- “My philosophy is this: if you don't have a good sense of humor, you're better off dead!”
- ―Roger Rabbit
He is the titular anthropomorphic rabbit of the film--a frantic, over-anxious type who often stutters (even while he's screaming). He is also based on the most famous cartoon characters who were popular during the Golden Age of Hollywood animation.
Before Richard Williams came aboard on the 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, who would later go on to voice RX-24 in Star Tours.
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 yellow polka dot bow tie. He is an amalgamation of various classic cartoon characters; taking Bugs Bunny's cartoon rabbit form, Mickey's gloves, and Goofy's baggy pants. Animator Richard Williams described the process of creating him like an "American flag" with the red overalls, white fur and blue bow tie and American audiences would enjoy him subliminally.
Roger is hyperactive, friendly, talkative, funny, a bit childlike and not very bright at times. 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 cowardly and greatly fears 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.
In the film, the voice of Roger is performed by Charles Fleischer (who also voices Benny, Greasy and Psycho), who was known for electing to wear an actual rabbit costume on the set to get into the role. One of his famous traits is his voice, "P-p-p-p-p-please!" He is a white, clownish rabbit with a gap between his front teeth, a voice that resonates of Huntz Hall in The Bowery Boys, a blue Porky Pig-like bow tie with yellow polka dots, a Droopy-like hair, a Bugs Bunny-like head with blue eyes, a pink nose, round-tipped ears, red Oswald-like pants with a green patch behind, and Mickey Mouse-like gloves on his paws (yellow ones).
He truly loves his wife, Jessica, and always makes her laugh.
Roger doesn't take well to human 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 pops open, his bowtie 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 flailing about. Afterward, his mood swings violently, especially in an aggressive manner.
In the 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.
Things begin as Roger is in the middle of working on his latest Toon short for Maroon Cartoons titled "Something's Cooking" with his fellow Toon co-star, Baby Herman, but when the door of the refrigerator dropped on him opens, Roger has tweeting birds circling him, not stars as stated in the script, forcing Raoul, the director, to cut, frustrating him and Baby Herman at how Roger botched up the take for the twenty-third time.
Unable to cope with Roger's repeated failures with one single scene after repeated takes, Raoul calls a lunch break and retreats to his trailer to calm down as Roger runs after him, pleading that he can get the scene right, even resorting to whacking himself with a frying pan retrieved from a nearby prop cart to try and generate the stars Raoul wants, too little success.
R.K. Maroon is also frustrated with Roger as every failed take has put him over-budget on the short as well by at least $25,000. Requesting detective Eddie Valiant of the Valiant & Valiant Private Investigators, who is also a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department, Maroon asks Eddie to investigate a rumor that Roger's wife, Jessica Rabbit, is having an affair behind Roger's back, agreeing to pay Eddie $100 for the job to acquire photographs of Jessica cheating on Roger.
Eddie returns with proof of Jessica cheating on Roger by literally playing pattycake with Acme Corporation and Toontown owner, Marvin Acme, in her dressing room at the Ink and Paint Club. Roger is devastated when he sees the photographs, unable to comprehend that his wife is cheating on him. He fears someone made Jessica do it to try and break his heart. Maroon tries to console Roger, even offering him some human liquor to drink, but once Roger downs it to drown his sorrows, his body suffers an allergic reaction to it, causing him to change colors and gag before he turns bright red and his cheeks inflate, then suddenly shoots his head towards the ceiling, where his screams change into a high-pitched steam whistle that seems to get so loud and high in the pitch that it causes many of the glass objects in Maroon's office to shatter from the stress before Roger finally stops and crashes back down into Maroon's chair.
As Roger comes to afterwards, gasping and panting from his little uncontrollable frenzy, Maroon and Valiant try to console him, but when Valiant suggests all the girls who would be breaking down Roger's door just to be with him, Roger suddenly becomes enraged, grabbing Valiant and swearing that, despite this little bit of evidence of Jessica cheating on him, he and Jessica will be happy again, before shooting out through the blinds and window of Maroon's office, leaving the two men in shock. Roger then arrives outside the Acme Factory, now weeping as he gets up on a crate and pulls out his wallet, looking at pictures of him and Jessica at their wedding, honeymoon, and in a nightclub, asking his wife to tell him it's not true that she is seeing Acme now.
The next morning, Roger is wanted by the L.A.P.D. as they've discovered Marvin Acme murdered in the Acme Factory, his head crushed by a safe dropped on him. Jessica is being interviewed in the factory office before confronting Valiant and slapping him across the face in fury for indicting her husband and storming out in a huff.
Sometime later, Valiant finds Baby Herman outside his office, swearing that Roger is innocent due to him and Roger being long-time friends and co-workers, and reveals that Acme left a will that was supposed to entrust Toontown to the Toons should anything happen to him. Valiant discovers that Acme had the will on him when with Jessica back at her dressing room at the Ink & Paint Club, but brushes it aside as he decides to lay down and go to sleep, only to find Roger sleeping in the bed already, startling both of them.
Valiant demands to know how he got in and Roger explains he got in through the mail slot, not knowing where else to hide with him a wanted criminal now. However, once Roger explains how he asked several people if they could direct him to Valiant's office, Valiant is quick to show Roger the door, not wanting him there if "the whole damn town knows", but Roger confesses that, while he was angry at first when he saw the pictures, he went to the club to see Jessica, but she wasn't there, so he wrote her a love letter instead, finding a nice, clean piece of paper to write it on. However, when he went home to wait for her, the Toon Patrol was staking out his house, so he ran, figuring he could turn to Valiant for help because of all the Toon cases he solved before.
Roger quickly gains Valiant's ire when he's about to sit in Teddy's old chair, then pushes Valiant too far when he looks at a picture of Eddie and Teddy and mentions Teddy looks like "a sensible and sober fellow", forcing Eddie to grab his phone and notify the L.A.P.D. and Toon Patrol of Roger's whereabouts. Roger goes to leave but ends up in the closet by mistake, resulting in where when Eddie comes to look, Roger handcuffs him while imitating Dick Tracy. Before Eddie can do who knows what to Roger for cuffing them together, Roger hears the all-too-familiar siren of the Toon Patrol's paddy wagon, and spots it pull up on the curb outside. Trapped, Roger begins to panic, pleading with Eddie to help him as there's no justice for Toons anymore and he's as good as dead if the Weasels get their hands on him. Eddie reluctantly hides Roger in his sink by pretending to be doing his laundry, and after shoving a bar of soap in Sergeant Smarty's mouth, manages to convince them that Roger isn't there, though not without being warned that if he steps out of line again, the Weasels will deal with him as well. Roger gives Eddie a big kiss in thanks, much to his annoyance.
That night, Eddie sneaks Roger into the Pacific Electric Red Car Trolley Terminal Bar, where he is shown a hidden room by Dolores where Roger can hang out until the heat's off. Finding some tools, Eddie attempts to saw the handcuffs off, but when Roger reveals he could remove his own Toon hand from his cuff at will, Eddie is furious to discover that. However, Roger tries to convince him to get his sense of humor back, before explaining his philosophy. Eddie thinks he might get his wish if he can't find out what happened to Acme's will, believing Jessica and Maroon were in it together. Roger denies it, but when Dolores asks what the plan is, Eddie asks her to check the probate downtown, while Eddie sticks to his hunch that Roger's boss, R.K. Maroon, is involved in the conspiracy of Acme's murder.
As Eddie finally saws the handcuffs off, he asks Dolores if Roger can stay in the hidden room for a few days. Dolores agrees, with some hesitation, before Eddie departs to return to his office.
A day or two later, Eddie and Dolores enter the Terminal Bar to find Roger outside the hidden room and entertaining the barflies while singing to the music of The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, but when Roger begins smashing Dolores' plates over his head when the record skips, Eddie angrily intervenes and throws Roger back into the room to confront him over his actions, fearing that Roger was going to get himself turned in by the barflies because of his stunt. Roger argues that they would never do that since he made them laugh, explaining that for Toons, "A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have." Eddie shushes Roger from saying anything further when Dolores warns them from the bar counter outside that Judge Doom and the Toon Patrol have arrived in the Terminal Bar. Eddie and Roger watch through the spy-hole with concern as Doom intimidates the patrons into giving up Roger, while Dolores tells him to stop harassing her customers. After rewriting the special on the chalkboard to reveal how much he's willing to pay anyone who turns Roger in, Angelo is the first to step up. Roger is stunned that his earlier entertaining of the patrons has failed and swallows in fear, but when Angelo instead turns to an empty bar stool and tells his invisible friend Harvey to say hello, Roger is relieved that his entertaining still worked and the patrons won't rat him out. However, his relief is short-lived, as Doom begins tapping out the beginning of "Shave-and-a-haircut" around the bar, causing Roger to find himself struggling to resist delivering the punchline, with Eddie unable to help due to snagging his sleeve on the latch of the spy-hole. Roger finally can't hold himself back any further and blasts through the wall to finish with "two bits", only to then be grabbed by Doom so he can administer his justice to Roger with The Dip.
In desperation, Eddie asks Dolores for a double bourbon, which she doesn't take seriously at first until Eddie tells her to pour the drink, as he has a plan to save Roger. Calling out to Doom, Eddie asks if Roger would like a final drink before his execution. Doom concedes, but when Eddie offers the drink, Roger refuses, leading to where Eddie uses the old "Duck Season, Rabbit Season" trick on Roger to get him to drink the bourbon. As a result, Roger undergoes another allergic reaction to the human liquor, and as his head shoots into the air to perform the steam whistle, knocking Doom backwards into the bar patrons, Eddie uses the opportunity to fight off the Toon Patrol, taking out Smarty last before saving Roger from falling into the Dip as the effects wear off. Before Doom has a chance to retaliate as he recovers, Eddie tips the barrel over to send the contents towards Doom and the bar patrons, while he and Roger escape, attempting to commandeer the Toon Patrol's paddy wagon, but instead finding their escape vehicle in Benny the Cab, who was locked in the back of the van. After a harrowing escape from the Toon Patrol and two L.A.P.D. motorcycle cops, Benny takes Roger and Eddie to hide out in a movie theater.
While there, Roger finally asks Eddie what made him so hostile to Toons and lose his sense of humor. Eddie explains that a Toon killed Teddy. He and Teddy were investigating a robbery from the First National Bank of Toontown and pursued the suspect to another building, only for the suspect to get the literal drop on them by dropping a piano on them from 15 stories up. Eddie survived with a broken arm, but Teddy did not make it. Roger is left in tears after hearing that, and he and Eddie manage to make amends and forge a new friendship out of it. They leave the theater shortly afterward with Dolores, who had been fired from the Terminal Bar for the damage incurred earlier with Doom and the Weasels, only for Eddie to return in time to catch a newsreel revealing Maroon having just recently sold Maroon Cartoons to Cloverleaf Industries.
Returning to Roger's workplace, Eddie heads up to confront Maroon while Roger remains behind to watch his back, only to be knocked out by Jessica and thrown in the back of her car. Jessica soon flees with Roger in the trunk as Eddie pursues her into Toontown, but at some point, while Jessica and Eddie are looking for each other, Roger recovers, escapes from Jessica's wrecked car, and takes Eddie's wrecked car on a joyride through Toontown's streets. He emerges from the tunnel leading to Toontown sometime later to find Benny wrecked on the side of the road, his wheels blown out from coming in contact with Dip. After Benny tells Roger that Doom grabbed Jessica and Eddie and took them to the Acme Factory, Roger lets Benny drive them to the factory.
Once there, Roger takes the revolver Eddie left behind in his car and prepares to go save Jessica, asking Benny to go and fetch the L.A.P.D. while he does so.
Roger attempts to enter via a lower window, but as he leans against it from being unable to open it, thinking it's locked, it tips inward and dumps him into a toilet in one of the stalls of the restroom inside. He is quickly flushed down the drain, only to burst out of a drain in the factory proper, sending Greasy flying into the air and grabbing hold of a net of bricks, before Roger touches down and orders the Weasels to drop their weapons or he'll shoot Judge Doom. Jessica is relieved to see him, but while Roger is happy to see her, he needs to quell his anger first. Doom angrily orders him to put the gun down, but that only provokes Roger further, taunting Doom into saying something else that would force Roger to shoot him, but as Roger goes into a tirade, he does not see Greasy preparing to cut the net of bricks down on top of him, dropping it right after Roger literally says, "why the real meaning would hit you like a ton of bricks!" As Jessica rushes to her husband's aid, Roger emerges, dazed, and finally producing the stars that were needed for the earlier cartoon he kept screwing up. Doom has Jessica and Roger tied up with escape-proof Toon rope before having the Toon Patrol activate The Dip Machine in preparation to destroy Toontown.
There's little Roger and Jessica can do at that point except watch as Eddie attempts to have the Toon Patrol literally laugh themselves to death, Roger cheering Eddie on, and panicking whenever he and Jessica are about to be killed by the Dip Machine, until Eddie finally manages to turn the machine off after defeating the Toon Patrol and Judge Doom.
As Doom is flattened by the Acme steamroller he was going to use on Eddie, Roger tells Eddie to look, as it is revealed that Doom survived, exposing himself as a Toon as well. Worse for Eddie, Doom is the very same Toon that murdered Teddy, and now Doom has his eyes set on Eddie as well. Roger can only helplessly watch as Doom overpowers Eddie and restarts the Dip Machine. As the high-powered stream of Dip inches closer to them, Roger bravely holds Jessica in his arms to protect her from certain death a little longer, even if it means he goes first, before the stream dies out as the Dip Machine is drained of its Dip due to Eddie opening the Main Drain Valve on the back of the machine, leaving Doom to be melted by his own concoction, avenging Teddy's death. However, with the machine still moving towards them, Roger calls out to Eddie to get them out of the way, and Eddie manages to find the crane controls to move Roger and Jessica to safety before the Dip Machine crashes through the wall and is broadsided by a Toon train.
Roger then takes notice of the Dip flooding the factory floor, but Eddie neutralizes it by washing it down the drain with the factory's emergency fire hydrant system, before lowering the crane and helping Roger and Jessica off. As Roger and Jessica reunite, Benny arrives with the L.A.P.D., including Dolores, allowing Eddie to prove that Roger was innocent all along and Doom was Acme's real murderer. Shortly thereafter, as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pinocchio, Snow White, and many other Toons emerge from Toontown to look over Doom's remains, Dolores notices an ink stain on Eddie's shirt, which Roger reveals to be Acme Disappearing/Reappearing Ink. This gives Eddie an idea and asks Roger to read his love letter to Jessica at that moment. As Roger begins reading, it is soon revealed to that Roger's love letter is Acme's will, and as Roger continues to read it, as Baby Herman said earlier, Acme is entrusting Toontown to the Toons from here on out. As the Toons celebrate, Roger wonders if Eddie's days of being hostile to Toons are over, before catching Eddie by surprise by shocking him with Acme's Hand Buzzer. As Mickey, Minnie, and the other Toons brace themselves for the worst as Eddie glares angrily at Roger, Roger asks worriedly if he lost his sense of humor already. Eddie's only response is to lift Roger up by the neck and give him a big kiss, showing that his days of hating Toons are over now that Teddy's death had been avenged.
With the thought of a freshly-baked carrot cake from Jessica on his mind, Roger joins his wife who, along with Eddie and Dolores, head into Toontown as the other Toons follow after them singing "Smile Darn Ya Smile".
Roger notably played a significant role in the 1988 NBC (who ironically owned Oswald at that time) special Mickey's 60th Birthday. At the beginning, during the taping of Mickey'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 finds Mickey right outside Disneyland and is hailed as a hero for doing so.
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, released in front of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (this was also included on the original video release of the film); Roller Coaster Rabbit, shown in front of Dick Tracy; and Trail Mix-Up, shown before A Far Off Place.
Roger also starred in a comic book series from April 1990 to September 1991 and a spin-off series called "Roger Rabbit's Toontown," published from June to October 1991, which featured him in the first story and supporting characters like Jessica, Baby Herman, Benny, and the Toon Patrol.
Roger made frequent appearances in the parks as a walk-around character in the years that followed the film's release.
He appeared prominently in the Disney Sing-Along Songs video "Disneyland Fun", in which he is first shown helping Mickey and friends get Disneyland ready for its guests that day and singing "Whistle While You Work" along with them. Later in the video, he and Chip 'n' Dale take a group of kids on some of the park's thrill rides during "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah".
Since 2012, he has started to resurface at most of the Disney parks around the world after being absent for quite a few years. He reappeared at Disneyland in 2012 for the special 20th-anniversary performances of Fantasmic! and again for the 2013 Easter Bunny Hop pre-parade. Also in 2013, he resurfaced at both Disneyland and Disneyland Paris during their respective portions of the Disney Dreamers Everywhere event.
Most recently, he appeared at Disneyland for the Springtime Roundup in 2014 and 2015 and made a rare appearance in 2016. Also in April 2016, he joined Disney's Easter Wonderland with the other rabbit characters leading the Cheshire Cat-designed train at Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland both contain identical versions of this dark ride attraction. The Disneyland version opened in 1994, while the Tokyo Disneyland version opened in 1996. As part of the ride's queue area, passengers walk through the dark alleys of Toontown and see the shadows of Jessica and the Toon Patrol walk by windows and hear their plot to kidnap her. On this entirely dark-light ride, guests board Lenny the Cab (Benny’s twin cousin) and race through streets, back alleys and buildings.
Roger could be seen on board the Mark Twain Riverboat at the end of the Disneyland version of the show during the early years of its run. He returned for the special 20th-anniversary performances of the show in May 2012.
Disney on Ice
Roger made guest appearances in two of the Disney on Ice shows in the early 1990s.
His first appearance was in the 10th Anniversary show in 1990. After Gyro Gearloose's musical time machine explodes and separates Mickey and friends, Scrooge McDuck and Chip 'n' Dale find Roger as a mummy emerging from a tomb in ancient Egypt. After doing an Egyptian dance, Roger joins Scrooge, Chip, and Dale on their quest to reunite the rest of the gang, finding Mickey and Minnie in the jungle from The Jungle Book and Donald and Daisy on a tropical island from The Little Mermaid. When the group returns to Duckburg, Roger notices Scrooge is still upset about having not found Huey, Dewey, and Louie (who disappeared at the beginning of the show) and, feeling sorry for him, brings him to Eddie's office. Roger and Eddie try to cheer him up by telling him jokes, but it doesn't quite work until Jessica joins in the act.
His second appearance was in Double Feature...Live! in 1991, in which he hosts the second act with his "Super-Duper-Never-a-Blooper" Video Variety machine. With it, he presents a pair of vignettes--one starring Chip 'n' Dale as the Lone Chipmunks and another in which Darkwing Duck rescues a dancer named Dazzles (played by Daisy Duck).
LegacyRoger made his footprints and handprints with his signature phrase "P-b-b-b-blease" in front of The Great Movie Ride at Disney-MGM Studios on its opening day along with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy.
Roger is also the inspiration for a popular dance move in the early 1990's, called "the Roger Rabbit" due to the floppy movements of the character.
Disney and Amblin Entertainment attempted to resurrect Roger for a sequel, one of the storylines being a prequel set in World War II that would also feature his search for his parents, with his father being revealed to be Bugs Bunny. However, a preliminary budget was deemed too large and the film never got past the script stage. Several 3D CGI tests and a 3D CGI rendering of Roger were completed, however, despite the fact that no actual footage was actually shot or completed. However, Frank Marshall, the producer of the first film, told MTV in late 2007 that he would be open to any plans to bring it back in the works.
In February 2013, Gary K. Wolf, Roger's creator, said that he as well as Erik Von Wodtke were working on a development proposal for an animated Disney buddy comedy starring Roger and Mickey Mouse called The Stooge, based on the 1952 film of the same name. The proposed film is said to be a prequel taking place 5 years before the events of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and part of the story is about how Roger met his future wife Jessica. Gary K. Wolf has stated that the film is currently wending its way through Disney.
- Roger first appeared in the book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf, which was adapted into the 1988 Academy Award-winning film. Mixing both live action and animation to create a believable "tooniverse," Disney studios set up an animation studio in Camden Town, London, whilst the live action was shot at Elstree film studios. Both the animation and live-action were then composited by ILM fx studios in Los Angeles. In the book, Roger is a sidekick in a popular comic strip called "Baby Herman." His murder is being investigated by a detective named "Eddie Valiant" and a slowly evaporating stunt doppelganger of himself that he created hours before being shot.
- In the book, Roger was depicted as a comic strip character. In the film, his career was changed, making him a Hollywood cartoon star instead.
- In the film, Roger briefly mentions at one point that he has an uncle named Thumper.
- Roger was listed #35 in Empire Magazine's 50 Best Animated Characters. Stating his stroke of genius as his heartbroken reaction to the news that Jessica is cheating on him.
- Charles Fleischer performed Roger's lines on set, off camera, while wearing a full costume including rabbit ears, overalls, and gloves.
- An early version of Roger appears briefly as a spectator in Sport Goofy in Soccermania.
- Roger made cameo appearances in the Tiny Toon Adventures episodes "New Character Day" and "Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian" (voiced by Steven Spielberg and Frank Welker). Babs Bunny also did an impression of him in the episode "Pledge Week".
- Roger is mentioned in the anime series Samurai Pizza Cats episode "Double Trouble for Princess Vi".
- Roger is mentioned in the film The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
- Although Roger is the title character, Eddie Valiant is the overall protagonist since he has bigger plans. However, Roger is the one who drives the plot and is more iconic than Eddie.