The Real Story Behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit

What’s remarkable about “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” a sort of inked-in noir with absurd sight gags, is how easily we accept the miracle before our eyes. With a budget of $70 million, Roger Rabbit was one of the costliest films ever made. But it made up the costs grossing more than $320 million globally. That’ll get you quite a few cartoon Cimg arrots.

Bob Hoskins and Jessica Rabbit / Roger Rabbit and Bob Hoskins / Christopher Lloyd, Bob Hoskins and Roger Rabbit / Alan Tilvern, Roger Rabbit and Bob Hoskins.
Source:, Copyright: Walt Disney Pictures

What’s impressive in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” an inked-in noir with crazy sight gags, is how easily we accept the miracle in front of our eyes. Not only that, but the live-action/animated film earned a slew of prizes for its amazing effects and creativity, including three Academy Awards (Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Effects Editing). At the time, it was also the most expensive film ever made.

So grab your hand buzzers and disappearing ink because we’re going to reveal some fascinating truths about Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The Author’s Background

Gary K. Wolf was born on January 24, 1904, in the United States. He was born and raised in Earlville, Illinois, to Ed and Hattie Wolf. His father ran the village pool hall, an upholstery shop, while his mother worked in the school cafeteria.

Gary K. Wolf poses with a Rogger Rabbit doll.
Source: Pinterest

The book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit (1981), transformed into the feature-length smash picture, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, is his most famous work. Wolf used to read comic books and science fiction stories at a young age as an only child. In June 1959, Wolf graduated from Earlville High School.

The Novel and Series

Wolf is best known for a series of comedic mystery novels featuring the now-famous Roger Rabbit, a cartoon character who inhabits an alternate universe where so-called “toons” (an abbreviation for the word “cartoons”) and humans co-exist. The series begins with the novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit (1981).

A copy of “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”
Source: Reddit

The film from 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, was based on the first novel of the three-part series. Who Plugged Roger Rabbit? (1991) and Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? (2013) were the two books that continued the series; these two books were non-canonical to the original book and had more in common with the hit Disney film.

The Lawsuit Case

In 2001, Wolf sued The Walt Disney Company. Wolf argued that he was owed royalties based on gross earnings and merchandise sales. The trial court in the lawsuit determined in 2002 that these only referred to actual monetary revenues Disney received, and Wolf’s claim was dismissed.

Gary K. Wolf poses with a Roger Rabbit doll and a clapper on set.
Source: Tumblr

The California Court of Appeals disagreed in January 2004, noting that Wolf’s expert testimony about the everyday use of “gross earnings” in the entertainment industry might support a broader interpretation of the word. The ruling overturned the trial court’s decision in Disney’s favor and remanded the matter for further consideration.

The Mysterious Death

Who Censored Roger Rabbit contains a much darker view of a world populated by humans and animated characters. In this version, Roger is not only guilty of murder – he gets murdered as well! If this seems to fly in the face of everything you thought you knew about the story. It gets a lot weirder.

Roger Rabbit leans across the bar in a scene from the film.
Source: Pinterest

His speech balloon, discovered at the crime scene, suggests that he was murdered to “control” the star, who had just heard someone explain the basis of his fame. Roger’s ex-wife, Jessica Rabbit, is among the suspects in Valiant’s quest for the killer.

Valiant Investigation Brought Explanation

Eddie Valiant is a fictional Los Angeles-based private detective hired by comic book star Roger Rabbit to investigate the workings of Roger’s corrupt employers. When Roger is found dead, and his final words having been censored out, Valiant is sent on the case of tracking Roger’s murderers.

Bob Hoskins, as Eddie Valiant, pulls an animated Roger Rabbit by his ears.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The Genie reveals its history and how it had grown jaded over thousands of years, now only granting wishes with conditions, and he admits to shooting Roger. He goes on to say that the phrases to command him are from a children’s song that Roger frequently performed

A Different Edition of Roger Rabbit

The book’s various covers convey a variety of impressions. The first is deeper and reveals a darkened Roger from behind, while Valiant’s face is shaved. Close-up on a black background, it focused on the two.

The first version of the book cover.
Source: Reddit

A later variant featured a shaved Valiant and a vividly colored Roger. It was panned out to display the metropolis in the background during the day. It also shows Roger stating something in a voice bubble “Please assist me! I’m in the middle of a murder mystery with double-crossers, hot broads, and lethal cream pies.” Both depict author Gary K. Wolf in the role of Valiant.

Comparison to the Film Adaptation

Many of the same main characters appear in both the novel and the film and the same basic plot. Other aspects of the picture, on the other hand, differ dramatically from Wolf’s novel. The novel is set in the 1980s, yet it is in a weird environment where real people and cartoon characters coexist.

Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit, and Eddie Valiant pose together.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

Rather than animated cartoon stars, the novel’s cartoons are mostly comic strip characters. Dick Tracy, Snoopy, Dagwood, Blondie Bumstead, Beetle Bailey, and Hägar the Horrible are notable comic strip characters named or who make guest appearances.

The Cartoon-Like Characters

Photographs of cartoon characters are used to create comic strips. The “toon” characters communicate in word balloons that appear above their heads as they speak in this version. Although some characters have learned to speak without using their word balloons, they are still used in key story elements.

A drawing of Roger Rabbit.
Source: Pinterest

Toons in the novel can manufacture clones of themselves to use as stunt doubles for dangerous shots. They usually decompose after a few minutes or hours at most. Although this is an anomaly, Roger makes one that lasts two days, intending for it to be as close to him as possible to serve as an alibi.

The Die-Hard Factor

When an unknown assailant fatally shoots Roger, his doppelgänger collaborates with the police to solve his murder before disintegrating. Toons in the film are virtually unkillable — except by a caustic chemical “dip” and, with a few exceptions, can withstand even the most severe injuries.

A weasel “angel” floats away playing the harp in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

While we know that the dip can erase a toon from existence, are they effectively incapable of dying from other means? We also see that Eddie “kills” a couple of the weasels, although they immediately turn into “angels,” who are pretty much the same as their original selves except now with wings.

Comparison to the Spin-off

In 1991, Wolf published another Roger Rabbit book, “Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?” However, the book states (in the form of a note from Valiant) that Roger Rabbit “and his screwball cronies play fast and loose with historical reality,” implying that the stories are inconsistent.

A copy of “Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?”
Source: Reddit

Except for Jessica describing a dream encompassing the first novel’s events and retconning the dream, there is no relationship between this novel and the first. The second novel tries to relate with the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit more than the first.

The Book vs. the Film

Returning to the beginning and reading Who Censored Roger Rabbit? After all these years, we finally understand what Wolf was trying to say. His novel is strange in that he’s attempting to convey the universe as strange and peculiar as any in science fiction. Still, he intended to do so casually as if discussing a perfectly typical real-life setting.

Gary Wolf sits in a convertible car with his arm around a cartoon Jessica Rabbit.
Source: Amazon

He was satirizing noir mysteries simultaneously in an attempt to piece together an actual mystery, one with a bewildering number of threads, suspects, plots, and patsies. He didn’t succeed on all counts, but he gave it a better shot than we gave him credit for when we were kids.

About the Plot

The foolish, babbling cartoon rabbit, Roger Rabbit; his seductive humanoid ‘toon wife Jessica Rabbit; and, above all, irritable private eye Eddie Valiant, a man more interested in his next shot of booze than his next clue–were all brought in intact by Zemeckis.

Bob Hoskins, Robert Zemeckis, and Roger Rabbit pose next to a film camera.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The remainder of the cast, including Eddie’s dead brother Teddy, the weasel gangsters, Judge Doom, Marvin Acme, and Benny the Cab, were created specifically for the film. All of the specific usages of well-known cartoon characters are included as well.

A Global Star- Bob Hoskins

Even as a global star who captivated and terrified audiences in a wide range of performances, Bob Hoskins never lost his Cockney accent. Despite being short and bald, Hoskins was a very flexible performer with a countenance he once compared to “a squashed cabbage.” In the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” he played a detective investigating a cartoon crime.

A terrified Eddie Valiant and Roger Rabbit are about to crash a cartoon car.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

In ” The Long Good Friday, ” he went from bravura bluster to a melancholy understatement as a London thug in “The Long Good Friday.” He cavorted with a cast of animated characters in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” making technological deception feel seamless and natural.

The Tragic Incident

According to a family statement released following Hoskin’s passing, Hoskins died in a hospital after a bout of pneumonia. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012 at the age of 71. “A wonderful actor and an even greater man,” Helen Mirren, who co-starred with Hoskins in “The Long Good Friday,” said.

Bob Hoskins poses for a portrait as he sits laughing on a couch.
Photo by George Wilkes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“Funny, loyal, instinctive, hardworking, with that inimitable energy that seemed to take off like a brilliant firework rocket. I will miss him greatly,” Mirren said. “London will miss one of her best and most loving sons, and Britain will miss a man to be proud of.”

The Film Development

Jessica was inspired by the cartoon character Red from Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood, according to author Gary K. Wolf. The character influenced various actresses in the film adaptation. “I wanted to make her look like Rita Hayworth; we stole her hair from Veronica Lake,” Richard Williams stated.

Rita Hayworth / Veronica Lake / Lauren Becall
Source: Getty Images

‘What about Lauren Bacall’s look?’ Zemeckis kept asking. He described that combination as the “ultimate male dream, portrayed by a cartoonist.” Jessica had a different look and was supposed to be voiced by Russi Taylor until Robert Zemeckis was brought on board as director.

A look at the Character Synopsis

Jessica was a morally ambiguous up-and-coming star and former comedic figure in the novel, with whom her estranged husband (comic strip star Roger Rabbit) fell fascinated. In the film, she is reimagined as a sexy yet moral cartoon singer at The Ink and Paint Club in Los Angeles.

Jessica Rabbit performs on stage at The Ink and Paint Club.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

She is one of the numerous people suspected of framing her husband, a well-known cartoonist accused of murder. Kathleen Turner provided her voice, but she was not given credit for it. For Jessica’s first part in the film, Amy Irving was cast to sing “Why Don’t You Do Right?” (a blues ballad made famous by Peggy Lee).

Jessica Expresses the Character Well

Roger is Jessica’s spouse, and she adores him. Her nicknames for him are “honey-bunny” and “darling.” After Roger attempts to save her from Judge Doom and the Toon Patrol, she declares that he makes her laugh, that he is a better lover than a driver and “better than Goofy.”

Jessica Rabbit pulls Valiant closer to her by his tie in a still from the film.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

She assures Eddie that she’ll pay any price for Roger as proof of her love, and she even assists in the investigation to prove his innocence. Jessica reprised her role as a nurse in the Roger Rabbit/Baby Herman shorts Tummy Trouble, Roller Coaster Rabbit as a damsel in distress, and Trail Mix-Up as a park ranger after the feature.

The Unique Jessica Rabbit

Jessica didn’t make an impression in Tummy Trouble or Roller Coaster Rabbit. On the other hand, Roger fantasizes about her in Trail Mix-Up, calling her a “babe in the woods” and panting like a dog. She is also featured in most issues of Roger Rabbit’s Toontown, and she frequently appears in the Roger Rabbit comic book series.

Genie holds up a cardboard cutout of Jessica Rabbit’s body in a still from Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
Source: Tumblr

Jessica did not appear in the Disney film Aladdin and the King of Thieves, but a cardboard cut-out of her torso (from the neck down) was visible for a few seconds while Genie was collecting bridal outfits for Princess Jasmine, to which he did the Wolf-whistle.

Different Photo Opportunities

With the film’s success and the opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 1, 1989, the characters from the film were heavily featured in the corporation. Following the Studio Backlot Tour, the streets were decked out with numerous props, including two different photo chances with Jessica.

A little girl poses with the sparkly cutout of Jessica on the studio lot.
Source: Pinterest

A sparkly cardboard cutout, as well as “The Loony Bin” photo store, where you could pose in costume next to an actual cartoon drawing of characters from the movie. Pleasure Island, Disney’s nightclub and shopping area, originally included the Jessica Rabbit Store, dubbed “Jessica’s.”

Among the Greatest Movie Characters

Jessica Rabbit has garnered excellent reviews and has been referred to as a sex icon among classic animated characters, ranking alongside Betty Boop and Red Hot Riding Hood. Jessica Rabbit is still the most attractive cartoon character, according to Cadbury Dairy Milk studies.

Pre-production illustrations of Jessica Rabbit.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

Along with Snow White’s garment, her crimson dress was one of the most well-known outfits worn by an animated heroine. Jessica Rabbit was named one of Empire’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All-Time in 2008, with the publication commenting that “despite being painted as a traditional femme fatale, one of the film’s charms is to allow the character to play against the stereotype.”

Nudity and Impact on the LaserDisc release

Variety claimed in March 1994 that Jessica was represented nude for a few frames of animation on the LaserDisc of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was undetected when played at the standard rate of 24 film frames per second but apparent while advancing through the film frame-by-frame.

Jessica Rabbit talks to Eddie Valiant.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The scene drove sales of the LaserDisc release: many stores stated that their entire inventory of the LaserDisc release sold out in minutes due to headlines on the nudity in the media, including CNN and newspapers. Disney sources told Variety that the business was unlikely to take action against the frames.

Early Drafts of the Script were Darker

Before Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (1981) was released on the big screen, it underwent several alterations. In earlier drafts, the story’s villains included Jessica Rabbit and Baby Herman, Judge Doom revealing that he was the hunter who shot Bambi’s mother, and even Roger’s death.

Valiant photographs a chalk outline of a crime scene in a still from the film.
Source: Twitter

These changes were problems that continued to arise, and it appeared to be an impassable mountain, but they persisted, and the resistance was broken, and it is now what it is.

Roger and Eddie had Famous Stand-ins for Test Shoots

Animators created test reels for studio presentations at various phases of the film’s development. An early version of the project included Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-wee Herman, as Roger, characterized by neurotic stammering.

A still of an early draft of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? With Paul Reubens.
Source: Pinterest

Richard Williams (who would later become the animation director for Who Framed Roger Rabbit) gave Walt Disney Pictures a taste of his abilities with a scene that reunited a more identifiable Roger with an appropriately cranky Eddie Valiant. Joe Pantoliano, the future star of The Sopranos, plays Eddie in this scene.

Bob Hoskins was Not the First Pick for Eddie Valiant

Harrison Ford (who was too pricey), Chevy Chase (who was not interested in the character), and Bill Murray were among those considered for the grumpy private detective (who allegedly never got the message and was dismayed to learn he had missed such an opportunity).

Valiant tries to talk Judge Doom down from “dipping” Roger Rabbit.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Wallace Shawn, Ed Harris, and Charles Grodin were among the other names mentioned. Producers considered Tim Curry (who they found too scary), John Cleese (not scary enough), and Christopher Lee before settling on Zemeckis’ Back to the Future colleague Christopher Lloyd as the evil Judge Doom (who turned the role down).

Roger was Modelled after Big Stars

Williams intended to merge elements from vintage animation into Roger Rabbit’s design. According to him, Roger represents Disney’s production quality, Warner Bros- Looney Tunes character design, and animator Tex Avery’s personality and sense of humor.

Pre-production illustrations of Roger Rabbit.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

Furthermore, studio influence can be seen in Roger’s anatomy and attire: his face is designed to resemble a Looney Tunes character, and his torso is of a Disney hero, while his overalls, gloves, and bow tie are a homage to Goofy, Mickey Mouse, and Porky Pig.

The Film Spawned the Industry Term “Bumping the Lamp”

The term “bumping the light” refers to putting a great deal of work into a particular aesthetic aspect that most people will never notice. The phrase was coined after a scene in which Bob Hoskins’ character repeatedly smacked his head against a low-hanging ceiling lamp, causing it to swing about the room.

Valiant bumps his head on a lamp as he carries Roger Rabbit by his ears.
Source: Reddit

Animators had to draw and redraw Roger Rabbit to be consistent with the scenes continuously changing lighting, while the team was well aware that most audiences would not be bothered by the lack of the effect.

The Film Features over 140 Preexisting Animated Characters

Who Was Behind the Scenes? Roger Rabbit is the only film to date that brings together Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros’ Bugs Bunny; the two share a sequence in the second part of the film, merrily skydiving alongside an airborne Bob Hoskins.

A large gathering of animated characters gathers around the melting Judge Doom.
Source: Pinterest

Apart from Mickey, the film featured 81 individual characters and 14 “groups” of characters (for example, the titular sprites from the short “The Merry Dwarfs” or the anthropomorphic Fauna from the short “Flowers and Trees”). Meanwhile, Bugs was one of 19 Warner Bros. characters to appear on the screen.

Charles Fleischer Voice tone

Fleischer stated it was a delight to create Roger Rabbit’s voice in an interview with Jay Leno since it was one of the first characters with a personality similar to his own. Roger’s fumbling speech impediment, which makes him so adorable, was added by Fleischer himself.

Charles Fleischer signs autographs at a 25th-anniversary event for the film.
Photo by Vincent Sandoval/FilmMagic/Getty Images

When Fleischer performs, he switches between accents and impressions. His scientific endeavors, such as his TED talk on Moleeds, are one-of-a-kind theories, including shifting fluidly between voices. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and The Arsenio Hall Show during his early stand-up career.

Joanna Cassidy’s Success

Since 2000, Cassidy has starred in John Carpenter’s film Ghosts of Mars (2001) and had a recurring role as Margaret Chenowith on HBO’s drama series Six Feet Under, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award. She appeared in two episodes of Star Trek in 2004 as a guest star.

Valiant, played by Hoskins, stares at Dolores, played by Joanna Cassidy.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

In 2006, she played Beverly Bridge in the sitcom Boston Legal in a recurring role as T’Les. She portrayed the villain Hecubah in the computer game Nox (2000), and she reprised her role as Maggie Sawyer in Superman: Shadow of Apokolips in 2002.

Cassidy’s head Transposed Digitally

A stunt performer played out Zhora’s death scene in Blade Runner. The physical disparities between the performer and Cassidy were evident (including the stuntwoman wearing a different wig). Cassidy’s head was digitally transplanted onto a video of the stunt performer for the Final Cut, allowing the death scene to be consistent.

Joanna Cassidy as Zhora in a still from Blade Runner.
Source: Warner Bros.

According to the DVD featurette, All Our Variant Futures, Cassidy was the one who suggested it; she is shown on tape, remarking the recording of a Blade Runner retrospective interview.

Alan Tilvern of Roger rabbit

Tilvern was born in 1918 in Whitechapel, London’s East End, to Jewish-Lithuanian parents who renamed themselves from Tilovitch to Tilvern. He became a barrow boy in Brick Lane after leaving school and served in the army during WWII but was invalided out before the war ended in 1945.

Alan Tilvern, as Maroon, pours a drink for Roger Rabbit in Valiant’s office.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

He began an acting career a year later (Danger by My Side is a prime example), which lasted until the late 1980s. He is perhaps best known for his role as R. K. Maroon in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, his most recent film. Tilvern died on December 17, 2003, when he was 85 years old. His daughter was his only heir.

Mickey and Bugs Together

Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny aren’t only the movie’s two most famous cartoon characters; they’re also two of the twentieth century’s biggest pop idols! Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Studios’ egos wouldn’t let one of their characters get more screen time than the other.

Valiant falls through the sky with Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse falling on either side of him.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

It’s also why no character from either business appears without the other, except a classic piano sequence with Donald and Daffy. During Mickey and Bugs’ parachute scene, the animators also pulled a joke; if you pause the animation just right, Bugs appears to be flipping the bird to Mickey.

Toons’ Predicament to Real life

It’s easy to relate the Toons’ predicament to real life, to those who were once considered good enough to perform in clubs but not to eat or drink in them, to those whose choices were to be in the spotlight or the kitchen; to those who are forced to live in closed-off ghettos on land controlled by others.

Valiant is arguing with Roger Rabbit.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The shock may not come from the combination of live and animated folk—it may come from the genuinely revolutionary sight of great icons from competing studios joyously rubbing shoulders for viewers who grew up with cartoons as a natural part of their moviegoing.

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