- “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 cartoons 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.
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 as 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 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. 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.
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 Thumper is his uncle.
- 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). Babs Bunny also did an impression of him in the episode "Pledge Week".
- Roger is mentioned in the animated series Samurai Pizza Cats in the episode "Double Trouble for Princess Vi".
- 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.