|Who Censored Roger Rabbit?/Who Framed Roger Rabbit character|
Roger Rabbit as he appears in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and other related media
|First appearance||Literature: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (June 6, 1981)|
Film: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (June 22, 1988)
|Species||Toon anthropomorphic rabbit|
Roger Rabbit is a fictional animated anthropomorphic rabbit character. The character first appeared in author Gary K. Wolf's 1981 novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? In the book, Roger is a second-banana in popular comic strip, "Baby Herman". Roger hires private detective Eddie Valiant to investigate why his employers, the DeGreasy Brothers, have reneged on their promise to give Roger his own strip. When Roger is found murdered in his home, Valiant sets out to look for the killer, with the help of Roger's "dopple" (in the book, comic characters can construct physical copies of themselves using their minds that last for only a few days).
The book and character were later reenvisioned in Disney's hit 1988 live-action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In the film version, Roger is a cartoon character in Hollywood during the Golden age of American animation. The various toons live in a Los Angeles enclave known as "Toontown", and act out animated shorts in the same way human actors act out feature films. Roger is framed for the murder of a famous Hollywood film producer and owner of Toontown, and he seeks out Valiant to help clear his name. In the film, the voice of Roger is performed by comedian Charles Fleischer, who was known for electing to wear an actual rabbit costume on the set to get into the role over the entirety of production.
The character of Roger was created by author Gary K. Wolf, for his 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Wolf was watching Saturday morning cartoons as research for new book ideas, when he noticed cereal commercial mascots such as Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit. Wolf found it amusing that these commercials had real children interacting with cartoon characters casually and without question, and he decided to explore the concept in book form, eventually combining pulp fiction and true crime elements, and eventually creating the character of Roger Rabbit in the process. Published in 1981, Walt Disney Productions purchased the film rights that same year for $35,000. Wolf retains all story rights related to the characters and is allowed to write new novels featuring them, but Disney and Amblin Entertainment own the intellectual property rights.
Before Richard Williams came on board for the film project, early animation tests for Roger gave him a simple and stylized look of a skinny white bunny with a purple nose. In these test animations, Roger was voiced by Paul Reubens. Subscribers to The Disney Channel (which was a subscription channel back in its early years) were able to see this test footage in the early 1980s.
When the film went into full production, Roger was redesigned in a fashion to take elements from all the major cartoon studios of the period, the philosophy behind the new characters, in general, being a combination of Disney's elaborate animation style, similar characterization to Warner Bros. characters and capable of performing Tex Avery-inspired gags.
Roger is a slender, white rabbit with large blue eyes, pink nose, a tuft of red hair who wears red overalls, yellow gloves, and a blue bow tie with yellow polka dots. He is an amalgamation of various classic cartoon characters, taking: Mickey Mouse's gloves, red pants with yellow buttons, and lack of a shirt; Bugs Bunny's rabbit form; Goofy's baggy pants; Pinocchio's blue bow tie; Sylvester the Cat's head and red nose; Wile E. Coyote's cheeks, and both Droopy and Claude Cat's red hair. Animator Richard Williams described the process of creating him like an "American flag" with the red overalls, white fur and blue bow tie so that American audiences would enjoy him subliminally.
Roger is zany, kind-hearted, humorous, energetic, a bit naïve and not very clever. He loves to make others laugh and is good friends with the other Toons, especially Baby Herman (his Maroon Cartoons costar) and Benny the Cab. He is also nervous and is intimidated of Judge Doom, the Dip, and the Toon Patrol as well as many other hazards.
Despite his traditionally cartoonish behavior, Roger is aware of what most people think of cartoons, facts he's voiced to Eddie Valiant, in that making people laugh is often what makes toons' lives worthwhile, but also notes that there are times when making people laugh is the only weapon toons have. He believes that if someone doesn't have a good sense of humor they're better off dead and gets upset over having to sit through things such as newsreels that he perceives as boring.
He truly loves his wife, Jessica, and always makes her laugh.
Roger doesn't take well to alcoholic beverages. It's shown twice in the film that when he has consumed one, he changes color rapidly, at least one of his eyes swells, his head spins, and he mumbles incoherently at a fast pace, before stretching up into the air and whistling like a steam train at a loud enough tone to shatter glass, all the while spinning around.
Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (1981)
In the book, he is depicted as a six-foot-tall rabbit with white fur on his stomach and brown fur everywhere else. He is a second banana comic strip character who hires gruff alcoholic private eye, Eddie Valiant, to find out why his employers, the owners of a cartoon syndicate called the DeGreasy Brothers, refuse to give him his own comic strip or to sell his contract to another studio. This has Valiant interrogating several suspects, starting with Roger's co-star, Baby Herman, then talking to Roger's ex-wife, Jessica Rabbit, and finally Roger's photographer, Carol. Valiant then goes to the Rabbit's house and finds Roger's dead corpse lying over the banister, soaking in a pool of his own blood. Toon policeman Captain Cleaver and a human commissioner then show up at the house. Valiant then encounters Roger's dopple, who begs the toon-hating detective to prove his innocence and clear his name.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
In the 1988 Disney/Amblin Entertainment film, he is re-envisioned as a character in 1940s animated cartoons and a resident of the fictional Los Angeles enclave, Toontown. He is framed for the murder of Acme Corporation C.E.O. Marvin Acme and seeks out Eddie Valiant to help clear his name.
Mickey's 60th Birthday (1988)
Roger notably played a significant role in the 1988 NBC special Mickey's 60th Birthday. At the beginning, during the taping of Mickey Mouse's birthday show, he is told to bring Mickey's cake to him, but in the process, he mistakes a stick of dynamite for a candle and puts it on the cake. Upon noticing his mistake, he attempts to blow it out but fails miserably and brings down the set in the process. Due to the resulting explosion, Mickey uses Yen Sid's magic to fix the place up and then shows off some more magic to his audience, only to disappear and have Yen Sid cast a spell on him.
At the end, after the curse is lifted, Roger is the first to find Mickey (at Disneylands Main Street, U.S.A.), takes a selfie of himself and Mickey and is hailed as a hero for doing so on the front page of USA Today.
1990s theatrical shorts
Roger was featured in a series of cartoon shorts following the popularity of the movie. These shorts were presented in front of various Touchstone/Disney features in an attempt to revive short subject animation as a part of the moviegoing experience. These shorts include Tummy Trouble (1989), released in front of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (this was also included on the original video release of the film); Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990), shown in front of Dick Tracy; and Trail Mix-Up (1993), shown before A Far Off Place.
Tiny Toon Adventures (1991)
- New Character Day (1991) - voiced by Steven Spielberg (as White Rabbit)
- Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian (1991) - voiced by Joe Alaskey
Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? (1991)
Roger is also a character in Wolf's novel, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?. In the book, Roger Rabbit is sure that Clark Gable has not only stolen the role of Rhett Butler in the soon-to-be-shot Gone with the Wind, but he has also stolen the heart of Jessica. Investigating the affair, Eddie Valiant, Toon protector, finds himself up to his fedora in murder and Hollywood corruption.
The book is neither a sequel nor a prequel to Who Censored Roger Rabbit? or the film adaptation by Disney. It is a spin-off story with the same characters, just different situations.
Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996)
Roger and Jessica both make small cameo appearances.
Who Wacked Roger Rabbit (2013)
In Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?, the third novel in Gary K. Wolf's acclaimed Roger Rabbit/Toontown series, hard-boiled gumshoe Eddie Valiant lands a plum job as Gary Cooper's bodyguard while Coop scouts locations for his next movie—a screwball comedy titled Hi, Toon! But Eddie's dream job quickly turns into a nightmare. The film's being shot in Toontown, and Coop's co-star turns out to be none other than Roger Rabbit. Eddie's a big fan of Coop. Of Roger? Not so much. Now a sinister hoodlum is threatening to murder Coop if the movie gets made. Before long, Eddie, Coop, Roger, and the ever-glamorous Jessica Rabbit are embroiled in a mystery that could destroy Toontown. When Roger bites off more Toonish trouble than Eddie can swallow, the answer to the question, Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?, suddenly becomes no laughing matter. Like P-P-P-Plugged, the book is non-canon to either the first book, or the film.
Roger occasionally appears as a meet-and-greet costumed character at Disney parks across the world. A costumed Roger was noticeably present at the opening of Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) on May 1, 1989.
Roger and company appeared in the 1989 graphic novel, Roger Rabbit: The Resurrection of Doom, by Bob Foster and published by Marvel Comics. In the story, Roger and Jessica are thrown out of work when Maroon Cartoon Studios resorts to cheaper animation. Meanwhile, Judge Doom plots revenge as he makes a most unexpected and surprising return.
Roger also starred in a comic book series published by Disney Comics from April 1990 to September 1991 and a spin-off series called Roger Rabbit's Toontown, published from June to October 1991, which featured Roger in the first story and supporting characters like Jessica Rabbit, Baby Herman, Benny the Cab, and the Toon Patrol. The series continues the adventures of Roger Rabbit, who has since returned to working for Maroon Cartoons, now under C.B. Maroon. The comics were usually split into two stories, with one main feature focusing on Roger's adventures, and a back-up feature presented to look like an actual animated subject. While Jessica Rabbit, Baby Herman and Benny the Cab all appeared in the stories, Eddie Valiant was seldom seen, replaced by a new detective character named Rick Flint. This was given an in-universe explanation in the first issue: Roger had a new case for he and Valiant to team up on, but Valiant told Roger he wouldn't be able to help him, as a result of his heavy workload. So to not leave Roger on his own, Valiant referred him to a "new kid" private detective, Rick Flint. The editorial reason for omitting Valiant from the comic was not having the likeness rights to Bob Hoskins outside of the first issue. Other new characters introduced were Lenny, a toon plane who was Benny's cousin, and Mel, who was Roger's sentient mailbox. The series had a one-off 3D strip as part of the "Disney's Comics in 3-D" series, which reprinted the back-up features of earlier comics and converted them into 3D. The Roger Rabbit comic book line lasted 18 issues, ending at the time of the Disney Comics implosion. However, new stories involving Roger and company continued to appear in the pages of Disney Adventures until after the May 1993 issue.
A parody of Roger appeared in a 2009 episode of the Adult Swim stop-motion sketch comedy series, Robot Chicken (episode: Love, Maurice). In the sketch, Roger (voiced by veteran-Looney Tunes voice actor Bob Bergen) murders O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, in exchange for O.J. killing Roger's wife, Jessica. The sketch satirizes the infamous O.J. Simpson murder case.
The Roger Rabbit became a popular dance move in America in the early 1990s. It was named after the floppy movements of the Roger Rabbit cartoon character. In movement, the Roger Rabbit dance is similar to the Running Man, but done by skipping backwards with arms performing a flapping gesture as if hooking one's thumbs on suspenders.
The popular Disney Afternoon TV series Bonkers was long rumored to have originally been intended as a Roger Rabbit spin-off series, that ended up being scrapped due to licensing issues from Amblin Entertainment, with Bonkers being created instead. However, in 2008, Greg Weisman, who was a writer on the series, denied this. While confirming that the title character was inspired by Roger, and the Toontown concept had also been influenced by the film, Weisman insists that Bonkers was always meant to be his own character.
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- The dance is even used in the dedication of W. Michael Kelley, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Calculus (Alpha Books, 2002), ii.
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