- “It's the story of a man, a woman and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.”
- ―Film tagline
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 fantasy-comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, produced by Steven Spielberg and based on Gary K. Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? It combines the use of traditional animation and live action, with elements of film noir, and stars Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleischer, Christopher Lloyd, Kathleen Turner, and Joanna Cassidy.
The film is set in 1947 Hollywood, where Toons commonly interact with the studio system of Classical Hollywood cinema. It tells the story of private investigator Eddie Valiant caught in a mystery that involves Roger Rabbit, an A-list Toon who is framed for murder.
Walt Disney Pictures purchased the film rights to Who Censored Roger Rabbit? in 1981. Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman wrote two drafts of the script before Disney brought Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment to help finance the film. Zemeckis was hired to direct the live action scenes with Richard Williams overseeing the animation sequences. For inspiration, Price and Seaman studied the work of both Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Cartoons from the Golden Age of American animation, especially Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. Production was moved from Los Angeles to Elstree Studios in England to accommodate Williams and his group of animators.
During filming, the production budget began to rapidly expand and the shooting schedule lapsed longer than expected. However, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released with financial success and critical acclaim. The film brought a re-emerging interest from the golden age of American animation and became the forefront for the modern animation era. Roger Rabbit left behind an impact that included a media franchise and an unproduced sequel.
Set in 1947 Hollywood, cartoon characters are known as Toons and most, if not all, toons are paid as actors there. They live in an animated community of Toontown, which is owned by businessman Marvin Acme. Perhaps one of the most famous stars there is Roger Rabbit, who costars with Baby Herman in comedy shorts. Lately, Roger’s performances have been poor, so his employer, R.K. Maroon, hires private detective Eddie Valiant to investigate the cause of Roger's distractions. Rumor has it that Roger’s bombshell wife, Jessica Rabbit, was having an affair. Following the death of his brother by the hands of a Toon, Eddie became an alcoholic. Reluctantly, Eddie accepts the job and heads to the Ink and Paint Club, where he was told he would find Jessica. There he watches Jessica’s performance on stage and is later visited by Marvin Acme after the show in her dressing room. He is caught eavesdropping by the club bouncer, Bongo the Gorilla, and is kicked out. Outside the club, Eddie finds the window to Jessica’s dressing room and snaps photographs of Jessica playing patty cake with Marvin Acme. Back at the studio, Eddie shows the photographs to Maroon and a very heartbroken Roger, who runs off after vowing that he and Jessica will be happy again. Roger spends the night crying in a dark alley while looking at pictures of them.
The next morning Marvin Acme is found dead and Roger is the top suspect of the crime, at the crime scene, Eddie is met by Judge Doom of the Toontown District Superior Court and his henchmen, the Toon Patrol. He is anxious to use "Dip", a mixture of chemicals that can dissolve any Toon on contact, on Roger once he can be found. Eddie encounters Baby Herman, Roger's costar, who swears that Roger is innocent and that Acme's will, which would have left Toontown to the Toons, has gone missing; if the will is not found by midnight, Toontown could be sold at a public auction.
Eddie begins further investigating the case with his on-off girlfriend, Dolores, and a Toon taxi named Benny while trying to keep Roger hidden from the Toon Patrol. Eddie discovers that Jessica was forced by Maroon to get close to Acme or else he would have ruined Roger's career. Maroon himself admits that he was forced into blackmail by another person, but is shot before he can reveal who it was to Eddie.
Eddie overcomes his anxiety and chases the murderer into Toontown; though he loses the trail, he recovers Maroon's murder weapon. Eddie encounters Jessica in Toontown who points out that it is Doom's. As they attempt to bring Doom to the authorities, Eddie, Jessica, and Roger are all captured by the Toon Patrol and taken to the Acme warehouse. Doom reveals his plans; as the sole stockholder in Cloverleaf Industries, he plans to buy Toontown, Acme Corporation, and Maroon Cartoons, and then destroy them to make way for a planned freeway for Los Angeles.
To wipe out Toontown, Doom has built a vehicle with a large Dip vat that he plans to spray throughout the area, wiping out all the Toons, called the Dip Machine. As Roger and Jessica struggle to avoid being hit by the spray of Dip, Eddie manages to free himself and causes (all but the leader, whom Eddie kicks into the Dip Machine) the Toon Patrol to literally “die of laughter” through various antics, leaving the Dip Machine automatically running.
Eddie and Doom then fight, using assorted Toon props in the factory, until Eddie is able to run Doom over with a steamroller. It does not kill him. Instead, he is revealed himself to be a Toon, the same one that killed Eddie's brother. Eddie manages to open the drain on the Dip Machine, showering Doom with the Dip and dissolving him. Eddie frees Roger and Jessica, their relationship having been mended, while the Dip Machine harmlessly crashes through the warehouse wall into Toontown and immediately smashed by a Toon train.
Valiant washes the Dip away with the emergency fire hydrants, straight to the drain. As the police and numerous Toons enter the warehouse to see what the commotion is, Eddie discovers Marvin Acme's will. It was an apparent blank piece of paper that Acme had given to Jessica that Roger later wrote a love poem to her on, but the will itself was written in disappearing/reappearing ink. With the will in hand, the Toons celebrate the ownership of Toontown and sing "Smile Darn Ya Smile" while Roger and Jessica as well as Eddie and Dolores rekindle their relationships. Porky pig says, "That's all folks!" at the end of the movie. Tinker Bell pixie dusts.
- Main article: List of cameos in Who Framed Roger Rabbit
- Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant: An alcoholic private investigator who strongly dislikes Toons. Years ago, Valiant's brother was killed by a Toon after a piano was dropped on his head. Producer Steven Spielberg's first choice for Eddie Valiant was Harrison Ford, but he asked for too much money.
- Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom: The evil, sadistic judge of Toontown District Superior Court. It is eventually revealed that Doom is indeed a Toon, and responsible for the death of Valiant's brother. Lloyd was cast because he previously worked with director Robert Zemeckis and Amblin Entertainment in Back to the Future. Lloyd decided it was best not to blink his eyes to perfectly portray the character.
- Richard LeParmentier as Lt. Santino: LAPD Police Lieutenant and friend to Eddie Valiant.
- Joanna Cassidy as Dolores: Valiant's on-off girlfriend who helps him and Roger solve the case against Judge Doom. Dolores is also a waitress.
- Alan Tilvern as R.K. Maroon: Temporous owner of "Maroon Cartoon" studios. Maroon hires Valiant to find out what is bothering Roger in his poor acting performances. He is eventually murdered by Judge Doom.
- Stubby Kaye as Marvin Acme: Prankster-like owner of the Acme Corporation. The scandal of Acme playing pattycake with Jessica leads to his own death.
- Richard Ridings as Angelo: A man who acts like a greedy, wise-cracking jerk who makes fun of Eddie Valiant and his detective work.
- Charles Fleischer provides the voice of Roger Rabbit: An A-list Toon working for "Maroon Cartoons". Roger is eventually framed for murder for the death of Marvin Acme. Fleischer also provides the voices of Benny the Cab and a member of Doom's Weasel Gang. To facilitate Hoskins' performance, Fleischer dressed in a Roger bunny suit and "stood in" behind camera for most scenes. Lou Hirsch, who supplied the voice for Baby Herman, was the original choice for Benny the Cab, but was replaced by Fleischer. Fleischer also provides the voices for Greasy and Psycho from the Toon Patrol.
- Kathleen Turner provides the voice of Jessica Rabbit: Roger Rabbit's astoundingly attractive wife. Amy Irving supplied the singing voice, while Betsy Brantley served as the model for animators to base their picture on. Jessica was also based on actress Veronica Lake.
- Wayne Allwine as Mickey Mouse: Mickey appears during the scene with Bugs Bunny when Eddie Valiant was falling from the apartment.
- Tony Anselmo as Donald Duck: Donald appears during a piano scene with Daffy Duck. He becomes angry after a few times and hides himself inside the piano and takes a cannon to shoot on Daffy Duck.
- Russi Taylor as Minnie Mouse and Toon Birds
- Tony Pope as Goofy (also partially voiced by Bill Farmer) and Big Bad Wolf
- Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Porky Pig and Sylvester the Cat
- Lou Hirsch as Baby Herman: Roger's frequent co-star in Maroon Cartoons. Williams said Baby Herman was a mixture of "Elmer Fudd and Tweety crashed together." April Winchell provides the voice of Mrs. Herman and the "baby noises."
- Les Perkins as J. Thaddeus Toad
- Cherry Davis as Woody Woodpecker
- Richard Williams as Droopy
- Joe Alaskey as Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn
- Frank Welker as Dumbo
- David Lander as Smarty: The intelligent, wise-cracking leader of the Toon Patrol.
- June Foray as Lena Hyena and Wheezy
- Fred Newman as Stupid
- Peter Westly as Pinocchio
- Mae Questel as Betty Boop
- Mary T. Radford as Hyacinth Hippo
- Jim Cummings, Pat Buttram and Jim Gallant as Valiant's Bullets
Walt Disney Pictures purchased the film rights to Gary Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? shortly after its publication in 1981. Ron W. Miller, then president of The Walt Disney Company, saw it as a perfect opportunity to produce a blockbuster. Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were hired to write the script, penning two drafts. Robert Zemeckis offered his services as director in 1982, but Disney acknowledged that his previous films (I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars) were box office bombs, and thus let him go. Between 1981 to 1983 Disney developed test footage with Darrell Van Citters as animation director, Paul Reubens voicing Roger Rabbit, Peter Renaday as Eddie Valiant, and Russi Taylor as Jessica Rabbit. When Michael Eisner became the new Disney president, he revamped the project in 1985. Amblin Entertainment, which consisted of Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, were approached to produce Who Framed Roger Rabbit alongside Disney. The original budget was projected at $50 million, which Disney felt was too expensive.
Roger Rabbit was finally green lighted when the budget went down to $29.9 million, which at the time, still made it the most expensive animated film ever green lighted. Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg argued that the hybrid of live action and animation would "save" Disney's animation department. Spielberg's contract included an extensive amount of creative control and a large percentage of the box office profits. Disney kept all merchandising rights. Spielberg convinced Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures and many other companies to "lend" their characters to appear in the film. Terry Gilliam was offered the chance to direct, but he found the project too technically challenging. "Pure laziness on my part" Gilliam said he "completely regret[s] that decision". Robert Zemeckis was hired to direct in 1985, based on the success of Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Richard Williams was hired to direct the animation sequences.
Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman were brought aboard to continue writing the script once Spielberg and Zemeckis were hired. For inspiration, the two writers studied the work of Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Cartoons from the Golden Age of American animation, especially Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. Chinatown influenced the storyline. In Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, the Toons were comic strip characters rather than movie stars. Price and Seaman also created the urban political corruption subplot.
During the writing process, Price and Seaman were unsure of who to include as antagonist. They wrote scripts that had either Jessica Rabbit or Baby Herman as the villain, but they made their final decision with newly-created character Judge Doom. Doom was supposed to have an animated vulture sit on his shoulder, but this was deleted for technical challenges. Doom's five-man "Weasel Gang" (Stupid, Smart Ass, Greasy, Wheezy and Psycho) satires the Six Dwarfs (Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey) who appeared in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But their main source of inspiration are the Weasels from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Further references included The "Ink and Paint Club" resembling the Harlem Cotton Club, while Zemeckis compared Judge Doom's invention of "The Dip" to eliminate all the Toons as Hitler's Final Solution. Benny the Cab was first rendered to be a Volkswagen Beetle instead of a Taxicab. Before finally agreeing on Who Framed Roger Rabbit as the film's title, working titles included Murder in Toontown, Toons, Dead Toons Don't Pay Bills, The Toontown Trial, Trouble in Toontown and Eddie Goes To Toontown.
Williams admitted he was "openly disdainful of the Disney bureaucracy" and refused to work in Los Angeles. To accommodate him and his animators, production was moved to Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England. Disney and Spielberg also told Williams that in return for doing Roger Rabbit, they would help distribute his unproduced film The Thief and the Cobbler. Supervising animators included Andreas Deja, Simon Wells, Phil Nibbelink, Nik Ranieri and Dale Baer. The production budget continued to escalate while the shooting schedule lapsed longer than expected. When the budget was reaching $40 million, Disney president Michael Eisner heavily considered shutting down production, but Katzenberg talked him out of it. Disney moved forward on production despite the escalating budget because they were enthusiastic to work with Spielberg.
VistaVision cameras installed with motion control technology were used to accommodate the split screen photography of animation and live action. Mime artists, puppeteers, mannequins and robotic arms were commonly used during filming to help the actors interact with "open air". Filming began on December 5, 1986 and lasted for 7.5 months at Elstree Studios, with an additional four weeks in Los Angeles and at ILM for blue screen effects of Toontown. Post-production lasted for one year, and during this time ILM finished the color compositing.
Jessica's dress in the night club scene, for instance, had flashing sequins, an effect created by filtering light through a plastic bag scratched with steel wool. Regular Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri composed the film score, with the LSO. Zemeckis joked that "the British could not keep up with Silvestri's Jazz tempo". The music themes written for Jessica Rabbit were entirely improvised by the LSO. The work of Carl Stalling heavily influenced Silvestri.
Michael Eisner complained Who Framed Roger Rabbit was too risqué with sexual innuendos. Eisner and Zemeckis disagreed over elements with the film, but since Zemeckis had final cut privilege, he refused to make alterations. Jeffrey Katzenberg felt it was appropriate to release the film under their Touchstone Pictures banner. Who Framed Roger Rabbit opened on June 22, 1988 in America, grossing $11,226,239 in 1,045 theaters during its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $156.45 million in North America and $173.35 million internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $329.8 million. At the time of release, Roger Rabbit was the twentieth highest-grossing film of all time. The film was also the second highest grossing film of 1988, only behind Rain Man.
Roger Ebert gave a largely positive review, predicting it would carry "the type of word of mouth that money can't buy. This movie is not only great entertainment but a breakthrough in craftsmanship." Janet Maslin of The New York Times commented that "although this isn't the first time that cartoon characters have shared the screen with live actors, it's the first time they've done it on their own terms and make it look real." Desson Thomson of The Washington Post considered Roger Rabbit to be "a definitive collaboration of pure talent. Zemeckis had Walt Disney Pictures' enthusiastic backing, producer Steven Spielberg's pull, Warner Bros.'s blessing, British animator Richard Williams' ink and paint, Mel Blanc's voice, Jeffrey Price's and Peter S. Seaman's witty, frenetic screenplay, George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, and Bob Hoskins' comical performance as the burliest, shaggiest private eye."
However, Richard Corliss, writing for Time, gave a mixed review. "The opening cartoon works just fine, but too fine. The opening scene upstages the movie that emerges from it," he said. Corliss was mainly annoyed by the homages towards the Golden Age of American animation.
Today, 43 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes indicated 98% of reviewers enjoyed the film, earning an average score of 8.2/10. The consensus reads: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot."
Who Framed Roger Rabbit won Academy Awards for Sound Editing, Visual Effects and Film Editing. Nominations included Art Direction, Cinematography and Sound. Richard Williams received a Special Achievement Award "for animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters".
Roger Rabbit won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, as well as Best Direction for Zemeckis and Special Visual Effects. Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd and Joanna Cassidy were nominated for their performances, while Alan Silvestri and the screenwriters received nominations. The film was nominated for four categories at the 42nd British Academy Film Awards and won awards for its visual effects. Roger Rabbit was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), while Hoskins was nominated for his performance. The film also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
The film was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for Cartoon Violence, Language, and Sexual Content. The film would have been rated PG-13 (due to the adult content) had it been released after the 80's. The film received a TV-PG-DLV rating for Suggestive Dialogue, Mild Language and Moderate Violence on Cartoon Network and The Hub while it received a TV-14 rating on ABC Family.
Several Easter eggs were hidden in the film by its animators. Tape-based analog video such as VHS did not reveal these, but technologies with better image quality, such as the analog laserdisc, were said to reveal the phone number of then Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Also, when Benny the Cab wrecks at night and Eddie and Jessica roll out, there are two separate frames (2170-2172 on side 4 of the CAV laserdisc version), within two seconds of each other, showing a blurry shot of what seems to be her with no underwear. Disney recalled the laserdisc and issued another disc, later claiming that it was an incorrectly painted cell.
Disney also stated that the cell in question could be seen on the new disc and on the VHS version. Two DVD versions edit the scene where Jessica Rabbit rolls out of the cab after Benny the Cab crashes. The 1999 DVD version, which was based off a later laserdisc release, reanimated the scene so that Jessica is wearing white panties underneath her dress. When the DVD set was reissued in 2002, the scene was reanimated so that a piece of Jessica's skirt strategically covers Jessica as she rolls down the hill.
A brief scene consisting of the toon Baby Herman passing by a female (human) extra on the set of the opening cartoon and sticking his middle finger up her dress, and then coming back from under the dress with a drool of spit on his lip. This was edited out of the DVD editions of the movie, though it can be found on editions of the VHS and laserdisc issues.
In the piano duel scene with Donald Duck and Daffy Duck, when Donald Duck wins the duel, Daffy says "I've worked with a lot of wise-quackers, but you are despicable!" and, according to some, Donald replies, in his kazoo-like voice, "***damn stupid ******...." Snopes, a noted debunking website, debunks this with the closed-captioning and Cartoon Network airings which records Donald as saying "Goddurn stubborn nitwit," though Snopes actually believes he's saying something akin to his typical exclamation, "Doggone stubborn little...That did it...waaa-aaaghghgh!" as is heard in many old Disney cartoons. The Vista Series DVD release uses the latter quote in its closed-captioning. However, the 1989 VHS and the 1999 DVD has Donald's insults captioned as "Doggone stubborn nitwit...That did it...Quack!"
In the sequence where Bob Hoskins is seen falling an incredibly long distance flanked by Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, shockingly Mickey and Bugs are best friends. Gary Wolf (author of the original novel) corresponded with many fans of the film through written letters and the Internet, compiling an exhaustive listing of the many hidden "Easter eggs" in the film and in the later Roger Rabbit short films. Wolf also sued Disney in 2001 for unpaid earnings related to the film.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is widely considered one of the best movies of 1988. It is also seen as a landmark film that sparked the most recent era in American animation. The field of animation had suffered a recession during the 1970s and 1980s, to the point where even giants in the field such as The Walt Disney Company were considering giving up on major animated productions. This expensive film (production cost of $70 million - a staggering amount for the time) was a major risk for the company, but one that paid off handsomely. It inspired other studios to dive back into the field of animation; it also made animation acceptable with the movie-going public. After Roger Rabbit, interest in the history of animation exploded, and such legends in the field as Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Ralph Bakshi were seen in a new light and received credit and acclaim from audiences worldwide. It also provided the impetus for Disney and Warner Brothers' later animated television shows.
Roger Rabbit also was known for its numerous "spin-off" television series which include: Bonkers (1993-1995), Animaniacs (1993-1998), Freakazoid! (1995-1997), and Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1995). The Disney Afternoon character Bonkers D. Bobcat from Bonkers and Raw Toonage was created because Amblin Entertainment, co-owner of all of the characters created for "Roger Rabbit" film, refused to allow Disney to produce a TV series incorporating characters from the film. Because of this, the main characters from the film were also not allowed in the television series that even Amblin itself made and distributed. Disney also, later on, produced the MMORPG Toontown Online, which was originally going to include the main characters from the film as well. But due to the suing issue with the author of the original novel, Gary Wolf, that year, the characters were kicked out of the final version.
The film featured the last major voice role for two legendary cartoon voice artists: Mel Blanc (voicing Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, and also Sylvester in a one-line cameo) and Mae Questel (voicing Betty Boop, but not Olive Oyl, who did not appear in the final version of the film). Blanc (who would shortly thereafter pass away at the age of 81) did not do Yosemite Sam in the movie, done instead by Joe Alaskey. (Blanc had admitted that in his later years, he was no longer able to do the "yelling" voices such as which were very rough on his vocal cords in old age. There was a Foghorn Leghorn scene recorded, but cut, which also utilised Alaskey for the same reason.) Blanc also does Porky Pig, who gets the last line of the film, dressed as a police officer.
The film was also the next-to-last screen appearance for veteran actors Alan Tilvern, who portrays R.K. Maroon in the film, and Stubby Kaye, who plays Marvin Acme. Tilvern appeared in only one other production before his retirement, the 1993 television version of Porgy and Bess, in which he played the non-singing role of the Detective. Alan Tilvern died in 2003. Stubby Kaye, best known for playing Nicely Nicely Johnson in the original stage and screen versions of Guys and Dolls, died in 1997.
Despite being produced by Disney (in association with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment), Roger Rabbit also marked the first (and to date, only) time that characters from several animation studios appeared in one film. Studios that provided characters included:
- Universal/Walter Lantz Studios
- Fleischer Studios (characters now largely owned by Republic Pictures)
- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists (though the characters have been owned separately by Turner Entertainment since 1986)
- Warner Bros.
- Terrytoons/20th Century Fox (characters now largely owned by CBS since the 1960s, and Paramount Pictures since 1997)
Eventually, several additional animated shorts featuring Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit, Baby Herman and Droopy would be released.
In 1991, the Disney Imagineers began to develop a new land for the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, completely based on the Toontown of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Mickey's Toontown opened in 1993 and spawned "Toontown" (without the Mickey's prefix) at Tokyo Disneyland in Japan. The Californian and Japanese Toontowns feature a ride based on Roger Rabbit's adventures, called Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.
A prequel entitled Roger Rabbit II: Toon Platoon was planned in 1992. Set in 1941, the script had Roger expose the manager of the radio station that Jessica works at as a Nazi spy. However, having made Schindler's List, Spielberg rejected making a film with cartoonish Nazis in it. Who Discovered Roger Rabbit was being written in 1994 by Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, which focused on Roger looking for his mother during the Great Depression. Alan Menken volunteered to serve as executive producer and wrote five songs for what was conceived as a parody of classic Hollywood musicals. (One of the songs, "This Only Happens in the Movies," was recorded in 2008 on the debut album of Broadway actress Kerry Butler). Walt Disney Pictures was planning to create the cartoon characters with computer animation. Michael Eisner pulled the project in 1999 when the budget rose to over $100 million, believing a prequel to a film made twelve years before would not be successful. In December 2007, Frank Marshall told MTV that he was willing to revive development of the film. In 2011, Bob Hoskins said he won't return to play Eddie Valiant, but he later changed his mind. However, in 2012, he retired from acting due to his long battle with Parkinson's disease and died from those complications in 2014. Frank Marshell, executive producer of the film, has said that the film will be a prequel and the writing was almost complete. During an interview at the premiere of Flight, Zemeckis stated that the sequel is still possible, despite Hoskins’ retirement, and the script for the sequel was sent to Disney for approval from studio executives.
In February 2013, Gary K. Wolf, the creator of Roger Rabbit, announced that he as well as Erik Von Wodtke were working on a development proposal for an animated Disney buddy comedy starring Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit called “The Stooge”, based on the 1952 film of the same name. The proposed film is set to be a prequel taking place 5 years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit and part of the story is about how Roger met Jessica, his future wife. Gary K. Wolf has stated that the film is currently wending its way through Disney.
The success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit led to a moderate degree of merchandising for the film. In October 1989, McDonald's made a Halloween themed certificate offer for a free VHS copy of the film as well as a Roger Rabbit doll. Other memorabilia included cookie jars, Christmas ornaments, music boxes, snow globes, pin-back buttons, three video games, and a novelization of the film. While much of the merchandise was produced throughout the 1988–89 promotion of the film, other items would later be offered as commemorative collectibles in celebration of Disney-related anniversaries.
In 1989, Marvel commissioned a special graphic novel as a novelization in comic-book form. The novel featured several ideas for the plot scrapped from the original film, such as Roger and Eddie actually making a getaway in Dooms' squad car (until the engine blows up after Roger constantly hammers the pedals), as well as the deleted Pighead sequence featured on the Laserdisc version of the DVD releases (as well as on its first broadcast on CBS). Today, these Graphic novels are collectors' items due to their rarity. A follow up Graphic Novel titled Roger Rabbit: The Resurrection of Doom was also published, which was later continued by Disney Comics with their own Roger Rabbit comic-book series, which lasted 18 issues.
- Terry Gilliam was initially offered the job of directing this movie, but turned it down because he considered it "conceptually inauthentic to use the Looney Tunes genre/character stable as a springboard for a variation on the Howard the Duck story".
- Benny the Cab drives across a bridge while being pursued by the Weasels. The bridge is the "Hyperion Bridge," which crosses a freeway near the OLD Disney Studio down in Hollywood; the one they had before they built the one in Burbank (around 1939).
- Bob Hoskins watched his young daughter to learn how to act with imaginary characters. He later had problems with hallucinations. Hoskins' son was reportedly furious that his father hadn't brought any of his cartoon co-stars home to meet him.
- A few frames of Eddie Valiant in the taxi are actually drawings of Eddie Valiant instead of the real Bob Hoskins. This was done because the spinning and jostling around was deemed too dangerous to put a real actor through.
- Bob Hoskins and Charles Fleischer later did both voices for Boris Goosninov in Universal Studios' Balto film trilogy; Hoskins did his voice in the first film, while Fleischer did the voice in the two sequels.
- Another scene that came about by accident was when Roger and Eddie Valiant arrive at Maroon Studios to interrogate Mr. Maroon. As Bob Hoskins delivered his lines, he looked straight ahead, instead of down at a three-foot rabbit. The animators decided to have Roger stand on tiptoe against the wall to cover up the gaffe.
- During filming, Charles Fleischer delivered Roger Rabbit's lines off camera in full Roger costume including rabbit ears, yellow gloves and orange cover-alls. During breaks when he was in costume, other staff at the studios would see him and make comments about the poor caliber of the effects in the "rabbit movie".
- Exteriors of the Maroon Cartoon studios were shot at Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood, California.
- Judge Doom picks up a record and reads its label: "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down". Then he says, "quite a loony selection for a bunch of drunken reprobates." The song "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is the familiar theme song for the Looney Tunes cartoons.
- Visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston donned the Judge Doom costume for the scene where Eddie Valiant shoots cartoon bullets at Doom in Toontown, as Doom runs away from Valiant.
- The song "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile," which the Toons sing when Eddie Valiant first arrives in Toon Town and also at the end of the picture, is featured in an eponymous 1931 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodie Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! (1931).
- Some versions include an extra sequence (called the "Pig Head Sequence"): Eddie Valiant had gone into Toontown, ambushed by the weasels and had a pig's head "tooned" onto his. He went home and washed it off in the shower during which Jessica walked into his apartment. This scene was cut from the original release, but did appear in theatrical trailers and a television broadcast. A scene cut from the theatrical version where Jessica rolls up her dress to reveal her stockings as she sits cross-legged is included in this sequence.
- Eddie enters a Toontown men's room which has the graffiti "For a Good Time, call Allyson Wonderland" in the background. In the original theatrical version, a phone number was visible beside the words—rumored to be either Michael Eisner's or Jeffrey Katzenberg's. The phone number was removed for the VHS and Laserdisk releases
- Although the film's title is said in the form of a question, a question mark doesn't appear in the title, as this is considered bad luck in the industry, according to superstition.
- Several voice actors make cameos as the voice of the character(s) they have played before. These are Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse) and Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Bird). But most noticeable is Mae Questell as Betty Boop. Mae did Betty's voice from 1930 - 1938, which the character was retired in 1939.
- During production, one of the biggest challenges faced by the makers of the film was how to get the cartoon characters to realistically interact with real on-set props. This was ultimately accomplished in two different ways. Certain props (such as Baby Herman's cigar or the plates Roger smashes over his head) were moved on-set via motion control machines hooked up to operator who would move the objects in exactly the desired manner. Then, in post, the character was simply drawn 'over' the machine. The other way of doing it was by using puppeteers. This is most clearly seen in the scene in the Ink & Paint club. The glasses held by the octopus bartender were in fact being controlled by puppeteers from above, while the trays carried by the penguin waiters were on sticks being controlled from below - both the wires and the sticks were simply removed in post and the cartoons added in.
- The song played by Daffy and Donald Duck in the Ink and Paint Club is the Second Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt, a song featured in numerous cartoons, including the Oscar winning Tom and Jerry short The Cat Concerto (1947) and the Bugs Bunny Merrie Melodie Rhapsody Rabbit (1946).
- Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner also appear silhouetted on the elevator door as it goes up.
- Felix the Cat's face appears as the masks of tragedy and comedy on the keystone of the entrance to Toontown.
- To create the animation, over 85,000 hand-inked and painted cells were created and composited with the live-action backdrops, live-action characters, and hand-animated tone mattes (shading) and cast shadows using optical film printers. NO computer animation was used in creating the animations. Some scenes involved up to 100 individual film elements. Any live-action that had to be later composited was shot in VistaVision to take advantage of the double-area frame of the horizontal 35mm format. The finished film thus does not suffer from the increased grain that plagued previous live-action/animation combos such as Mary Poppins (1964).
- Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, and Ed Harris were considered for the role of Eddie Valiant.
- The photograph that Eddie takes of Marvin Acme and Jessica playing "patty-cake" was created during pre-production, and features an earlier design of Jessica than the one that is used in the final character animation. The one shot that was re-done to incorporate the new Jessica design was the insert shot of the picture after it is first developed.
- At the time of its release, this was the most expensive film produced and had the longest on-screen credits for a film.
- When the toon train hits the Dip Machine, each window of the train shows a murder or death taking place (if viewed frame-by-frame).
- The opening track on the Sting album "...Nothing Like the Sun", the song "The Lazarus Heart" was originally written as the movie's musical finale, at an early stage of the movie's production when the book's tragic ending, where Roger is killed in the crossfire during the final duel, was still in the script. When the studio ordered its default ending to be used at the film's end, in which Roger is alive at the end of the duel, however, the song was deleted from the script and ended up on Sting's album instead.
- The gag of the Monte the pelican falling off his bicycle came about by accident. Originally, the pelican would have ridden straight past the camera, but the effects technicians were unable to keep the bike upright. The filmmakers decided to let the bicycle fall and animate the pelican losing his balance.
- An exposure sheet (a chart for keeping track of the drawings to be shot for animation) can be seen in R.K. Maroon's desk. The exposure sheet can also be seen clinging to Eddie Valiant as Roger jumps up screaming after drinking scotch in Maroon's office.
- Animation director Richard Williams strove for three things while creating this film's animation: Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes-type characters; Disney-quality animation and Tex Avery-style humor..."but not so brutal."
- Roger Rabbit is described (design-wise) as having a "Warners face", a "Disney body", a "Tex Avery attitude", Goofy's overalls, Mickey Mouse's gloves, and Porky Pig's bowtie. Animation director Richard Williams says he based his Roger color model on the American flag (red overalls, white body, blue tie) so that "everyone would subliminally like it".
- To give Jessica's ample bosom an unusual bounce, her supervising animator Russell Hall reversed the natural up-down movements of her breasts as she walked: they bounce up when a real woman's breasts bounce down and vice versa.
- Animation producer Richard Williams fell in love with the character of ("adult") Baby Herman, and insisted on animating practically every frame of this character himself.
- The bottle of chili sauce falling in the opening cartoon had to be reanimated several times as British animators used the UK spelling "chilli".
- One of the photos in Roger's wallet is of him and Jessica dining at the Brown Derby. The caricatures on the walls are of some of the filmmakers, including Robert Zemeckis, Richard Williams, and Steven Spielberg, as well as one of Mickey Mouse.
- The crowd scenes at the beginning of the Toontown sequence consist mostly of animation from previous Disney films. (Reusing animation was a common practice for Disney up until the early 1990s.)
- When Eddie takes Roger Rabbit into the back room at the bar where Dolores works to cut apart the hand-cuffs, the lamp from ceiling is bumped and swinging. Lots of extra work was needed to make the shadows match between the actual room shots and the animation for very little viewer benefit. Today, "Bump the Lamp" is a term used by many Disney employees to refer to going that extra mile on an effect just to make it a little more special even though most viewers or guests will never notice it.
- The Ink and Paint Club is the name of a show of Walt Disney's from back in the '50s.
- The Judge Doom character was originally going to have an animated pet vulture that sat on his shoulder, but that idea was dropped in the interest of saving time. However, the vulture later resurfaced with Judge Doom when a bendable action figure was produced. It also appears during the final scene when the Toons are looking at the remains of Judge Doom.
- There were over 40 drafts of the script, including drafts that had either Jessica Rabbit or Baby Herman as the villain.
- Originally, Tim Curry was considered for the role of Doom, but the writers were afraid that viewers would find him too terrifying. However, even with Lloyd being cast as Doom instead, viewers still find him very frightening, especially considering the fact that even if he was cast as a villain, most of Christopher Lloyd's roles were often comic relief, something Doom isn't.
- John Cleese expressed interest in playing Doom, but both Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis refused. Because they both thought nobody would take a former member of Monty Python seriously as a sadistic villain.
- Sting, and Jon Pertwee were all considered for the role of Doom.
- Eddie Denzeen was considered for the role of Judge Doom.
- Roddy McDowall was considered for the role of Judge Doom.
- Christopher Lee turned down the role of Judge Doom.
- In early drafts for the film, Judge Doom was revealed to be Man, as in the early drafts Eddie mentions offhand to Roger that the person who killed Teddy was probably the one who killed Bambi's mother. However this dialogue was cut from the film for reasons yet-unknown.
- It also originally was to have been a gopher Doom dipped instead of a cartoon shoe.
- The ending scene was originally going to have Doom reveal his Toon mouth and red hands with long nails.
- In a deleted scene, when Doom attempts to dip Roger at the bar, the patrons protest that Roger should at least have a proper trial. The judge agrees, then pulls out a suitcase from which jumps a group of kangaroos that hold out signs reading "Y-O-U A-R-E G-U-I-L-T-Y" (a literal Kangaroo Court, in other words).
- Judge Doom never blinks once throughout the entire movie, this was really director Robert Zemeckis' idea.
- The movie's line "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way." was voted as the #83 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
- Among the song selections on the Acme "Select-a-Tune" (the device that Eddie "sings" to in order to make the weasels laugh themselves to death) are "Jolson Medley", "Merry-Go-Round Broke Down", "Broadway Selection" and "Mickey's Melody".
- The first test audience was comprised mostly of 18-19-year-olds, who hated it. After nearly the entire audience walked out of the screening, Robert Zemeckis, who had final cut, said he wasn't to change a thing.
- Full-size rubber models of Roger Rabbit used as stand-ins so that the human actors could get a feeling for the size and shape of their imaginary costar.
- The Ink and Paint Club's policy of only letting toons onto the premises as entertainers and employees, not as customers or audience members, is a reference to the real-life Cotton Club, which, along with many other segregated clubs before the Civil Rights movement, only allowed Black people to enter as performers.
- The truck full of "stuff" (bowling balls, pianos, etc.) that Eddie Valiant crashes into when he returns to Toontown is labeled "ACME Overused Gags".
- Chuck Jones received a credit as "animation consultant" but disavowed the movie forever after, complaining that there was something wrong with a movie where the live-action hero got more sympathy than the animated-cartoon star did.
- Jessica Rabbit's look was designed after Veronica Lake. Jessica even sports the Lake trademark "Peek-a-Boo" hairstyle.
- Bob Hoskins said that, for two weeks after seeing the movie, his young son wouldn't talk to him. When finally asked why, his son said he couldn't believe his father would work with cartoon characters (such as Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck) and not let him meet them.
- The piano duet between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck was storyboarded by animation director Richard Williams and Chuck Jones, who was working as a consultant. Williams drew Donald, while Jones drew Daffy.
- A brief sequence was prepared to test the techniques used to combine live-action with animation. The footage, which showed Eddie Valiant (played by another actor) walking in an alley with Roger Rabbit, touched on all the challenges expected of the production - shading on the cartoon characters, interaction with the live-action actors and environment, matching with the constantly moving camera, etc. The brief, one-minute film, budgeted at $100,000, convinced the filmmakers that the effects could create the illusion of cartoons and live actors occupying the same reality.
- Robert Zemeckis keeps the stop-motion model of the flattened Judge Doom in his office.
- Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, who briefly appear in the final "roll call" shot, actually had not been created at the time the movie was set (1947). They first appeared in 1949. The characters were given a small cameo anyway at the insistence of Steven Spielberg along with many other anachronistic Toons.
- When Valiant confronts Maroon and sprays him with a seltzer bottle a Rodger Rabbit poster can be seen in the background.
- The case where Valiant keeps his cartoon gun is inscribed "Thanks for getting me out of the Hoosegow - Yosemite Sam".
- When Angelo tells Judge Doom in the bar that he knows where the rabbit is, he points to the empty seat next to him and says "Well, say hello, Harvey". Harvey is a 6-foot invisible rabbit from the stage play with the same name (as well as the movie Harvey (1950)).
- The tunnel was also used in the Back to the Future movies (as discussed in the audio commentary of the 2 disc DVD).
- The argument between Eddie Valiant and Roger Rabbit in the bar concerning Roger not wanting a drink is a remake of a classic cartoon argument switch. This technique was used in the Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd cartoons "Rabbit Fire" and "Rabbit Seasoning." Bugs and Daffy would argue back and forth as to which hunting season it is (Rabbit/Duck Season) Bugs would trick Daffy into saying "Duck Season" by saying "Rabbit Season."
- Eddie Valiant's initial 30 second stroll through Maroon Cartoon Studios, was so complex that it involved over 180 individual elements, that when assembled with the film pieces, created stacks 8 feet in height.
- When the Special Edition DVD was released, Robert Zemeckis stated in an interview for a newspaper that Bill Murray was his and producer Steven Spielberg's original choice for the role of Eddie Valiant but neither could get in contact with him in time. Bill Murray states in interviews that when he read the interview he was in a public place at the time but he still screamed his lungs out, because he would have definitely accepted the role.
- The proposed route for Judge Doom's freeway is the same one the 10 Freeway follows through Los Angeles.
- Judge Doom's master plan to dismantle the Red Car trolley is based in fact. Private corporations conspired to eliminate public transit in the late 1940s and 1950s in order to generate demand for automobiles and ancillary industries to keep said automobiles running.
- Lena Hyena, the hideously ugly Jessica Rabbit impostor that Eddie meets in Toontown, is based on the creation of the same name by artist Basil Wolverton. She was first conceived in 1946 for a contest to depict "the world's ugliest woman".
- Joel Silver's cameo as the director of the Baby Herman cartoon was a prank on Disney chief Michael Eisner by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. Eisner and Silver hated each other from their days at Paramount Pictures in the early '80s, particularly after the difficulties involved in making 48 Hrs. (1982). Silver shaved off his beard, paid his own expenses, and kept his name out of all initial cast sheets. When Eisner was told, after the movie was complete, who was playing the director - Silver was nearly unrecognizable - he reportedly shrugged and said, "He was pretty good."
- Screenwriters' Jeffry Price' and Peter S. Seaman first adapted the Gary K. Wolf novel, 'Who Censored Roger Rabbit?', in 1981, with a view to making it with up-and-coming director Robert Zemeckis. However, when Disney viewed Zemeckis' two feature films (I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars), they felt that Zemeckis wasn't talented enough to pull off the movie. After Zemeckis made Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future, Disney reconsidered and the movie was green-lit.
- At the movie theater where Eddie tells Roger his back story, the short Goofy Gymnastics (1949) is being played, which didn't come out for another two years from the period the film is set in (1947). Crew members claimed to have chosen this particular short, despite its inaccuracy, because it was the zaniest thing they could find in the Disney Vault.
- Initially, there were to be seven weasels (Greasy, Sleazy, Wheezy, Smartass, Psycho, Stupid, and Slimy) to parody the seven dwarfs.
- The three ingredients of the dip which 'kills' toons, (turpentine, benzene and acetate) are all paint thinners which are used to remove animation from cells.
- 326 animators worked full-time on the film. In total, 82,080 frames of animation were drawn. Including storyboards and concept art, animation director Richard Williams estimates that well over one million drawings were done for the movie.
- To convince the Disney and Amblin executives that they could make the movie, the filmmakers shot a short test involving Roger bumping into some crates in an alley and then getting picked up by an actor (this test can be seen in the Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit (2003) (V) documentary on the Vista Series DVD). After viewing the test, several of the Disney executives were convinced they had seen a traditional 'man-in-a-suit' gag with added animation. They couldn't believe it when they were told that it was 100% animation.
- Every frame of the movie which featured a mixture of animation and live action had to be printed up as a still photograph. An animator would then draw the particular illustration for that frame on tracing paper set on top of the photo. The outline drawing then had to be hand-colored. Once that was done, the drawing had to be composited back into the original frame using an optical printer.
- Stupid Weasel, the one striped shirt and the beanie hat with propellers is the only weasel with a bellybutton.
- Disney's Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beautys characters didn't exist yet back in 1947, the year the movie was set in and yet some of those characters were visible in the 1988 movie.
- Also, Looney Tunes character Marvin the Martian made a cameo, but he didn't debut until 1948; a year after this movie takes place.
- Some of the directors/producers were thinking about making about making a sequel or prequel to the film called "Who Discovered Roger Rabbit" or "Roger Rabbit: World Road Trip".
- When you see Eddie walking into the bar for the first time that's near his office, look at the American Flag behind the bar. It has 50 stars. The movie is based in 1948, but the last two of the 50 states didn't become states until 1959.
- Wheezy, the Toon Patrol weasel who smokes, is voiced by June Foray, who also voiced some female Looney Tunes characters.
- This makes Wheezy the only weasel to be voiced by a woman.
- This film is usually said to be the similar to the 2012 movie Wreck-It Ralph due to all the cameos of famous characters in both movies (Wreck-It Ralph has cameos by video game characters).