At the beginning of the novel, Passepartout has just been hired by Phileas Fogg after Fogg's previous valet failed to meet his exacting standards. Passepartout, who has lived an irregular and well-travelled life, is looking forward to a restful employment, as Fogg is known for his regular habits which never take him farther afield than the Reform Club.
Ironically, on Passepartout's first day at work, Fogg makes a bet with his friends at the Club that he can circumnavigate the world in no more than eighty days and Passepartout is obliged to accompany him. In addition to the wager, the valet has an additional incentive to complete the journey quickly: He left a gaslight burning in his room and the resulting expense of wasted gas will be docked from his salary.
In the journey, Passepartout plays a critical role in Fogg's adventures, such as rescuing Aouda from a forced sati, and becomes a friend of the pursuing detective, Mr. Fix. Passepartout discovers that Fix suspects Fogg of robbing a bank, but decides to keep that information to himself, since his employer seemed to have a busy enough agenda without having to deal with that worry. Unfortunately, Passepartout realizes too late that this means Fogg does not have the opportunity to discuss the allegation with the detective and prove his innocence before returning to Britain and being arrested on the spot by Fix. Finally, when the group arrives in London seemingly too late, it is Passepartout who discovers his employer actually still has time to complete his journey and win his wager.
The character of Passepartout serves several purposes in the narrative — as a point-of-view character for Verne's French readers, and as comic relief, both in his reactions to the strange places and events he encounters, and in a tendency to get trapped, abducted, or, on at least one occasion, left behind.
In the 1981 animated adaptation, Around the World with Willy Fog, which depicts the cast as anthropomorphic animals, Passepartout is renamed Rigadon (although he is named Passepartout in some translations), and emphasis is placed on his background as a former circus performer, hence, his desire to get away from a lifestyle that involves much travel. This adaptation also graces Rigadon with a companion in the form of Tico, his circus partner, offering the character someone he can interact with on his own level. Rigadon was voiced by Cam Clarke in the dubbed English version of the series.
In the more loosely adapted 2004 film version, Around the World in 80 Days, Passepartout was a Chinese fugitive whose real name is Lau Xing, who took the name to avoid custody by the English authorities. He was played by Jackie Chan.
In the 2008 Rocket! Take Us to the Moon. New From the Earth to the Moon animated series. Jean Passepartout was subtly implied to have a son, whom he put under the care of Phileas and Aouda Fogg. His son is the lead character of the series, with the future Japanese girl Matogawa Eri as both his co-star and love interest. Jean Passepartout was voiced by Watanabe Kazushige (渡辺一茂), while his son was voiced by Sakai Chika (酒井智加).