Literature: Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
Roger Rabbit and his screwball buddies play fast and loose with historical accuracy. That's the way things happen in Toontown. Take it from a guy who's been there. Relax, hang on, and enjoy the ride.Science Fiction
Los Angeles, California
1947, more or less
writer Gary K. Wolf
, having written a number of novels such as Killerbowl
and The Resurrectionist
in his genre of choice, wanted his next work to be something a little different, perhaps something that had to do with his two other great loves: detective novels
and comic strips
. Then, one day, when watching children's morning TV for research purposes, he noticed a commercial wherein several animated kids' cereal mascots interacted with live-action children. And thus, the world of Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
In these novels, human beings who look and act much like you and me live side-by-side with an oppressed minority
of living, breathing cartoon characters called Toons
, who look and act exactly as they do on animated cartoons and comic strips but are unable to produce sound, communicating via visible dialogue balloons
, (though they can
—with some effort—suppress their word balloons and speak; Jessica Rabbit does this, which makes her sexier to humans). The series features various recurring characters but otherwise has a very loose continuity
, to mimic the format of old-fashioned anthology-style cartoons such as the Looney Tunes
The series has, of course, inspired a very successful feature film
. Possibly someday to be two.
The series consists of:
- Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
- Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?
- Hare's Looking at you, Babs! (short story)
- Stay Tooned, Folks! (short story)
A third novel exists, to be published after the release of the second movie.
In the first book, we're introduced to our protagonist, hard-drinking, Toon-hating
, Hardboiled Detective
Eddie Valiant, hired by the famous comic strip
star Roger Rabbit to discover why his employers, Rocco and Dominick DeGreasy, have withheld their promise of giving Roger his own newspaper strip instead of constantly playing him as a foil
for their biggest star, Baby Herman. This novel is set in The Eighties
and features several odd fantasy elements that those familiar only with the movie
may find a bit strange, most notably the fact that in this version the Toons are not indestructible, but can create temporary doppelgangers to do their most dangerous stunts for them. The two versions share only five characters: Eddie, Roger, Jessica, Baby Herman and Benny, although the last one appears as Bennie the Beetle rather than Benny the Cab.
The second book is a direct sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit
and totally disregards any continuity established in the first book. (The events of the first book are reduced to a dream Jessica says she had.) Like the movie, this is set in 1947 and features Eddie and Roger as an Odd Couple
-style ensemble, both sharing protagonist status (rather than having Eddie as the clear star of the show and Roger merely as his shifty client, as in the first book). The plot concerns famed Hollywood director David O. Selznick and his attempts to adapt the novel Gone with the Wind
to film. But who will he cast as Rhett Butler, the male lead? Will it be Clark Gable
, Baby Herman, or Roger Rabbit? Selznick cannot
make up his mind about it! We're also introduced to Eddie's sister Heddy, who's married to a Toon
, and other brother Freddy, who's been mysteriously transformed into one
. Also involved are the foul doings of an evil Roger-lookalike
, the smuggling of a mysterious chemical from South America, and Jessica Rabbit's mysterious pregnancy and her (quite literally) "little" sister.
The first short story is very rare, but the second is available for free at the author's website.
This series contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: of Comics, Western Animation, and Film Noir
- The Alcoholic: Unlike the film, Eddie doesn't cure himself of it.
- All Just a Dream: The entire plot of the (no-longer-canon) first book is retconned into Jessica's dream in the second book.
- Ambiguously Human: Crossovers, Toons that can pass for human.
- And the Adventure Continues: The ending of the second book.
- Author Avatar: That's Mr. Wolf portraying Eddie on the cover.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The genie will grant you your wishes, in a technical sense. Roger wanted to be famous - fine, but he'll always be a second banana.
- Bittersweet Ending: The first book.
I looked up at the sky. It was one of those rare days when the Earth revolves a little faster and shoos away the smog. You could see a long way, but not half as far as Roger had gone.
- By-the-Book Cop: Toon police Captain "Clever" Cleaver.
- Canon Immigrant: Doris and Benny the Cab make cameo appearances in the second book, and Teddy Valiant is also mentioned.
- Cargo Envy: Jessica's cigarettes tend to inspire this.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Roger Rabbit, in all but his first-book incarnation.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The DeGreasy Brothers, and millionaire Hollywood exec "Big Bull" Topman.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Roger. And how.
- Deadpan Snarker: Eddie.
- Deconstruction Crossover: Quite possibly, the Ur Example.
- Detective Patsy: Roger tries to do this to Eddie in the first book. In the final chapter, Eddie admits that the plan would have worked were it not for two things that Roger had no way of seeing coming - an unraveling art forgery scam causing unexpected witnesses to be present at the murder scene, and Roger's teapot containing a homicidal genie.
- Disney Creatures of the Farce: In the second book, Roger wakes Eddie up when he summons a few Disneyesque birds to sing outside the bedroom window. Eddie isn't amused.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Eddie's response to pretty much any problem that comes up. (Admittedly, he drinks a lot anyway.) In the second book, Roger tries it after he finds out that Jessica is philandering, and Eddie notes that there are whole bars meant just for catering to this kind of difficulty.
- Dying Clue: Toons create word balloons when they speak (unless they consciously choose not to). A word balloon containing Roger's final words is found at the scene of the crime, but it's ambiguous without knowing the way the words were said.
- In the sequel, the same thing happens when Enigman dies.
- The Eighties: The first book seems to take place in The Eighties, with several references to it.
- Evil Plan: Well, this is a parody of detective stories...
- Evil Twin: Dodger Rabbit.
- Expospeak Gag: Delancey Duck gets one in the second book.
- Poopdeck the Pirate, an incidental toon character. He is described as having "ape-arms," getting his strength from spinach, and playing jolly sea shanties on his corncob pipe. Hmm... sounds awfully familiar.
- Roger himself is an Expy for Bugs Bunny.
- 'Poopdeck' Pappy is also Popeye's real father in the Popeye comics. Maybe less an expy and more the Lawyer-Friendly Cameo?
- Fall Guy: Eddie, if Roger's plan succeeded.
- Family Theme Naming: In the second book, Eddie's siblings are named Teddy, Freddy and Heddy. Heddy, said to have taken after her mother as far as theme-naming goes, named all three of her sons after their dad.
- Famous Last Words: Roger gets two, thanks to his doppel.
Roger: No fair! You got me everything? Jessica. My contract...
Roger's doppel: You're a decent human being, Eddie. What is it you private eyes call it? A standup guy.
- Fantastic Noir: Possibly the Trope Maker.
- Fantastic Racism:
- Toons are heavily discriminated against; one scene in the first book has Eddie and Roger having difficulties finding a good meeting spot, since bars are either human-only or toon-only, resulting in a Deconstruction. It is also revealed that in this world, toons have fulfilled the roles that certain non-white minorities have fallen into in ours, such as building the railroads.
- Toons themselves are divided into humanoid Toons and "barnyards". Humanoid Toons almost exclusively date other Humanoids, and even date humans. Barnyards are treated as an underclass in Toon society.
- Femme Fatale: Jessica Rabbit.
- Four-Fingered Hands: Justified in the second book; apparently, it's more common than not for Toons to lose fingers in dynamite accidents.
- Good Is Not Nice: Eddie. He's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, despite his insistence he's a plain Jerkass. It's his Incorruptible Pure Pureness that allows him to resist the genie's magic.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Ferd, Eddie's brother-in-law in the second book, constantly delivers speeches that would qualify as Cluster F-Bombs if he didn't replace said F-bombs with really weird nonsense words beginning with "f". Not surprising, since he is a Toon.
- In the first book, Roger blurts out an obscenity, but crosses it out in his word balloon and replaces it with "Widdle". He does it because of his instinctive Family Friendly Filter.
- Growing the Beard: Roger's doppel becomes quite the PI under Eddie's tutelage. Unfortunately, not only was Roger the murderer, but his doppel disintegrated after 48 hours.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Played with. Little Rock is human, because his Toon father was magically human when he was conceived.
- Hardboiled Detective: Eddie Valiant.
- Historical-Domain Character: Any of the movie stars appearing in the second book.
- Honor Before Reason: Eddie had every right to drop Roger's case, even after he's killed, but stays on his case because he feels it was his fault for getting Roger offed.
- Humanity Ensues: A major plot point in the second book is a substance called "Toon Tonic", which can transform humans into Toons and vice-versa. Roger brews himself some and becomes a red-haired, pale-skinned, large-eared man, adjusting rather awkwardly to changes such as the fact that he now has five fingers and no longer produces speech balloons.
- Hurricane of Puns: Plenty. For instance, in "Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?", the narration of the scene in which Eddie Valiant visits Delancey Duck's office is overflowing with duck puns. A few examples:
- Delancey got his degree at Drake.
- When Delancey gets up, he "duck-walks" around the room.
- Eddie accuses Delancey's protégé of "following in the foot webs of the master," and asked why Delancey "took her under [his] wing."
- Delancey spreads his tail feathers, becoming "a dead ringer for the centerpiece at the signing of the Declaration Of Independence."
- I Lied: The rare heroic version, by Eddie when he dunks the genie in a salt water fish tank, which is lethal to it, after the genie conjured up a false but realistic confession note by one of the DeGreasy brothers claiming he'd killed Roger.
- Interspecies Romance: Of course, Roger's and Jessica's romance only looks like one; Toons take radically different shapes, but they're a species unto themselves. A more straight example would be Jessica's affairs and flirtations with various human characters. Humans and toons can't conceive, however. Rocco DeGreasey had a boy, Little Rock, with a human woman, though at the time, he was turned human by a genie for a year. In the second book, Eddie's sister Heddy is married to a Toon and they have three children.
- It Has Been an Honor: After Eddie reveals that he knew Roger was the murderer and still helped him out, Roger's doppel replies:
"So, while I played dumb with you, you played the sap for me." The rabbit uncorked a smile, but I'd seen better on a dead dog. "You're a decent human being, Eddie. What is it you private eyes call it? A standup guy."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eddie Valiant and Baby Herman.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: several famous cartoon characters
- Living on Borrowed Time / Your Days Are Numbered: Roger's doppelganger can only last 72 hours, at most. Ironically, his death is a Tear Jerker even after we learn he was a murderer and trying to frame Eddie for it.
- Manipulative Bitch / I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Jessica, in full Femme Fatale form.
- Meaningful Name: Frequently.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Many luminaries of both live-action and animated film make appearances in the series. Some notable examples include Clark Gable, David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, Dick Tracy, Superman, Hägar the Horrible, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
- Morally Ambiguous Ducktorate: Delancey Duck.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Roger's Berserk Button. Unfortunately, not only is Jessica Rabbit a porn star when not enchanted by a genie to love him and be a good wife, but she loves doing porn.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The founders of the Toontown Telltale: Sleazy, Slimy, Dreck and Profane.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: Well, Eddie's not a policeman, but he really doesn't like Toons at all. He grows to like Roger even after figuring out Roger was trying to set him up for the fall.
- Not Growing Up Sucks: Some Toons age normally, but others can't—Baby Herman, for example.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Roger in the first book. When Eddie finally reveals he knew Roger was lying the entire time about being a murderer, the tone in Roger's voice changes, and you can feel the Tranquil Fury about wanting Rocco dead, and how his plans for framing Eddie fell apart. When asked by Eddie if the detective deserved to be an innocent dupe and Fall Guy, Roger darkly sighs, "Oh, how you tire me." All of Roger's lunacy had partly been a put on by a guy (even if a bunny) pushed to his limits by Rocco and the world as created by the genie.
- Odd Couple: Roger (cheery, silly, and naive) and Eddie (serious, no-nonsense, and street-smart), in the second book and the movie.
- Older Than They Look: Baby Herman, who resembles an infant but is, in fact, thirty-six years old.
- Only Sane Man: Tadbitty Stifles, a hapless human dramatic actor and part-time bodyguard to Big Bull Topman's wayward son.
- OOC Is Serious Business: See Obfuscating Insanity.
- Our Founder: the founders of the Toontown Telltale, a gossip tabloid.
- Pass Fail: The DeGreasys.
- Pet The Rabbit: Characters like Rocco and Jessica both claim Roger has no talent at all, and since we never see any of his work save a brief appearance in a Baby Herman strip, it's easy to take them at their word. However, near the end of the book, Little Rock (Rocco's son) and Sid Sleaze both gush about how talented Roger is, the latter doing it front of Roger's doppel, so at least he dies knowing that he was right that people wanted him to star in his own strip, and that he really did have the stuff to be a lead.
- Porky Pig Pronunciation: Averted in the first book. In the film-inspired sequels, Roger Rabbit stammers his p's, a quality given to him in the film adaptation so he would be more like the characters from the golden age of animation. After this, the author carried over the quality onto his subsequent written work, as well as some of his more Cloudcuckoolander-ish tendencies. (He was originally written as paranoid and neurotic, but still very sharp-minded.)
- Roger's cousin Dodger stammers his b's instead. This is the only distinguishing quality between them, other than the fact that Dodger combs his hair to the side, which according to Roger makes them totally different.
- Purple Prose: The first novel was a parody of 1940's potboilers, so it's filled to the gill with cheesy metaphors.
- Really Gets Around: Jessica.
- Sidekick: Roger isn't sure if he's Eddie's sidekick or if Eddie is his sidekick. (He seems to use "sidekick" merely as a term of endearment.)
- Species Surname: Before meeting Jessica Rabbit, Eddie assumes that she's a Toon rabbit. Turns out that "Rabbit" is her married name via Roger Rabbit and she's a humanoid Toon. The trope is also frequently used for background characters—Dodger Rabbit, Carbuncle Chameleon, Delancey Duck, etc.—in the tradition of Golden Age cartoons.
- Eddie thinks Sid Sleaze is a Toon because of his name. Roger dismisses that and tells him that his real name is Sid Baumgartner; "Sleaze" is just an industry name.
- Speech Bubbles: They literally appear above the toons as physical objects. One bubble becomes a piece of evidence in Roger's murder.
- Super Drowning Skills: Delancey Duck can't even remotely swim. He mentions that just because Western AnimationDonald and Daffy can do it doesn't mean all ducks can.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Roger, in the first book.
- Talks Like a Simile: Eddie Valiant.
- They Walk Among Us: The Toons.
- Toon Town: The titular district, home to the Toon community. Offhandedly mentioned in the first book, a key setting in the second.
- Toothy Bird: Delancey Duck in the second book.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Roger and Jessica.
- Undying Loyalty: Carol Masters is the only one to stick up for Roger, through thick and thin. She even admits when she thought Roger was the murderer, she'd continue to help him in any way, even illegally.
- Ungrateful Bitch: Jessica, even when Eddie tells her Roger asked him to take her on as a client to prevent her from being jailed.
- Unusual Euphemism
- Urban Fantasy
- Verbal Tic: Eddie's sister Heddy (and, it turns out, his brother Freddy as well).
- Villain Protagonist: Roger was the original murderer, and had intended to frame Eddie Valiant. Unfortunately, a genie killed Roger before he could finish his plan.
- Villainous Crossdresser: Sid Sleaze.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Eddie and Roger.
- Whodunnit to Me: The first book, and HOW.
- Would Hit a Girl: Eddie gives Jessica a "love tap" that knocks her out when she's too clingy to the magic lantern / teakettle. At that point, she deserved it.