After Holli disposes of Nails, Frank examines the crime scene which has a chalk outline of Nails' body. Of course, as Nails was a spider, the outline has eight limbs. (The bizarre doodle logic of the Cool World may also be at play here, as Nails was sucked into a fountain pen and didn't leave behind a body.)
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Somewhat subverted. Jack thought at first that he created Cool World, but Harris is quick to tell him otherwise.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Unlike most Toon worlds, it's dark and hellish, quite often verging on an Eldritch Location.
  • Clownification: When Holli Wood removes the spike from its place atop the Plaza Hotel, the Cool World spills into the Noid World, bringing many of its wacky, physics-defying characters with it. A side effect is that normal people are transformed into hideous beasts or cartoonish clowns, such as a pair of grannies playing slot machines.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Harris to Jack in the real world.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Professor Whiskers meets Holli outside the casino wearing a very conspicuous trenchcoat, hat and scarf. It is made even more conspicuous because Whiskers is only 3 ft. tall.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Reality Spike. If removed, the Toon Physics of Cool World will flow over into the real world, and vice versa.
  • Crapsack World:
    • Cool World is a hellish cesspool of violent "lesser" toons mixed in with realistic looking horrors. The human-like Doodles are about the only sane things in it, and even they (Sparks, Holli Would) tend to be quite nasty.
    • Despite all that, Frank considers the real world to be even worse, because for all its crazy mayhem, at least actual, permanent death and suffering are rare in a world of Toon Physics.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Bob, one of Holli's goons.
  • Crying Critters: Having been freed from the pen during the climax, Nails looks at Frank's corpse and cries.
  • Cuteness Proximity: The grey bunny attempts this trope with the police officers until he/she goes aggressive on them then acts cute again.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack is the most popular thing to come out of this movie.
  • Darker and Edgier: The entire movie to Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: An aspect of Cool World Toon Physics.
  • Deranged Animation:
    • It's filled with psychotic looking Toons who almost all are violent and insane, living in a hellish looking city filled with Body Horror-eque buildings, mixed in with uncanny looking monstrosities; a good example being Holli's door, whose skull is constantly pushing itself out of its head.
    • And then there's the Gainax Ending involving an Eldritch Abomination myriad of Toons as well as several more realistic looking deranged horrors.
  • Deus ex Machina: The mother of all non-lampshaded deus ex machinas. It just so happens after Frank is killed that when a Noid is killed by a Doodle, they become a Doodle themselves, permitting him to live again.
  • Disappeared Dad: Although Frank lives with his mother, his father isn't seen in the film.
  • Distant Prologue: The first ten minutes of the film takes place in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Becoming a Doodle allows Frank to finally consummate his relationship with Lonette, content to spend the rest of his life with the woman he loves.
  • Eat the Camera:
    • A purple creature goes through the camera when he falls down the building along with his buddies.
    • A cartoon telephone also does this as he runs up to Frank in order to make him answer Nails' phone call.
  • Exact Words: During the cartoon chaos, a gambler says "hit me" and the dealer transformed into a Doodle boxer and punched him in the face.
  • Excrement Statement: During a chase sequence, Slash urinates on the police officers coming after him for taking the rabbit's money.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Holli, who can be warm and affirming one minute then cold and dismissive the next.
  • Flirty Voice Ploy: Holli attempts to flirt with Jack in order to have him hand over the Spike. But a gloating Doodle in the background tips him off that it's a trick.
  • Foreshadowing: In Holli's office, Harris briefly looks at himself at a funhouse mirror that gives him disproportionately huge shoulders. This is how he looks as a Doodle later on.
  • Fourth Wall Shut-In Story: Jack Deebs is serving a prison sentence for the murder of a man he had found in bed with his wife. During his sentence, he has visions of the Cool World and the femme fatale Holli Would, who seems to beckon him. Jack spends his sentence creating a series of comics based on his visions. Shortly after his release from prison, Jack is transported into the Cool World and smuggled into a club by Holli.
  • Gainax Ending: The SNES game. As in many other licensed games of that era, A Winner Is You was in full effect. The game ends with the protagonist's fall into Cool World... only reversed. That's it, really.
    • The film's ending is also one; it involves Jack becoming a Large Ham super hero and an Eldritch Abomination of Toons that causes other people to become Toons as well. Although Lonette gets some closure with Frank coming back as a Doodle after being killed in Cool World, Jack is seemingly stuck forever in Cool World as said superhero.
  • Giving Them the Strip: When Holli is being chased up the casino stairs by Frank, Frank reaches out and grabs her jacket. The jacket rips, allowing Holli to escape and almost causing Frank to topple down the centre of the stairwell.
  • Goldfish Poop Gang: The Goons, Slash, Mash, Bash, and Bob.
  • Good Counterpart: Lonette is just as attractive and nearly as sultry as Holli but is ultimately a Nice Girl who truly loves Frank in contrast with Would whose a Femme Fatale using Jack for her own benefit.
  • Groin Attack: Two times, one to Jack and one to Harris, by Holli.
  • Grotesque Cute: Nails, Toons when they're not acting Ax-Crazy, most anyway.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Frank Harris.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: A few bunny doodles look ugly in some scenes of the film.
    • Even the grey bunny who is seen gambling goes aggressive on the police officers in order to get there attention after he got cheated by Holli's goons.
  • He Didn't Make It: Nails tells this to Lonette after Holli pushes Frank off the Union Plaza hotel.
  • The Hedonist: Holli endangers two worlds in her search for exotic pleasures.
  • Humanity Ensues: Holli becomes human after having sex with Jack.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Frank's reason for not wanting to leave Cool World. Having gone through World War II and seeing firsthand that War Is Hell makes him decide that Cool World, as much of a Crapsack World as it is, is a better place than the Noids' world because it does not have any wars going on, ever. It may be in a constant state of chaos, murder, destruction, depravity, and abuse, but there is no lasting death, and no pain.
    Frank Harris: Let me tell you something about "over there." It hurts "over there." It-it's lonely "over there." It's a war "over there." They got eight million ways for you to die, hon, and all of them are permanent.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Holli, of course, right before she turned human.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Holli and Lonette.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Holli Would was tweaked to look more like Kim Basinger.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Frank tells Jack Cool World's single law about no sex between Noids and Doodles, Lonette is clearly hurt.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: A Running Gag is that every time Frank and Lonette start to get intimate, Nails bursts in with some new emergency for Frank to deal with. This is usually followed by Nails exiting at high speed as things are thrown at him.
  • Kitchen Sink Included: When the Goons are building a tower of improbable items in order to spy on Holli and Jack having sex, the stack includes the kitchen sink.
  • Light Is Not Good: Holli is always wearing white. However, she's not a good person, at all.
  • Loveable Sex Maniac: Lonette
  • Manipulative Bitch: Holli, who wonderfully uses her body in her attempt to escape Cool World.
  • Meaningful Name: "Holli Would would if she could but she can't."
  • Medium Blending: Of regular Toon animation and realistic looking horrors.
  • Mirror Character: Frank and Jack both prefer the fantastic anarchism of the Cool World to the Real World. But while Frank is willing to restrain himself to keep from destroying it, Jack jumps headfirst into something that could end up destroying both worlds.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film goes straight from Frank's mother's death to a slapstick sequence.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Holli naturally. She is a blonde, voluptuous and evil vixen (perfomed by Kim Basinger).
    • Also Lonette. She has black hair in a ponytail, red lipstick and wears a red dress with a pink stripe on it.
  • Nasal Trauma: A pink bunny is playing craps with the Quirky Miniboss Squad. The bunny needs a four, and rolls a pair of twos. Slash, however, plucks one pip off each die, then declares, "Aw, s-s-s-snake eyes. You lose." When the bunny protests this blatant cheat, Slash inserts one long finger blade into the bunny's nostril, wrenching his nose out of shape, and demands payment.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Jack is an underground comic artist with a penchant for deranged imagery and buxom women, yet he's portrayed by Gabriel Byrne.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Nails the Spider.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: While it does inflict a Darker and Edgier Roger Rabbit Effect of Toons and humans, it also includes disturbingly realistic looking abominations like Holli's door-knocker.
  • Older Than They Look: Frank Harris is looking quite youthful for someone who according to the titles has been in Cool World for over 40 years. (Then again, as The Nostalgia Critic pointed out, Brad Pitt in real life certainly hasn't aged badly at all.)
  • Odd Name Out: Holli's goons are Slash, Mash, Bash... and Bob.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Frank when Nails accidentally sends him falling from the sky due to the latter's cloud allergy.
    • Holli's horrified expression when Jack returns the Spike.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Despite spending the movie smackdab in the middle of Cloudcuckooland, Lonette is the most level-headed Doodle, if not character in the entire movie.
    • The grey bunny who is seen gambling earlier in the film and later a mother bunny with her bunny children also appear to be one of the more saner doodles in the film. The bunny characters also appear to be one of the few doodles in Cool world that are more down to earth and level-headed compared to the rest of the doodles spotted throughout cool world.
    • The Professor is also one the only intelligent and smarter characters in the film and even plays an important role in the climax while rescuing one of the live-action characters.
  • Painting the Medium: In the scenes where 'Noids are in Cool World, the real-world props are deliberately as flat and 2-dimensional as possible.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: Not only does Jack Deebs have it for Holli, a cartoon character he himself created, it could be argued that the entire movie is in fact about the subject, and may be the only major Hollywood production to deal with the subject.
  • Preemptive "Shut Up":
    Nails: Hey boss, did I ever tell you about-
    Frank: Shut up, Nails.
  • Private Detective: Frank Harris, again.
  • Punny Name: Holli Would = Hollywood. A pun old enough that Parliament had already used it in the song "Holly Wants to Go to California" thirteen years earlier.
  • Reaching Through the Fourth Wall: Holli wants to become a physical living flesh-and-blood person and succeeds by having sex with a real person to do it.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: A Darker and Edgier version of this.
  • Second-Face Smoke: When Frank crashes Holli's party, Sparks exhales a stream of doodle smoke into his face.
  • Self-Insert: Jack Deebs is a cult-popular cartoonist with a small but dedicated fandom, who hasn't had a real success in years and is mostly known in the mainstream as a dark weirdo. He longs for hot cartoon women and his idea of utopia is the roiling chaos of cartoon insanity with distinct sexual overtones. If you can't conclude that Jack Deebs is Ralph Bakshi, then you're not watching the film right.
  • Sense Freak: Holli Would lectures Detective Harris about how humans "really" experience everything, especially sex. "When they do it, they reeaally do it!" When she finally becomes real, she practically acts like she's having orgasms from everything she touches.
  • Sexually Transmitted Superpowers: Holli Would is a doodle, a cartoon character living in Toon Town. Artist Jack Deebs is a human living in the real world. Holli wants to visit the real world, and experience its delights. For that, she draws Jack into her Cool World, where she seduces him. The climax transforms Holli into a real woman capable of venturing into the human world.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Frank has a very brief war flashback after the accident.
  • Shot in the Ass: Nails the Spider shoots himself in the ass after psyching himself up to go and take down Holli without Frank's assistance.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Holli's dress, appearance, and mannerisms are clearly based on Marilyn Monroe.
    • Some of the background cartoon characters that are wolves look very familiar, Ralph Bakshi had stated that he as well as his workers were fans of Tex Avery.
    • One part of the movie had a black and white dog that looked like Bimbo, while another scene of the movie had a big character that looked like Bluto (from Popeye).
    • When the doodles realize what Holli is about to do with Jack, a Toon rabbit says, "Man is in the bedroom." Sounds a lot like "Man was in the forest", a line from Bambi.
    • After the Goons plummet from the building, the camera zooms into his mouth and for a brief moment, one can see a man and a wooden puppet on a raft. Pinocchio reference, for sure.
    • In the climax where the Toons enter the real world after Holli pulls out the Spike of Power, there's a scene in a graveyard similar to the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment in Fantasia where Toons fly out of graves and some fly through a hangman's noose.
    • A group of men turn into Dogs Playing Poker.
    • When the cartoon chaos is ensuing in the city, Jennifer morphs into a doodle that looks a lot like Little Orphan Annie.
    • A character that looks like Fearless Leader from Rocky and Bullwinkle walks by.
    • The superhero that Jack turns into is a lot like Superman.
    • Frank has this to say when telling Lonette that he has to return to the real world: "When a man's partner gets inked, you do something about it. He was your partner, so you do something." It's based on a Humphrey Bogart line near the end of The Maltese Falcon.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The male bunny who is never given a name only shows up when the film introduces use to Holli's goons who are seen gambling and placing a bet with the rabbit. When one of them cheats by giving him/her snake eyes. He gets upset and runs up to the police station and tells them to arrest them. The cops don't care about the situation until he starts acting cute to persuade them to arrest the goons while also going aggressive on them by ripping of there clothes then quickly turns back to his cute self. This results in a long police car chase between the cops, Holli's goons and Jack. While the bunny is never seen again after gaining his money back it does give a proper introduction to the goons and having them tag along with Jack later on in the film.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: A voyeuristic version. The Goons spy on Holli and Jack having sex, and then crash to the ground when their tower collapses during climax. They are then shown lying the ground, discussing what they just observed and smoking.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Nails's sneeze from the cloud allergy causes him to let go of Jack, but he rescues him in time. When Nails sneezes again, Frank pinches his nose, causing him to break through the window so they can enter Holli's party.
  • Stripperiffic: Holli Would.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Jack Deebs killed his wife's lover. Nevertheless, he seems to have become a bit of a mini-celebrity in the comics world.
  • Take That!: A subtle example; after all the Executive Meddling the movie went through, why else would someone with the name "Holli Would" be the film's villain?
  • That's All, Folks!: At the end of the film, we get this exchange from Nails. Justified as this is Bakshi's last theatrically released film.
    Nails: Bye bye folks, have a nice life!
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: The film has Doctor Whiskers create the Spike, which tears a hole in reality that allows Doctor Whiskers to venture into the "noid" world (ours) and draws Frank Harris into the cartoony Cool World (theirs). The villain is The Vamp Holli Would, who wants to venture into the "noid" world herself, in order to experience a real orgasm, among other things. She succeeds in capturing the Spike, which causes the Toon Physics of Cool World to flood into the Noid World and vice versa.
  • Toon Physics: And like the rest of the movie, it's deranged and psychotic.
  • Toon Town: The eponymous Cool World, although it far more resembles Dark City than the bright and cheery (but also crapsaccharine in its own way) Toon Town of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Jack gains these proportions in Super Mode
  • Trapped in Another World: Jack Deebs gets pulled inside the titular Cool World by Holli.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Frank uses one of these when delivering his lecture to Jack about the no Noid-Doodle sex law:
    Frank: You keep your pencil in your pocket. Know what I mean?
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the cartoon chaos, a man transforms into a drooling Doodle worm. His female lover doesn't seem disturbed by it.
  • The Vamp: Holli. She is a beautiful and seductive "doodle" that dreams of becoming real and use her beauty to seduce Jack and achieve her objective.
  • Vapor Wear: Holli won't wear something that doesn't reveal a majority of her body.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Nails is allergic to clouds as Frank found out the hard way.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Not that the movie explains anything to begin with, but for characters with a fair amount of screentime, the movie never really says what happens to Holli's friends.
    • Doctor Whiskers is seen (after Jack sends every other Toon back to Cool World), he is consoling Nails as he is mourning Frank. They all disappear at the same time as Nails and Frank are next seen in Cool World. But Doc just disappears and is never seen again. Did he make it back to Cool World or is he still somewhere out there in the real world? Or is he existing anywhere at all?
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Frank admits he hates heights when climbing up Holli's home.
  • World of Chaos: The Toon world is basically a chaotic parody of the human world, with Cartoon Physics and constant madness and disorder. A human cop who's been there for the past 50 years still prefers it over his experience in the Second World War.

Nails: Bye bye folks, have a nice life!


Nails the Spider

As Nails mourns over Frank's death, he looks very adorable when he cries.

How well does it match the trope?

4.25 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / CryingCritters

Media sources: