Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a staple in our household, which is funny, because I remember being quite scared of the steamroller scene near the end when I was a kid. Now that I’m older, I appreciate it more from standpoint of how much work it took to get such a groundbreaking movie made – and here are some of the inside details on exactly what it took to make that happen. For the record, I still find the steamroller scene a little creepy.
Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
Like so many movies, this one was a book before it ever hit the screen. In this case, the book was named Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, by Gary K. Wolf. But the film doesn’t follow the book exactly. For instance, the book took place in present day - which was 1981 - not 1947. And instead of famous animated cartoon characters making appearances, famous cartoon strip characters pop up to chat with Roger, including Dick Tracy.
Most Toons like Tracy “spoke” in the book the only way they knew how - through word bubbles. Some became “bilingual” and could speak without balloons. The only line in the whole book that made it to the silver screen was spoken by Baby Herman - “I’ve got a 50-year-old lust and a three-year-old dinky.” In the book, though, Baby Herman was actually 50, not 36.
The ending is a lot different too, but I won’t spoil that for you (Google will tell you pretty quickly, if you’re dying to know). After the movie became a success in 1988, Wolf wrote a second book (though not necessarily a sequel) that fell more in line with the movie than with his original book. It’s called Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?
Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?
It’s probably music to the ears of Roger Rabbit fans: a prequel. According to the prequel, Roger grew up on a farm in the midwest and headed out to California to try to find his real mother. That’s how he falls in love with Jessica Krupnick (Jessica Rabbit has a much better ring to it, don’t you think?) and eventually meets not only his mother, but his father too - none other than Bugs Bunny. The movie would have been a direct-to-video release.
As of 1997, Michael Eisner was onboard for the prequel and commissioned a rewrite of the script; in 1998 some test footage was even shot. After estimations brought the cost of the movie to about $100 million, the idea was more or less shelved. However, just last year, Robert Zemeckis said he was interested in doing the prequel and it’s rumored that the script is being worked on again. I guess we’ll see. I’d certainly go see it.
Who Trivialized Roger Rabbit?
I did. Here are some other fun facts from the movie.
Although Roger and his cartoon pals have largely been abandoned at Disney, you can still find traces of them here and there. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re at Disney Hollywood Studios - if you look in the right place, you’ll find Eddie Valiant’s office, complete with the “hole” where Roger busted through the glass.
There’s also a billboard for R.K. Maroon Studios. Kathleen Turner famously provided Jessica Rabbit’s sultry voice, but Amy Irving - then Steven Spielberg’s wife - was her singing voice.
This was the last film Mel Blanc provided his famous voices for, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Porky Pig and Sylvester the Cat - with one exception. He did provide Daffy’s voice one more time in 1988 before passing away in 1989.
The movie’s original budget was $29.9 million dollars - the most an animated movie had ever cost at the time. But the price tag could have been even more astronomical - Roger was slated to cost $50 million at first, but Disney refused to shell out that much and wouldn’t approve production until costs were slashed. Rumor has it that by the time production was finished, the budget had soared to around $70 million.
Despite the cavalcade of characters from across the cartoon universe, a few that Disney wanted are missing: Popeye and Olive Oyl, Tom and Jerry, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Deputy Dawg. They couldn’t secure the rights for these in time for the movie.
Before the final title was finally settled on, others that were considered included Murder in Toontown, Dead Toons Don’t Pay Bills, Trouble in Toontown and Eddie Goes to Toontown. The book has a question mark after the title, but the movie doesn't - ending a movie title with a question mark is considered bad luck in the industry, apparently. This hasn’t stopped Who’s Harry Crumb?; What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?; or Dude, Where’s My Car?. The principle does apply to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Who’s That Girl, however.
Warner Brothers would only allow the use of their toons if they got the same screen time as Disney’s toons. Thus, when you see Bugs, he’s usually with Mickey, and when you see Daffy, Donald is probably there too.
Screencap from Obsessed with Film.
To make Judge Doom extra creepy, Robert Zemeckis had Christopher Lloyd refrain from blinking during his scenes. I’m tempted to watch just to see if I can catch him.
Tim Curry auditioned for the role of Judge Doom, but he was so disturbingly sinister that Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner all nixed him for fear that he would give children nightmares.
The inspiration for Jessica Rabbit was taken from a bunch of Hollywood glamour girls, including Lauren Bacall, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake.
Zemeckis and Spielberg both really wanted Bill Murray for the role of Eddie Valiant, but Murray is notoriously hard to get a hold of, so it never happened. Murray has said that when he later found out that he was the number one choice for the role, he screamed out loud because he would have loved playing Eddie.
If you haven’t kept track of all of the animated cameos in the movie, here’s a list to watch for the next time you catch Roger on T.V.:
- From Disney: Mickey; Minnie; Pluto; Donald; Goofy; Pegleg Pete; Horace Horsecollar; Clarabell Cow; the dwarves from The Merry Dwarfs; the flowers and trees from Flowers and Trees; the Three Little Pigs; Snow White and the seven dwarves; many of the characters from Fantasia (though not Chernabog); Dumbo; his mom and the crows from Dumbo; Br’er Bear; Tinkerbell; the penguins from Mary Poppins; Mr. Toad and his horse from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad; Bambi and some that are a little more obscure.
- From Warner Brothers: Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Sam the Sheepdog and Speedy Gonzales.
- From Paramount: Koko the Clown and Betty Boop.
- From Walter Lantz: Woody Woodpecker
- From MGM: Droopy
- You can also catch Felix the Cat, but he’s not an animated cameo. Instead, his face appears as the comedy and tragedy masks on the entrance to Toontown. He’s also shown in a photograph shaking hands with R.K. Maroon.