Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
A note to my clients:
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.
Los Angeles, California
1947, more or less
Science Fiction 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? was born!
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 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 doppelgangers to do their most dangerous stunts for them. The two versions share only four characters: Eddie, Roger, Jessica, 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. 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, 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.
- Affectionate Parody: of Comics, Western Animation, and Film Noir.
- The Alcoholic: A trait of Eddie's carried from the movie to the sequel.
- 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.
- Bag of Holding
- 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.
- Bizarre Alien (in this case, cartoon) Biology
- 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.
- Can't Grow Up: Some Toons age normally, but others can't--Baby Herman, for example.
- 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
- Darker and Edgier: 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.
- Evil Twin: Dodger Rabbit.
- Expospeak Gag: Delancey Duck gets one in the second book.
- Expy: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Half-Human Hybrid
- Hardboiled Detective: Eddie Valiant
- Historical Domain Character: Any of the movie stars appearing in the second book.
- Historical Fiction
- Improbable Species Compatibility
- 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.
- 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. In the second book, Eddie's sister Heddy is married to a Toon and they have three children.
- Jackass Genie
- 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.
- 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, Hagar 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.
- 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.
- Our Founder: the founders of the Toontown Telltale, a gossip tabloid.
- Pass Fail: The DeGreasys.
- Porky Pig Pronunciation: 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.
- Private Eye Monologue
- Punny Name
- Really Gets Around: Jessica.
- Roger Rabbit Effect
- 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.
- 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 Donald and Daffy can do it doesn't mean all ducks can.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Roger, in the first book.
- Well, he was going to frame Eddie Valiant for the murder, so your sympathy can only stretch so much.
- 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
- 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.
- Who Dunnit to Me?: The first book, and HOW.
- Xanatos Gambit: Well, this is a parody of detective stories...