Following the smashing success of the 1988 fantasy / comedy film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Disney, Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: promote the new Disneyland attraction Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin on the one hand, and revive the great tradition of animated theatrical shorts (dead since the nineteen-sixties) that ran before the feature film, where the trailers are today, on the other. So they produced a series of three partly live-action, mostly animated short films starring the Toon characters from the feature.
All three shorts follow the pattern set by Something's Cookin' (the film within the original film) and, supposedly, what the titular lagomorph's big-screen escapades were generally like in the world of the movie. In each one, Roger is trusted to babysit Baby Herman by his imposing mother, who threatens Roger with some outrageous punishment should anything happen to her little darling. Inevitably, Baby Herman gets away from his caretaker and innocently puts himself in grievous harm's way, prompting Roger to leap to the rescue and get badly battered in the process. At the end, Roger will ruin the take in some amusing way (such as setting his feet on fire or accidentally deflating the planet), infuriating the live-action human director and stage crew.
It's Disney-quality animation with Tex Avery style gags. And it's just as awesome as it sounds.
These are the cartoons, and the film they opened for:
- Tummy Trouble - Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
- Roller Coaster Rabbit - Dick Tracy (1990)
- Trail Mix-Up - A Far Off Place (1993)
Needless to say, the revival did not succeed (which may have had something to do with the movies they opened for), although all three shorts are available in the Vista Series DVD set and 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray of the movie.
Roger Rabbit Shorts contains examples of:
- 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Unlike the film, which famously contained not a single image that was not hand-drawn, the shorts made liberal use of CGI for some of the harder-to-animate objects, such as the logs in Trail Mix-Up and the box of darts in Roller Coaster Rabbit.
- Absurd Altitude: The roller coaster in Roller Coaster Rabbit and the log flume in "Trail Mix-Up"
- Adult Fear: Having your baby wander into harm's way because the babysitter can't do his job.
- Amusing Injuries: Pretty much the whole point of the shorts is to think up the most hilarious ways to get Roger hurt.
- Animated Actors: Each short would end with a shot of the set and the animated characters interacting with the crew. Roger, as always, tends to screw things up.
- Art Shift: The third short incorporates cel-shaded 3D animation (as apposed to the traditionally and complexly animated 2D like the first film) and brighter colours due to being animated in CAPS/digital ink and paint instead of traditional cel/ink and paint like the previous two.
- Badly Battered Babysitter: This is Roger's whole raison d'etre.
- Between My Legs: Roger and Baby Herman are between Jessica's legs in Trail Mix-Up.
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: When Roger and Baby Herman enter the tunnel in Roller Coaster Rabbit.
- The Cameo: Droopy Dog and Jessica Rabbit both get one per cartoon.
- Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: Roger uses one in "Trail Mix-Up", spraying so much pesticide it kills off a sizable chunk of forest.
- Chained to a Railway: Droopy has Jessica Rabbit chained to a roller coaster in Roller Coaster Rabbit.
- Extreme Omnivore: Baby Herman is shown having swallowed an old boot, a yam can, a kitchen sink, and a rattle without suffering any ill effects.
- Flapping Cheeks: Exaggerated in Roller Coaster Rabbit, with Roger's cheeks and eyelids flapping way behind his face.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- During the Hospital Gurney Scene in Tummy Trouble, the gurney passes through an endless series of doors, each marked with a different -ology. The doors go faster and faster so that you have to pause to be able to read them all. The last one reads "Burbank".
- As the roller coaster in Roller Coaster Rabbit first goes down, you can see Atlanta burning.
- When the coaster goes through its second dip, the tracks read "Jeepers".
- When Roger spits out bees in Trail Mix-Up, one of the bees has Mickey Mouse's face, while another turns out to be Tinkerbell, a third is Evinrude the dragonfly, and a fourth is the Genie.
- As Roger and Baby Herman head for the flume, Herman's pupils have Mickey Mouse's head for two frames, while Roger's have skulls.
- As the log exits the flume, it suddenly has a "We Visited Splash Mountain" bumper sticker on the back.
- Friction Burn: Roger's feet catch fire from skidding on the roller coaster tracks in Roller Coaster Rabbit.
- Genre Throwback: To the pre-feature animated shorts from The Golden Age of Animation.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: All over the place:
- Tummy Trouble ends with Jessica seductively suggesting to Roger they go home and play a little pattycake.
- Roller Coast Rabbit has Baby Herman chase a red balloon underneath a bull. He sees something bright red and bulbous under its belly and grabs...
- During the live-action scene at the end of the short, the balloon finally pops, startling a female fan of Baby Herman's, and he laughs lasciviously and says "Whatsamatter, toots? Afraid of a little...bang?"
- In Trail Mix-Up there are two instances of it; when Roger warns Baby Herman not to burn his 'weenie' at the fire (when he has a hot dog), and when he says he was so scared he almost 'dropped a log'' while they're in a sawmill.
- Roger starts rubbing those two sticks together for his fire a lot faster after Park Ranger Jessica shows up.
- When logs keep falling on top of Roger in Trail Mix-Up, one of the blink-and-you-miss-it Amusing Injuries he suffers is puking up his own guts!
- One of the aforementioned "-ologies" in Tummy Trouble is gynecology.
- Getting the Baby to Sleep: In two of the shorts, Roger trying to get Baby Herman to stop crying sets the plot in motion. In "Tummy Trouble", it's giving him a rattle, which Herman swallows, leading to the two going to the hospital. In "Roller Coaster Rabbit", Roger goes to get a balloon for Herman after the one he had flew away, and Herman wanders off in the meantime.
- Here We Go Again!: Tummy Trouble ends with Herman swallowing the rattle again during the Iris Out.
- Hospital Gurney Scene: As Roger is wheeled into the operating room in Tummy Trouble.
- Hospital Hottie: Jessica's cameo in Tummy Trouble is as a nurse wheeling a cart full of baby bottles.
- Infant Immortality: Throughout his travails, Baby Herman never suffers so much as a scratch.
- Intercontinuity Crossover: MGM's Droopy appearing in a Disney production.
- Isophagus: After Roger swallows Baby Herman's rattle in Tummy Trouble.
- Jaw Drop: Roger, reading Baby Herman's medical bills in Tummy Trouble.
- Low Clearance: On the short "Roller Coaster Rabbit", Roger narrowly avoids a sign on the coaster warning people "Don't Stand Up", but he doesn't miss the next one, which reads "We Mean It!"
- Mama Bear: Mrs. Herman repeatedly threatens to destroy Roger if he ever lets anything happen to Baby Herman, but this gets subverted in that she keeps leaving her child in Roger's care despite how often he screws up.
- Meatgrinder Surgery: Apparently, the process to get the rattle out of Roger in Tummy Trouble was to strap him to a table and cut him open with a chainsaw. Without using any anesthetics (besides the hammer Roger hit himself with previously).
- Mythology Gag:
- Tummy Trouble ends with Roger and Jessica heading home to play "pattycake."
- An early scene in Trail Mix-Up has a cookie jar slide off a fridge, which was the whole basis for the "Something's Cooking" short at the beginning of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In the same cartoon, Raoul J. Raoul, the director of the same short, is listed as the governor of South Dakota on a welcome sign at the end.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Pretty much the entire gag behind Baby Herman.
- No Ending: Roller Coaster Rabbit ends with Roger messing up the scene and being scolded by his director. Trail Mix-Up ends with Roger messing up the scene and destroying the planet. Tummy Trouble, on the other hand, ran smoothly and ended quite well.
- Over-the-Top Roller Coaster: The short "Roller Coaster Rabbit" has Roger and Baby Herman riding a roller coaster whose first drop is so high the entire globe is visible below. It then has a lot of insane turns and loops, and seems to last twice as long as the average roller coaster ride.
- "That was bracing!" in Roller Coaster Rabbit
- And in Tummy Trouble, "Let go of the cotton, you swab!"
- Not Growing Up Sucks: Baby Herman, who's really 50 (36 in the books).
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Each short ends with the toon characters in a live-action set.
- Rushmore Refacement: In Trail Mix-Up as the characters crash into it, the faces of the presidents doing a Wild Take as they do.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Tummy Trouble ends with Baby Herman swallowing the rattle again, putting the whole plot back to square one.
- Shockingly Expensive Bill: At the end of Tummy Trouble, Roger faints at the sight of his medical bill.
- Shooting Gallery: In Roller Coaster Rabbit, Baby Herman wanders into one of these, with Roger chasing after him. Roger tells the customers to hold their fire, and when Herman is out of the line of fire, Roger tells them to fire away, but makes the mistake of just standing there as he says this, allowing the customers to shoot him.
- Strapped to an Operating Table: Roger in Tummy Trouble. Justified, as he is in an operating room, but the roughness of the surgeons seems a bit much.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: When Mrs. Herman threatens something bad on Roger, she will always shout this. It happens in every short:
"Uncle Roger will take good care of you, and everything will be just fine. NOT LIKE LAST TIME!"
- In Tummy Trouble:
"Roger, you stay here with baby, or it's RABBIT STEW FOR DINNER!"
- In Roller Coaster Rabbit:
"Baby Herman is staying with you, and remember, if you get into any trouble, RABBIT SEASON OPENS TODAY!"
- In Trail Mix-Up:
Jessica: (Breathlessly) Oh, save me... save me...Roger: What??Jessica: SAVE ME!!!!!!
- And then there was Jessica's cameo when tied to the roller coaster tracks in Roller Coaster Rabbit:
- Tempting Fate: In Trail Mix-Up, as soon as Roger and the others crash on Mount Rushmore, he says "It's not like it's the end of the world."... right before inadvertently popping the earth like a balloon.
- Toon Physics: They had some fun with it too.
- Vocal Dissonance: In "Trail Mix-Up", despite still being voiced by Kathleen Turner, Jessica's voice is noticeably deeper, most likely due to Turner's smoking habit finally catching up to her.
- Vocal Evolution: Rogers voice is noticeably louder and sillier than in the movie.
- Voice of the Legion: Mrs. Herman deploys this in Trail Mix-Up when she threatens Roger to not screw up.
- Wild Take: There's a definite Tex Avery influence in these shorts.
- Writing Around Trademarks: The "Acme Suck-O-Lux" vacuum cleaner from the movie reappears in Trail Mix-Up- but since Disney had to license the name Acme from Warner Bros. for the movie, and didn't do so for the shorts, the name is changed to "Su-Me".