Hello & welcome back to A Look at Disney as we continue our investigation here with Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I’ll be honest and say that so far out of everything that we’ve looked at so far, this probably has the best mystery.
In 1947 Hollywood, Toons act out the short films as if they’re real life actors as we see with one of the greatest openings as the film opens as though, it is a short from the classic era. Something that appears to be in the vein of Tex Avery. But it is soon revealed to all be a set as it’s pulled back as we meet the titular Roger Rabbit. And it is here, where we meet Eddie Valiant, a private detective that has come to hate toons as his brother was killed by one as a toon dropped a piano on his brother, Teddy’s head. This has caused Eddie to become a heavy drinker and vow to never work with Toons again. Valiant is one day called by the head of Maroon Studios, R.K. Maroon to look into rumors of Jessica Rabbit (Roger’s wife) being involved with Marvin Acme. That night, Valiant heads to The Ink & Paint Club and boys became men as Jessica enters the scene and yeah… After, Jessica’s sensual performance, Valiant sneaks back and takes pictures of Jessica playing patty-cake with Acme. Valiant returns to Maroon Studios with the pictures and this sends Roger into a drunken stupor as he flees.
The next morning, Acme is discovered dead as a safe had been dropped on his head. And this is when he meet Judge Doom, one creepy fella as we went over yesterday on Doom’s Villains Profile. Roger is thought to be the prime suspect as it is believed that he killed Acme in a fit of jealous rage over the pictures that Valiant took. Valiant returns to his office and is confronted by Roger’s co-star, Baby Herman, who believes Roger to be innocent and explains that the key to solving this mystery lies in Acme’s missing will, which grants ownership of Toontown to the Toons. In his office, Valiant finds Roger and the Rabbit begs Valiant to help prove his innocence. Okay, I’m going to say this right here and right now, I like this movie a lot. It has a lot of great characters such as Eddie and Jessica but Roger can be a bit much at times. He’s not bad but I do think that if he didn’t have the other characters to balance him out, he would be too much.
Valiant agrees to hide Roger at his ex-girlfriend, DoLores’ bar, and sometime later, Valiant is confronted by Roger’s wife, Jessica. And we find out that Maroon forced Jessica to pose for those pictures as a means of blackmailing Acme. Okay, I’m not going to bring up much of the book that this movie is based on. Namely, because the movie is 1000 times better but there is one thing that the movie made better. And that was the character of Jessica. In the film, she is a loving and caring wife that is willing to stand by Roger and believes in him and sees the best in him. In Gary K. Wolf’s book, she is immoral and has no love for Roger and would do anything to get what she wants. She hates Roger with a passion. I tried reading the book and the depiction of Jessica turned me off and made her one of my most hated book characters. The film version of Jessica is a millions times better than the character in the book that this movie is based on. Let’s get back on track with the review.
Doom and the Toon Patrol arrive looking for Roger and tricks him into coming out by using shave and a haircut as no Toon can resist that. Valiant and Roger are able to escape with the aid of Benny The Cab, One of the coolest characters in this movie and I’m convinced that John Lasseter was partly inspired by Benny to make Cars. They flee to a theater and okay as a Disney buff, I have to mention a historical inaccuracy. The short playing in the theater is Goofy Gymnastics. That is a great short and a fantastic showcase of Goofy’s comedic chops but this movie takes place in 1947. And Goofy Gymnastics didn’t come out until 1949. Yes, this is minor and unless you really care about Disney/animation history, you probably wouldn’t care about that. But being the huge Disney fan, this is something that has irked me, every time that I’ve watched this movie. I mean, it’s minor and they don’t show the short for very long but I do feel like that they could have chosen a different short.
Ah well, let’s get the review going again. After the short finishes playing, Valiant notices a newsreel that mentions Cloverleaf, a corporation that raises Eddie’s suspicion. And Eddie decides to head back to Maroon Studios and confront Maroon as he gets a tip that Maroon may have been involved. Though, he leaves Roger outside but he is knocked out by Jessica for his safety. This is perhaps one of the sweetest and strangest moments of the movie. As it shows how much Jessica cares for her honey bunny. Meanwhile, Valiant interrogates R.K. Maroon in one of the best moments of the movie but is soon cut short as Maroon is killed by a gun from behind. But before, he is killed, we learn that he blackmailed Acme into selling his company, so that he could then sell the studio. Getting back the culprit, Valiant sees Jessica and assumes that she did it and follows her into Toontown. Which, is a big deal for Eddie as he hadn’t been there since his brother died and you can feel his unease returning to a place that he used to frequent quite a bit. It’s part of his past that he thought he would never have to face again. If I may, I’d like to quote my Top 6 Eddie Valiant Moments as Eddie going to Toontown was the # 3 entry on that list.
This is an important moment for Eddie as here is confronting his past, which for so long he had been trying to forget it and was angry over it. But by going to Toon Town, he had to face the things that he hated most, Toons and this moment right here, I would argue is when Eddie’s bigotry truly started to melt away. It wasn’t fully gone by this point but it was the start of Eddie getting rid of his bigotry because he couldn’t run from Toons in ToonTown.
What I said in this entry back in 2014 still holds true in my opinion of Eddie. And also, just Toontown itself is a treat from seeing Tweety to seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse sharing screen time together.
It’s been mentioned many a time before while discussing this movie but an agreement was made that neither character could have their line be longer than the other. Both Bugs and Mickey’s lines had to have the same number of words in their dialogue. Now, I’ve made it no secret that I love Disney’s classic characters more than Looney Tunes. Look, at how many years that I’ve been doing this blog but I have immense respect for the place that characters like Bugs Bunny have in the history of animation because he alongside so many other greats from Looney Tunes helped to shape what we think of when we think of when we picture some of the greatest comedians from the world of animation. Let me put this way, I love Disney but the Disney shorts, while funny are more about heart and sentimentality and that I respond to that greatly. Don’t misunderstand me, they have their great and hilarious shorts, just go through Goofy or Donald’s filmography whereas the Looney Tunes shorts are there to make you laugh and have a good time. I’m not trying to diminish what the Looney Tunes shorts were/are but there is a key difference between how the classic Disney shorts operated and how the classic Disney shorts operated. I can’t remember where I read this/heard this but I once remember coming across a comparison that seems rather apt. Looney Tunes is jazz, while the Disney shorts are classical music. Granted, I think that may have been referring to Silly Symphony and Merrie Melodies but I think that works here as well.
Let’s get back to the review at hand. Eddie had followed Jessica into Toontown as he assumes that she is the true culprit as mentioned previously. But she soon reveals that Doom is the real culprit and had killed Maroon and that Acme had given her the will for safekeeping but it was blank. Soon, she along with Eddie are captured by Judge Doom and the Toon Patrol. Doom takes the two back to the Acme Warehouse Factory, where all of this started and reveals that he is indeed the culprit behind it all as we see that Jessica and Roger had been tied up in toon proof escape rope. As we see they are tied up over a giant machine of Doom’s making that kinda looks like a firetruck that spouts Dip. Doom reveals that he is the sole owner of Cloverleaf and that he planned to annihilate Toontown with his Dip spouting machine in the plans of building a freeway. Yeah, this may not seem that grand on the surface but keep in mind that Doom is attempting to make an entire town and an entire group of living beings disappear. As the Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his What You Never Knew video about this movie was that Doom’s plan is actually based on plans to demolish neighborhoods of minorities. And when you have that context, that makes Doom’s plan all the scarier. I mean, it’s no big secret that Toons in this movie are an allegory for minorities, and it wouldn’t be too hard too assume that it was meant to be the African-American community. It’s interesting but I don’t want get into this, that much for the fear of accidentally upsetting someone by saying that wrong thing. Anyways, getting back to the review at hand. Roger attempts to save Jessica but that is to no avail. Eddie then goes into a vaudeville act to defeat the Toon Patrol as it causes all of them save for their leader, whom Eddies kick into the Dip to die from laughter. Eddie, then soon fight against Doom and it seems that all is over, when a steamroller rolls over Doom but he sprouts back up and reveals that he is a Toon, and not just any Toon as he is the one that killed Eddie’s brother. This leads into one rather awesome climactic battle that ends with Doom falling into his Dip and the machine is destroyed by a train coming in, and it is discovered that Acme’s will had been written in disappearing ink as it’s found on a love letter that Roger wrote to Jessica earlier. And this confirms that Acme had intended to give ToonTown to the Toons. And we see that Eddie has gotten his sense of humor of back and no longer feels the need to drink.
This movie is really good and such a great tribute to animation of the classic era with fun characters and a rather engaging story to boot. Let’s move onto characters.
Eddie Valiant played by Bob Hoskins
Eddie is hands down the best character in the movie. You come to perfectly understand his arc throughout the whole movie and why he has shut himself off from the rest of the world. He went through a rather tragic loss and the only escape that he had was booze. But through helping Roger prove his innocence, you are able to see glimmers of the man that Eddie used to be.
Roger Rabbit voiced by Charles Fleischer
Roger is perhaps my least favorite character in his own movie. He’s not bad but I feel as though that his over-the-topness can be a bit much at times. Thankfully, characters such as Eddie are able to reel him back in. And that does make him more enjoyable because without some like Eddie for Roger to play off of, Roger would be just too much.
Jessica Rabbit voiced by Kathleen Turner
I really like Jessica as she appears sultry and seductive but as the film goes on, you come to see that she truly does love Roger and would do anything to protect him. And would never attempt to hurt him unless it is to save him.
Baby Herman voiced by Lou Hirsch
Admittedly, Baby Herman doesn’t do much in the overall story but he is entertaining nonetheless. And just like Jessica, you get the obvious sense that he knows Roger isn’t a murderer.
Benny The Cab also voiced by Charles Fleischer
Again, like with Baby Herman there isn’t much to Benny but the idea of a cab being a cabbie is funny and Fleischer does an excellent job here and makes it so that Benny’s voice is very distinct from that of Roger’s.
DoLores played by Joanna Cassidy
DoLores is really the only character that could toe to to with Eddie. Having dated him in the past, she knows what Eddie is like. And has the dry wit to match to Eddie’s gruff personality. She hands down has some of the best moments in the movie.
R.K. Maroon played by Alan Tilvern
R.K. Maroon is such a sleazeball of a businessman. He is just so fun to watch as this sleazy guy doing everything as he is just so underhanded. And that just makes him so delightful.
Marvin Acme played by Stubby Kaye
In the short time that we had with Acme before his death, we saw that he had a personality that could perhaps best be compared to that of Uncle Albert. He loved laughing and making others laugh. Life was one big joke for Marvin Acme.
The Toon Patrol voiced by David Lander, Charles Fleischer, June Foray, & Fred Newman
I made it pretty clear that I’m not the biggest fan of the Toon Patrol. I feel part of my problem is that there are too many of them. We almost had seven a la the Seven Dwarfs. Thank goodness, that wasn’t the case. The big issue I have is that with so many, they try to flesh them out but by doing that, they barely gave personality to the Toon Patrol other than just being the slimy henchmen that worked for Doom. Which works and I know I’ve brought this up before but it’s no secret that the Toon Patrol are based off of the Weasels from Disney’s Wind In The Willows and I think those Weasels are better henchmen.
Now normally, I’m not one for evil for the sake of evil but with the Weasels, you know what you are getting. And the short does a better job with the Weasels of making them more entertaining henchmen in my opinion than this film ever did with the Toon Patrol.
Judge Doom played by Christopher Lloyd
As I mentioned in the Villains Profile that I did on Doom, he is just so creepy. Both, when you see as a human (or so we think) and then when it’s revealed that he is a Toon, it just gets creepier. So many of Doom’s actions from killing the shoe (that poor shoe) to the knife eyes makes Doom, one of the scariest villains that I’ve looked at.
My Final Thoughts
Sure, I have some minor complaints with the movie bt this is just a fantastic movie. From the tribute to classic animation to the fun story and the characters make this film worth a watch. This film is easily one of the greatest films that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. Join me tomorrow as I look at the pilot episode of Bonkers.