"My philosophy is this: if you don't have a good sense of humor, you're better off dead!"
— Roger Rabbit
A brilliant (and very expensive by that time's standards note with a $70m budget, which is roughly $127m in 2012 dollars.) 1988 film largely responsible for setting off The Renaissance Age of Animation. It had a huge influence on executives' attitudes toward seeing animation as more than what it had been in the Dork Age — Disney's 90s animated films, the Pixar films, The Simpsons, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, and the Nicktoons and MTV cartoons would probably never have existed if it weren't for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A Co-Production between Touchstone Pictures (i.e. Disney incognito) and Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg), it is so far the only official crossover with classic Disney, MGM and Warner Bros.cartoon characters.Set in the city of Los Angeles in mid-1947, during The Golden Age of Animation to be specific, the HardboiledFilm Noir tribute depicts a hypothetical world where cartoon charactersare a real ethnic minority living alongside human beings. At the center of the story is Roger Rabbit, a Toon movie star on the run from the police after having been accused of murdering Marvin Acme, a human manufacturer of cartoon props, with whom Roger's wife Jessica happened to be playing patty-cake.note Not a euphemism, in this case. See Does This Remind You of Anything? below.His only hope is Eddie Valiant, an alcoholic human private investigator who used to specialize in this kind of case, but has refused to work for Toons ever since one killed his brother by dropping a piano on his head. He winds up getting sucked into the investigation after Roger hides out at his apartment. Together, the two of them uncover something much bigger than either of them expected.The film is (very) loosely based on Gary Wolf's 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? It also owes a lot to Chinatown. The title of the film officially has no question mark at the end; rumor has it this is the result of a marketing survey which said films with question marks in the title make less money. The film is notable for being the biggest crossover of famous Western cartoon characters pre-50's than anything that has come before it (it is the first and only official time Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny appear in a scene together).While the film was very well received by critics, it has not been without criticism, especially — and surprisingly — among actual Golden Age veterans and fans. Chuck Jones in particular, who worked on the film, ended up loathing the final product, citing it as a obnoxious, witless misunderstanding of the old cartoons it set out to homage and even accused Robert Zemeckis of robbing Richard Williams of any creative input — and for apparently ruining the piano sequence that he and Williams had planned together. Cartoon historian Michael Barrier derided the animation direction as "disastrous", and Frank Thomas of Disney's Nine Old Men was strongly disappointed in Richard Williams failing to have any actual pathos come from the main character himself. John Kricfalusi has also not spoken highly of it, thinking that it had "great animators" but was "misdirected", "filled with takes and zany movement but no character or wit." Although not confirmed, it's rumored that Ralph Bakshi loathes the film only because one of his films ended up being a copycat of the film from what he originally envisioned it as.It also had three Spin-Offtheatrical shorts that ran from 1989 to 1993, all of which were included in the film's special edition DVD release. The book series itself used the film as canon.It should be noted for historical purposes that the entirety of the animation that appears in the film was done BY HAND - no computers of any kind were used, not even Jessica Rabbit's sparkling dress during her song - except for the necessary blue-screening when Eddie Valiant went to Toon Town, where everything was animated.A sequel was planned shortly after the booming success of the original, but it never came to light. The first obstacle was that the film was intended to be a prequel set during World War II, but Steven Spielberg refused to work on a movie that satirized Nazis after finishing Schindler's List, and he was moving on to start DreamWorks at the time. Then, a skyrocketing (for the time) budget and the advent of computer animation landed the second movie in deeper waters.On October 30, 2009, director Robert Zemeckis had confirmed that a second Roger Rabbit movie was on on the way, with Zemeckis himself returning to direct the film and the original screenwriters, Seaman and Price, returning as well, but with the dismantling of Zemeckis' studio the sequel's fate is now uncertain.In February 2013, Wolf himself proposed a Roger/Mickey Mouse vehicle to Disney called The Stooge. Apparently, this will be an all-animated movie which could, in theory, co-exist with the Zemeckis sequel.Contrast Ralph Bakshi's Cool World, because... It can?
Provides Examples Of:
Abhorrent Admirer: Lena Hyena herself makes an appearance and attempts to pursue Eddie.
Adaptation Distillation: The original book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, was about Valiant originally hired by Roger to investigate his bosses' broken promises. When Roger is murdered (or "censored"), Eddie investigates things with the help(?) of Roger's antagonistic wife, Jessica. The movie was basically "An anti-hero and a toon, forced together in a strange bedfellows kind of way, investigate someone else's death, with a plot built around the Los Angeles Streetcar Conspiracy." All other books that followed retconned this into Jessica Rabbit having a dream.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted. The Eddie from the original book, as a parody of a pulp hero, is noted by several characters as being very attractive. This Eddie, as a parody of a noir hero, is beaten down and schlubby.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: Judge Doom's scheme to buy up the trolley company for the sole purpose of dissolving it. General Motors did the same thing to kill public transit, only on a nationwide scale and about 10 years before the film is set.
Anachronism Stew: A number of cartoon characters appear who had not yet been created in 1947, the year the film takes place.
Word of God once admitted to the anachronisms, but stated this movie provided a special opportunity to feature so many different cartoon characters together. As far as production was concerned, Rule of Cool trumped Anachronism Stew, or as one of the writers claimed, the aim was "entertainment, not animation history."
Although if you consider that Toons have to audition for roles just like human actors, as seen in the "Cattle Call" background gag, so characters who appear in the setting before they were 'created' simply hadn't gotten a gig yet.
The Bugs Bunny model sheet used in his brief scene was out of date; it had been phased out by Warner Bros. by early 1942. The "modern" model sheet began use in mid 1941 in Bob Clampett's unit and had spread to the rest of the animators by the following year. He reverts at the end, however — Daffy doesn't.
Possibly Bugs just wasn't wearing full makeup for a piano-duel nightclub act, and his older design is Toon-Bugs's au naturale appearance?
In the movie theater where Eddie and Roger hide, the cartoon playing on the screen is a Goofy cartoon, Goofy Gymnastics, which, in real time, was released in 1949.
Freeways already existed by 1947. Judge Doom's vision is essentially the real-life Pasadena Freeway, which opened in 1940. Could be justified in that freeways weren't exactly commonplace until the 1950s and 1960s... and Rule of Funny. And that this film evidently takes place in a different universe than ours, what with the sentient toons.
Kuzco is also there, dancing on the Maroon lot in the DVD menu. The same menu also features Elliot the Dragon, appearing and disappearing in rapid succession. Justified though since Maroon Cartoons on the special features DVD looks to be in modern times.
Animated Actors: Roger, Baby Herman and pretty much almost every Toon in the film.
Animation Bump: The opening sequence is very lush for even a modern animated short. The entire film is pretty lavishly animated, as necessitated by matching the drawings to the lighting and frame rate of the live action footage. One of the few exceptions is the Toontown sequence, where everything is (relatively) more lax traditional animation with a blue-screened Eddie.
Applied Phlebotinum: The Dip is functionally this, although its ingredients — turpentine, acetone, and benzene — are all solvents, and two of them basically amount to paint thinner. Benzene, used to be a common laboratory solvent for organic compounds (and still occupies that role in industrial processes), which could be an intentional reference to the "living" quality of toons.
Leon Schlesinger (Warner Bros 30's to 50's) hired cel-washers to reuse cels instead of buying new, being a tightwad. Dip is made up of things that take ink and paint right off the cel. One of those cel-washers was Chuck Jones. Before he made toons, he killed toons. With dip.
Artistic License - Music: In the scene where Eddie Valiant is mingling with the Toons at Maroon Studios, he comes across a saxophonist standing next to the enchanted brooms from Fantasia. However, the saxophonist isn't doing anything else besides just swaying his body while playing the saxophone. The thing is, he isn't even moving his fingers while he was playing the saxophone.
Aside Glance: Jessica Rabbit makes at least 3 of these. There's a subtle one during her singing number right before she sits on Eddie, then another after knocking out Roger with a frying pan, and a very quick one as she's getting into Benny the Cab in Toontown.
Asshole Victim: R.K. Maroon, in a lesser sense. His only crime was blackmail.
Badass Unintentional / Accidental Hero: Eddie Valiant is not very happy to take care of Roger Rabbit's case since he became a Toon-hater. However he manages to prove Roger's innocence and save Toontown.
Eddie never actually takes Roger's case. Roger comes to ask him to, but Eddie's motivation for looking into this is anger over the principal players using him as a patsy in their scheme; he wants to know why R.K. Maroon and the others lied to him about the picture job. Of course, the results are the same anyway.
Humans (like Eddie) wonder what a knockout bombshell like Jessica is doing with a goofball like Roger.
Toons think Jessica is the one who made out like a bandit, which makes sense if you compare their careers. Jessica is a lounge singer (albeit a high-class lounge singer), while Roger is an A-list celeb in the toon world, on par with Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny. It's an even bigger step up in the book, as Jessica got her start in Tijuana Bibles, which essentially makes her a porn starlet.
On a more philosophical note, the most important attribute in Toon society is humor. Roger's Funny Animal looks thus make him the equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio... and Jessica's Impossible Hourglass Figure makes her the equivalent of an acne-scarred nerd. (Although both Benny and Greasy seem to find her plenty physically appealing.)
Jessica's reason is "He makes me laugh." Which, toon or human, can be considered a heartwarming moment - Roger makes Jessica happy, and in the end isn't that the most important ingredient for a happy marriage? It also could be that this ability is more widely prized in the Toon world than in human circles.
In Toontown, as the Weasels come barreling at them in their black truck, Eddie and Jessica, terrified, each try to pull the other in different directions to escape and Eddie sticks out his thumb for emphasis. Suddenly, up zips Benny the Cab. They climb into him and they escape being mowed down by the Weasels in the nick of time.note Earlier, Benny told Eddie that if he ever needed a ride, that he should "just stick out [his] thumb".
Later, in the Acme Factory, as Doom tells Eddie and Jessica his plans to wipe out Toontown and replace it with a freeway, Roger blasts into the warehouse through a drainage grate and tries to hold Doom and the Weasels at gunpoint. Too bad one of the Weasels also gets blasted up onto a Ton-of-Bricks that he uses to bury the rabbit, giving Doom the upper hand.
Blackmail: R.K. Maroon's plan to use the pictures that Eddie Valiant took of Marvin Acme to blackmail Acme into selling his Gag Factory to Cloverleaf Industries, as without Acme selling Maroon's deal to sell Maroon Cartoons would fall through..
As we see later, Doom is a toon, and has pretty obviously damaged his fake/glass eye (note the way he carefully keeps his hand over it, to keep his toon eye from bugging out). He has to leave in order to replace it.
Boomerang Bigot: Judge Doom seems to cater to this. Once you find out his true identity, all the stuff he's been spouting about toons earlier in the film becomes even more disturbing.
R.K. Maroon: You got a lot of brass coming in here by yourself.
Butterface: Lena Hyena perfectly mimics Jessica Rabbit's everything, but her face, for obvious reasons.
California Doubling: It's set in 1940s Los Angeles, but most of the movie was actually filmed in England. The scene where Eddie enters Toontown, however, was shot at the Griffith Park tunnel, also used in Back to the Future and Buckaroo Banzai, among other films. The interior of the tunnel in this film was a model, as the real tunnel is rather short.
If you blink you miss it, but a quick reference to Eddie growing up in a circus with his and Teddy's father being a clown ends up helping him stage a comedy dance routine to make the Weasels laugh themselves to death.
Chewing the Scenery: Jessica, cool as ice most of the film, completely loses it when she realizes what Doom has planned - complete with Wild Take.
Jessica: OH MY GOD, IT'S DIIIIIIIIIIIIP!!!!
Circling Birdies: Both Roger and Eddie Valiant see birds once, Roger sees stars once. Roger sees a lot of other things too, as he repeatedly clobbers himself in a desperate attempt to get his lines right (he's supposed to be seeing stars) and placate irate director Raoul J. Raoul.
Clear Their Name: An A-list cartoon star is set up for murder. His only hope—a Toon-hating human detective.
Conspicuous Gloves: Judge Doom wears black leather gloves all the time, but he puts on a larger rubber glove in his first appearance to Dip a poor Toon shoe. At first it looks like he's making a point, as he even makes a pun by referring to his incredibly harsh tactics as "not kid gloves". Later it turns out they also hide the fact that he's a toon himself.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: In the famous deleted "pig head" scenenote which appeared when the movie was seen on CBS, Doom and the weasels punish Eddie for getting too involved in the case by dragging him kicking and screaming into Toon Town and putting an animated pig mask on his head.
Crack Pairing: Arguable in-universe example: Roger and Jessica. And the thing is, they are a genuinely sweet couple.
Crapsaccharine World: Toontown looks cheerful and nice, but go too far in, or spend too long there, and it becomes totally crazy. Also, there are places in it that are genuinely dark and dangerous, if you're not a Toon.
Toons are also perfectly capable of harming humans with antics that are harmless to them, something that killed Eddie's brother and wounds him at some points. Most toons know better than to do something lethal to a human (i.e Roger is clearly horrified when he learns what happened to Teddy and says toons would NOT deliberately harm humans), though... injuries that are more annoyance than anything else are apparently fair game.
It does seem though that the laws of what can hurt or kill a human in Toon Town are more slightly relaxed than they are in the real world. Eddie survives the punishment he takes there because it's funny and non-malicious. His brother ended up dying because Doom was actively trying to kill him.
Back in the humans' LA, Hollywood is a magical place where people can see their favorite cartoon stars in person. But Fantastic Racism creates a pretty obvious social gap between humans and toons, and since killing a toon is a new development, there are no laws against it.
Deconstruction Crossover: No matter how family friendly, the film was still a Deconstruction of classical animation, showing just how insane cartoon characters really are when they're in the real world, and how deadly and nightmarish their antics are when humans are the victims. Being much more well-known and popular than the original novel, it probably became the Trope Maker for this trope.
Distaff Counterpart: Amusingly averted with Jessica whom Eddie had never seen before the Ink-N-Paint Club and was expecting her to be nothing more than a goofy-looking female version of Roger. Needless to say, what he saw instead was earth-shattering.
Betty Boop: Mr. Acme never misses a night when Jessica performs. Eddie: Got a thing for rabbits, huh?
The movie has a masked reference to the real-life Great American streetcar scandal. Accusations were made that Los Angeles's omnipresent rapid transit system, the Pacific Electric's "Big Red" trolley, and the rest of the United States trolley systems, were secretly bought up by the automotive and oil industries so they could be dismantled and replaced with buses. San Francisco had to actually fight to keep their trolley system. The Los Angeles trial even occurs in the same year the movie is set (1947).
Another example: in the aftermath of Doom's demonstration of the Dip, his rubber glove is coated in green (from the concoction) but the hand is dripping red from the dissolved red shoe. His body language and the other characters' reaction suggest a parallel to blood.
Jessica Rabbit playing pattycake with another man is apparently the toon equivalent of having an affair. (It's also a pun on the kind of hardboiled Private Eye Monologue that uses "playing pattycake" as a euphemism for infidelity. In fact, the book uses the term to mean exactly that.)
"The Ink and Paint Club" is based on "The Cotton Club," a place in New York City with black performers and servers, but the clientele was strictly whites only.
Dolled-Up Installment: Believe it or not the basic plot premise, corrupt judge teams up with automobile companies to dismantle the public transportation system in favor of creating freeways, was originally meant to be used for the third movie in a Film Noir trilogy that began with Roman Polanski's Chinatown. The second movie was stuck in Development Hell for years due to Polanski's legal troubles, but was eventually made in 1990 (with Jack Nicholson directing) under the title The Two Jakes.
Ears as Hair: Roger wrings water out of his ears, and yet it hurts him when Eddie picks him up by the ears. Since toons operate on Rule of Funny, it's safe to assume they can do whatever they want as long as there's a chance it'll be funny. Eddie jerking Roger around wasn't funny...
Empty Chair Memorial: The other chair in Eddie's office is his brother's. When Roger tries to sit down in it, Eddie goes bonkers.
Era-Specific Personality: Most of the classic cartoons act according to their shorts the film's timelime represents. Most notable with Daffy, who acts much more akin to his Cloudcuckoolander persona from the 1940s (he gets in his later "You're Dethpicable!" catchphrase once though). Occasional references from later appearances are made however, see Anachronism Stew above.
Exact Words: Never ask a toon to give you a "spare" of something if you don't want a tire. And it's not a good idea to ask for a drink "on the rocks" if you actually want ice.
Exactly What I Aimed At: How Eddie deals with Judge Doom, given that he knows from extensive experience that a Toon punch-hammer wouldn't even slow him down. Releasing the Dipmobile's spigot on the other hand...
The cute little cartoon shoe that is shoved in the dip, slowly and gradually as it squeals in pain, is rather painful to watch, especially after Doom emphasizes beforehand that, unlike usual cartoon deaths, this is very real.
Double-subverted. Doom's death by steamroller would have been a hell of a nasty way to go, then you see him stand up. The double-subversion comes when he gets melted by dip, in a slightly more family-friendly, but no less horrifying way.
Fanservice: Just about any scene involving Jessica. Subtlety doesn't come into it.
The scene where Jessica meets a shirtless and very hairy Eddie in his office.
Lena Hyena, the exact opposite to Jessica.
Fantastic Racism: Actually played much more realistically than about 99% of examples of this trope. While Eddie came to hate Toons because one killed his brother, he's not a slathering KKK-style racist about it... he generally treats Toons about the same as he treats everyone else, he just doesn't want to be around them if he can help it. It's handled especially well in his treatment of Betty Boop. It's very obvious that he cares for her as a friend and feels upset that she's so hard up she's working as a cigarette girl at a bar. Many times, real-world racists actually do have friends and even family of the races they claim to hate.
Not just Eddie (although in addition to the above mentioned, he also tosses the word, "Toon" around as if it's a slur), but the movie in general kind of depicts toons almost as second-class citizens. The Ink and Paint Club, where toons either entertain or work, is based on many a bar or club back in the days of segregation, where African-Americans may have been allowed to perform, or even wait and tend bars, but were not allowed in as customers or visitors.
Eddie Valiant is short and stocky. Teddy Valiant, in the one brief glimpse we see of him in a photograph, is tall and slender.
Also Eddie and Roger (who is quite skinny).
Feel No Pain: Roger demonstrates this with the refrigerator that's dropped on his head 23 times and repeatedly when the record player skips, resulting in several broken dishes.
Averted when it comes to his ears. He hates having them pulled. Truth in Television since rabbits' ears are generally very sensitive and grabbing one by the ears can cause serious harm.
Felony Misdemeanor: Roger's deeply in love with his wife Jessica, and is horrified when Eddie finds photographs of her and Mr. Acme "Playing Patty-cake." If you're wondering what "Playing Patty-cake" is a euphemism for....Toons consider it to be equivalent of sex. Roger is deeply hurt.
Femme Fatale: Jessica. What would a hard-boiled detective story be without one?
Film Noir: The underlying plot is almost classic film noir: "I'm going to listen you spin Cloverleaf's scenario — the story of greed, sex, and murder"note "And the parts that I don't like, I'm gonna edit out...".
Flat "What.": Eddie says this when he is first informed that Marvin Acme was killed by, supposedly, a rabbit.
He responds the same way when Dolores informs him thatit is Cloverleaf that seeks to own Toontown and will do so if Acme's will doesn't show by midnight that night.
For Happiness: According to Roger, a Toon's whole purpose in life is to make people laugh.
When Christopher Lloyd read the script instruction never to blink his eyes, he cried out "He's a Toon!".
Near the beginning, when asked if he has a car, Eddie says the he doesn't need one in L.A. since it "has the best public transportation system in the world." Turns out that a major plot point in the film was that Judge Doom was buying the Red Car so that he could dismantle it.
When Valiant comments wondering how Doom could be a judge, Lt. Santino mentioned that he bought the election in Toontown with a lot of money. He acquired it by stealing during the robbery where he killed Eddie's brother.
Doom: A human has been murdered by a toon. Don't you appreciate the magnitude of that?
"Somebody musta made her do it!"
"Stop that laughing! You know what happens when you can't! Stop! Laughing?!(shuts up Stupid by throwing a plunger at him) One of these days, you're gonna die laughing!"
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."
Pretty much everything about Judge Doom. He's Obviously Evil in every sense of the word. In outfit, name, and the way he presents himself. While the other characters are played more realistically, he's not subtle in the least, in actions or appearance. This makes a lot more sense when it's revealed he's a Toon, who are by their nature over the top.
Eddie's line "I don't know who's Toonier; you [Roger] or Doom!"
When Eddie knocks over the drum of Dip when escaping from the bar, Doom backs away from it. This is mentioned in the commentary.
This also provides a second explanation for why Judge Doom puts on a big rubber glove to Dip the shoe: It'd take his hand off because he's a Toon, not because it's toxic.
The aforementioned photo on Teddy Valiant's desk of him, Eddie, and their father in the circus wearing full clown gear foreshadows some of Eddie's behavior in the climax.
Eddie: "Sure, I got the will" (knowing full well it was really Roger's love letter to Jessica). Turns out the "clean piece of paper" Roger wrote his letter on was indeed Acme's Will all along which was written in disappearing/reappearing ink.
Freak Out: Even the normally stoic Jessica is scared of "The Dip".
Freeze-Frame Bonus: There's a plaque inside Eddie's toon gun case that reads, "Thanks for getting me out of the Hoosegow. Yosemite Sam"
The out-of-order bathroom that Eddie steps into in Toontown has graffiti that reads "For a good time, call Allyson Wonderland, the best is yet to be".
Fun with Flushing: While trying to sneak into the Acme factory, Roger falls on the toilet and gets flushed down. He later comes out a drain pipe in the factory floor for a (failed) Big Damn Heroes moment.
Gainaxing: Jessica Rabbit's breasts, which have a habit of bumping into things. Oddly enough, Jessica's boobs reverse-Gainax, moving in the opposite direction of normal walking movement, in part to make her more cartoony.
Hidden Depths: One reason the movie goes over so well with multiples ages is because, underneath the very mature, hard-boiled tone, all the good guys have redeeming depths. Eddie's still got a tiny bit of humor left and still respects those he hates, Roger's forever optimistic, Jessica truly loves him, Baby Herman thinks of Roger as a good friend and supports his innocence, and Benny helps Eddie and Roger despite being a loudmouth.
Eddie tries to use the giant magnet on a sword. His opponent simply doesn't let go, resulting in Eddie dragging him closer. He reverses the magnet to stop the opponent from getting any closer, so it wraps around his waist and attracts the nearest metallic object behind him— a trash can— which slams into Eddie's back, causing him to be immobilized. Good thing Eddie escapes via a portable cartoon hole.
Judge Doom is killed by the dipping machine he was going to use on Roger & Jessica Rabbit and all of Toontown.
Which in a further example of this trope, the machine is destroyed by a train. The vehicle that was being used to phase out trains/trams is destroyed by one.
Hollywood Magnetism: Parodied when Eddie uses a large toon magnet to try and wrest a sword out of an opponent's hand. The magnetic force depicted as lightning bolts that literally grab the sword and pull it, dragging his opponent along with it.
Human-Focused Adaptation: One of the problems Chuck Jones and a few other classic animators had with Who Framed Roger Rabbit was that it seemed that the cartoons themselves were secondary characters to the human actors. Perhaps this movie is a rare example of the trope not getting too far out of hand, though. Notably the romance between Roger and Jessica Rabbit was more important than Eddie's romantic subplot. It's Justified, as it would have cost a lot more to give the toons more screen time.
Daffy Duck:[about Donald] This is the latht time I work with thomebody with a thpeech impediment! Donald Duck: Oh, yeah?! [grabs Daffy and throws him into his piano] Daffy Duck:[his beak sticking out of Donald's piano]Thith meanth war...
"I Can't Look" Gesture: Detective Eddie Valiant watches as most of Judge Doom succumbs to the driverless steamroller, but averts his gaze as Doom's head meets the roller. It takes Roger Rabbit to point out to Eddie that Judge Doom is not finished yet, despite being rolled flat. Also Lt. Santino does this as Doom melts the Toon Shoe.
I Fell for Hours: Eddie Valiant's long drop from the top of a skyscraper in Toontown, in which he encounters Bugs and Mickey on the way down, takes enough time for him to have a short conversation with them.
Impact Silhouette: The result of Roger running off in a fit of pique ... through Mr. Maroon's office window. He leaves a Roger-shaped hole not only in the window itself, but even the blinds covering them.
In Name Only: Apart from the premise of Toons living alongside humans, a few characters, and a similar set-up (Toon rabbit suspected of killing a human and enlists help from a human private eye) the movie really doesn't have much to do with Who Censored Roger Rabbit?.
Insistent Terminology: The slang word "simoleons" is used to describe both the currency Doom used to buy his way into being elected Toontown's Judge, and the money stolen by the bank robber who killed Teddy. Almost a Chekhov's Gun, actually, and a good way to make sure the audience puts the mystery together.
Interacting with Shadow: While Eddie Valiant is in Toontown tracking the murderer of R. K. Maroon, he walks down an alley with his shadow appearing on the wall. He sneezes and his shadow turns to him and says "Gesundheit", to which Eddie replies "Thank you".
Interspecies Romance: Jessica and Roger — possibly averted because they are Toons, in which surface forms do not reflect species difference.
Marvin Acme and Jessica literally playing "pattycake" is seen as intercourse, in a Toon's eyes at least.
It seems nearly any human male would want this with Jessica upon first sight.
It Will Never Catch On: Judge Doom's vision of the freeway after its construction. One reason Eddie isn't that surprised to learn Judge Doom is actually a Toon is because, as he sees it, only a Toon would have come up with such a scheme.
It's Up to You: A meta example. There's a reason many people felt Bob Hoskins was snubbed for an Academy Award nod here: it's so easy watching Eddie Valiant to forget that Bob Hoskins is almost invariably by himself, talking to air or a ridiculous contraption.
Knight of Cerebus: Judge Doom's presence is basically to get the movie a darker tone: his sadistic punishments of toons via DIP are pretty disturbing to see and the fact he is a demented toon who is ready to do anything to achieve his goals, even if that means destroying his own species.
Kryptonite Factor: Toons are virtually unkillable, except by contact with Doom's deadly paint-thinner-based Dip.
Judge Doom. He's plenty scary, but bless him, Christopher Lloyd just cannot play a role without lending it the piquant aroma of a lovely apple glaze. Given who Lloyd is, you could call Judge Doom Dr. Emmett Brown's evil twin.
Also, Roger: ironically, both when he's acting and out of the set.
Last Request: Eddie Valiant asks Judge Doom to grant one to Roger before "dipping" him.
Latex Perfection: Judge Doom's human disguise was so perfect and vivid-looking that you didn't know he was a Toon before his true identity was revealed.
Left Stuck After Attack: Many times. First, Judge Doom tries to punch Eddie Valiant, but Valiant blocks the blow with a cardboard tub of glue. Judge Doom shakes off the tub, then tries again to slug Valiant. Valiant dodges, and Doom's fist strikes the roller of a moving steamroller, where it sticks. Doom eventually ends up rolled flat, though this doesn't finish him.
Literal Metaphor: "C'mon, Eddie, I caught you with your pants down!" Also one mentioned by Eddie when he reveals to Roger a toon killed his brother, as on the day his brother was killed, the two of them trailed Doom to a dive but he literally got the drop on them, dropping the piano which killed Teddy and broke Eddie's arm.
Malaproper: The leader of the weasels. ("Shall I ripose of him right now, boss?", "Look Valiant, we got a reliable tipoff, the rabbit was here, and was corrugated by several others.", and "Search the place, boys, and leave no stone interned.") Also, Roger's comment about his uncle's problems with his "prostate" (Eddie corrects him on that one, however, saying, "Not prostate, you idiot, probate!").
"I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off. Off and On. All day, all night. Soon where Toontown once stood will be a string of gas stations. Inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food, tire salons, automobile dealerships, and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. MyGod, it'll be beautiful."
Ms. Fanservice: Jessica Rabbit. Okay okay, she's integral to the plot, but seriously... look at her. She gets a flesh-coloredPanty Shot after getting spun out of the car. This was reworked in the 20 Years Release.
Judge Doom and the Weasels. Judge Doom's dress reminds one of a typical Gestapo trenchcoat — Doom himself has some resemblances with Roland Freisler, the Weasels as the Toon Patrol remind one of the Gestapo or the Schutzstaffel, and the Dip which is carried on the Weasel's wagon is like the Nazi Gas Van used during Aktion T4. Also, Doom's master plan sounds like Hitler's Final Solution for Toons instead of Jews. In the third draft of the film script, from September 2, 1986, Lt. Santino tells Eddie that Doom refers to the Dip as the Final Solution. This is not said in the final movie itself, however.
One pair of squeaky shoes at the Acme factory is a set of goose-stepping black boots.
Neck Lift: Judge Doom does it to Roger in the bar. More justified than most examples in that he can easily close his fist around Roger's neck because it's so compressible.
Subverted. As crass and horny as Herman is, he stands by his good friend, Roger, even offering to pay Eddie for his services as a detective. (Of course, this just pushes Valiant's Berserk Button about working for toons).
No Badge? No Problem!: Ex-police officer (and current private investigator) Eddie Valiant is brought along to the Acme Factory crime scene by his friend Lieutenant Santino. While there he tries to steal a piece of evidence: the joy buzzer in Marvin Acme's hand. He's caught red-handed by Judge Doom but Santino explains away his action by saying that Valiant was just getting the item for Doom.
No More for Me: Before he heads into Toontown, Eddie uses his whiskey bottle as target practice for his toon gun. And instead of drinking it, he pours the contents out.
Not So Different: There's a brief scene where both Roger and Eddie are looking over photographs and reflecting over happier times, to highlight the similarities between the two. They also happen at the same time.
Nothing Is Scarier: The fact we never see what Judge Doomreally looks like makes him even scarier because bright red glowing eyes is all we see, leaving the rest of his true form to the imagination...
Not so Above It All: You might think because of her more in-control Femme Fatale personality and the fact that she's more of a "mature" toon that Jessica Rabbit isn't quite as looney as the others. The movie sets her up like that, and then wittily breaks down the assumption.
Jessica [about Roger] I knocked him out with a frying pan and stuffed him in the trunk...so he wouldn't get hurt. Valiant:Makes perfect sense...
Not So Invincible After All: Before Dip was even invented, it was a well-known fact that Toons were virtually impervious to pain, and killing one was considered implausible, indeed impossible. Break a Toon's heart however, and they go to pieces, just like any mortal man.
Eddie Valiant does this when he realises the woman he mistook for Jessica Rabbit is actually Lena Hyena. Then a second one when he escapes into the out-of-order restroom. Then a third one on his encounter with Tweety. And a fourth one when the "spare" turns out to be a tire.
He also gets a more shocked and terrified one when Judge Doom reveals his toon identity. And that toon is the one who murdered Eddie's brother.
Doom gets off a pretty good one too, just before getting hit with a high-pressure blast of Dip.
Roger gets one during the cartoon at the very beginning, after lifting up the fridge and then letting go to grab Baby Herman, after which he realizes his mistake just before the fridge crashes down on his head.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant does an impeccable American accent, but he does have one moment where he slides from "hard-boiled American detective" to "British West-country farmer": when he sees Roger hiding in a desk drawer and yells at him to "GET OUTTA THERE!" In this case, it's not the pronunciation so much as the inflection; most Americans would put the emphasis on "outta", but Hoskins as Eddie puts it on "there". In the same scene, when he says "not anymore" and "don't ever", he suddenly sounds more like Miles O'Brien than Sam Spade. The accent slips again when he says "murder" to R.K. Maroon when pretending to. He seems to have trouble with words ending in the "r" sound.
Pop The Tires: Judge Doom takes out a toon car's tires by pouring toon-dissolving Dip on the road.
Portable Hole: Portable Holes is an Acme Product. During the film's climax, Eddie became pinned against a steel drum by a cartoon magnet while fighting the Big Bad; he freed himself by wrapping a Portable Hole completely around the magnet, causing the magnet to break in half.
Proscenium Reveal: The cartoon short starring Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman at the start of the movie is cut short by a human director calling "Cut!" This is followed by shots establishing that the animated characters are working on a live-action soundstage, thus setting up the concept of humans and toons living in the same world.
Random Smoking Scene: Eddie Valliant catches a streetcar by travelling along on the back of the vehicle with some kids who are smoking. He even thanks them for the cigarettes after reaching his destination. This whole scene had no real purpose to the story (although it did introduce us to the Red Car, the "best public transportation system in the world", which is put in jeopardy by Cloverleaf buying it).
Recognizable By Sound: Detective Eddie Valiant and Roger Rabbit are attempting to escape from the weasels by stealing the weasels' police van. A voice from the containment area of the van pleas for freedom: "Hey, you weasels, let me outta here!" Roger Rabbit recognizes the voice and replies, "Bennie, is that you?" The sarcastic response is, "No, it's Eleanor Roosevelt! C'mon, Roger, let me outta here!"
Red Herring: As the film progresses, it makes it look like Jessica murdered R.K. Maroon, but the real killer turns out to be Judge Doom (yeah, didn't see that coming) and that she only wants to help her husband.
Repetitive Name: The name of the director in charge of the opening theatrical cartoon? Raoul J. Raoul.
Sacrificial Lamb: The red toon shoe that Judge Doom kills in the Dip to demonstrate the threat he poses.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Doom pulls off one of the scariest live action invocations of this trope when staring down Eddie.
Scenery Porn: To a degree, due to the film noir-style lighting.
Screams Like a Little Girl: Judge Doom, having started talking in a high-pitched, squeaky, almost girlish voice all too familiar to Eddie once he is exposed as a Toon, screams in this manner after getting hit by the Dip.
Secondary Character Title: Roger Rabbit is not actually the main character. He's just the one who solicits the services of the story's actual protagonist, human detective Eddie Valiant. Roger steals every scene he's in and is pivotal to the case, though.
Setting Update: A rare inversion of this as the original novel was published and set in the early 1980s, but the movie pushes the setting back over 30 years to 1947 having been inspired by classic Film Noir Hardboiled Detective mysteries of the time.
Slipped the Ropes: Roger Rabbit can slip out of his cuffs at any given moment, but only if it's funny.
Smelly Feet: The weasels burst into Valiant & Valiant to find Roger, currently handcuffed to Eddie. All they find is Eddie washing something in the sink.
Weasel:(sniffing) What's in there?
Eddie:(lifting out a sock) My lingerie.
(Weasel turns away in disgust holding his nose, just missing Roger as he sticks his head up to breathe)
Soap Punishment: The lead weasel is threatening Eddie to tell him where Roger is and to "cut the bullschtick". Eddie tells him to watch his mouth or he'll "wash your mouth out" and shoves a bar of soap into his mouth.
"But I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on all day, all night. Soon, where Toon Town once stood will be a string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food, tire salons, automobile dealerships, and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see....My God, it'll be beautiful."
Eddie: I'm through with taking falls / And bouncing off the walls / Without that gun / I'd have some fun / And kick you in the— (gets hit in the head) Roger: Nose! Smart Ass: 'Nose'? That don't rhyme with 'walls'! Eddie: No. But this does!
Suddenly Shouting: Mrs. Herman to Baby Herman: "I'm leaving you with your favorite friend, Roger. He's going to take very, very good care of you. Because if he doesn't, HE'S GOING BACK TO THE SCIENCE LAB!!!"
Also, Eddie says to Roger, "I've been out there risking my neck for you, and what're you doin'? SINGIN' AND DANCIN'!"
And when Jessica sees the Dip, she speaks this way, too: "Oh my god, it's DIIIIP!!!"
And when Roger holds Doom at gunpoint, he says, "We toons may act idiotic, but we're not stupid! We demand justice! Why, the real meaning of the word would hit you like a ton of bricks!" What do you think lands on him immediately after he says that?
This Means War!: As Daffy and Donald engage in their dueling pianos session at the Ink and Paint Club, they get into an argument, culminating in Donald throwing Daffy into his piano and slamming the lid shut over the latter duck's head, with only his beak sticking out. At this point, we hear Daffy dazedly say, "Thith meanth war...", and the competition heats up from there.
Technically a Smile / The Unsmile: Judge Doom seems very humourless, even when everyone else is laughing at a joke. When he does smile, it shuts them right up. It turns out that his true personality is more into Slasher Smiles.
The Unreveal: In-universe, Eddie sees the reveal of Judge Doom being a toon this way due to how crazy his ultimate goal was.
This Is Reality: As an armed Roger goes off to rescue Eddie and Jessica, Benny warns him, "Be careful with that gun! This ain't no cartoon, ya know." Justified, as Roger is an actor, and Benny tells him this is not a cartoon starring him or anyone else: the perils are very much real, and there is a good chance he may not come out alive.
Toon Transformation: A Deleted Scene had Eddie Valiant gain an animated pig's head painted over his own head when he entered Toontown. This is also why he has just showered in the middle of the day when Jessica shows up in his office.
Tragic Bigot: Eddie Valiant's story of how he came to hate Toontown and the toons in it after one killed his brother provides the page quote.
Twisted Echo Cut: When Valiant is photographing Acme and Jessica "playing pattycake", you can hear Acme saying "Pattycake...pattycake..." getting more excited each time. The scene then switches to Maroon's office, where Roger is virtually screaming "PATTYCAKE! PATTYCAKE!" in disbelief after being shown the pictures. The way the scene was cut kept the repetition of "pattycake" unbroken between scenes.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Roger and Jessica... from a human's point of view. From the Toons' point of view, Jessica lucked into a real catch with Roger.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Cloverleaf plot is based on a real-life urban legend that General Motors bought the Los Angeles Red Car Trolley system to shut it down. The Bradford-Snell conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked; GM didn't buy up the Red Cars until years after they had been converted to a bus system due to problems with funding maintenance and expansion.
Betty: Cigars? Cigarettes? (beat) Eddie Valiant! Eddie: ...Betty? Betty:(putting down a tray of cigars and cigarettes) Long time no see. Eddie: What are you doing here? Betty: Work's been kinda slow since cartoons went to color. But I Still Got It, Eddie. Boop-boop be-doo boop! (winks) Eddie:(smiling) Yeah. You still got it.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Doom has at least two chances to kill Valiant and instead chooses to wait or take a less practical approach. Justified since he is an over the top toon villain.