Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday's Film Adaption: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf

“Who’d want to kill a dumb cartoon bunny?”

That’s what Eddie Valiant wants to know. He’s the toughest private eye in Los Angeles, and he’ll handle anything – if you’re human. If you’re a Toon, that’s another story.

Eddie doesn’t like Toons – those cartoon characters who live side-by-side with humans. Not the way they look, and especially not the way they talk: word-filled balloons come out of their mouths and then disintegrate, leaving dust all over his rug.

Eddie will work for a Toon if his cash supply is low enough. So he reluctantly agrees when Roger Rabbit, a Toon who plays straight man (or should that be straight rabbit) in the Baby Herman cartoon series, asks him to find out who’s been trying – unsuccessfully – to buy his contract from the DeGreasy Brothers syndicate.

Then Rocco DeGreasy is murdered – and Roger is the prime suspect! The rabbit is also, as Eddie soon discovers, very, very dead.

Who censored Roger Rabbit? And who shot Rocco DeGreasy? Was it Roger, or was it Rocco’s hot-cha-cha girlfriend, Jessica Rabbit? Why had Jessica – a pretty steamy number for a Toon – ever married a dopey bunny in the first place? And why does everybody want Roger’s battered old teakettle?

As Eddie combs L.A. from the executive suites of the DeGreasy Brothers to Sid Sleaze’s porno comic studio, he uncovers art thefts, blackmail plots... and the cagiest killer he’s ever faced.

In Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, author Gary K. Wolf has created a wonderfully skewed – and totally believable – world compounded of equal parts Raymond Chandler, Lewis Carroll, and Warner Brothers. This riotously surreal spoof of the hard-boiled detective novel is packed with action and laughs. From first page to last, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is shear delight.

Celebrated author Gary K. Wolf’s cult classic and highly praised novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is the basis for the blockbuster Walt Disney/Steven Spielberg Academy Award winning film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Chapter 1
I found the bungalow and rang the bell.

My client answered the door.

He was almost my height, close to six feet, but only if you counted his eighteen-inch ears. He wore only a baggy pair of shorts, held up by brightly colored suspenders. His shoulders stooped so badly, he had to secure his suspender tops in place with crossed pieces of cellophane tape. For eyes, he had twin black dots, floating in the center of two oblong white saucers. His white stomach, nose, toes, and palms on a light brown body made him resemble someone who had just walked face first into a freshly painted wall.

"I'm Eddie Valiant, private eye. You the one who called?"

"Yes, I am," he said, extending a fuzzy white paw. "I'm Roger Rabbit." His words came out encased in a balloon that floated over his head.

The rabbit ushered me into his living room. The angular furniture reminded me of the upward-reaching spires in caves. That, combined with an extremely low ceiling and stale air, gave the room the closed-in nature of an underground burrow. Perfect interior design for a rabbit.

The bunny opened a liquor cabinet and brought out an earthenware jug emblazoned with three X's. "Drink?" he asked.

Since Toons could not legally buy human-manufactured liquor, most drank the moonshine produced by their country cousins in Dogpatch and Hootin' Holler. Potent stuff. Few humans could handle it.

Although no stranger to strong drink, I knew my limitations well enough to pass.

"Mind if I do?" the rabbit asked. "Fine with me," I said.

The rabbit cradled the jug in his elbow and guzzled down a healthy swig. Almost instantly, twin puffs of smoke shot out of his ears, drifted lazily upward, and bounced gently against the ceiling.

Quite nonchalantly, the rabbit pulled a large butterfly net out from behind the sofa, snared the bobbling whiffets, and shook them free through an open window. They joined forces, floated merrily skyward, and expanded into a soft, billowy cloud.

"Cumulonimbus," the rabbit remarked, as he watched the evidence of his indulgence drift away.

The rabbit closed the window and drew the drapes to protect his frail parchment skin from the drying effects of the early morning sun. He hippity-hopped across the room to his desk, returned, and handed me a check. "A retainer. I hope it's large enough."

It certainly was! At my regular rates, the check would buy my services for nearly a week.

"Maybe I'd better outline my problem," said the rabbit. "I know all the cash in the world wouldn't persuade a private eye to take on an unjust cause."

I nodded. If the rabbit only knew. I had undertaken numerous unjust causes in the course of my career, and for a lot less than all the cash in the world. A lot less.

The rabbit picked a walnut-inlaid cigar box off a mushroom-shaped coffee table. "Carrot?" he asked.

I looked inside. Sure enough, carrots, carefully selected for uniformity of color, size, and shape, and alternated big end to little end so that the maximum number of them could be squeezed inside. Each bore a narrow, gold and red paper band proclaiming it a product of mid-state Illinois, generally acknowledged as the world's finest source of the orange nibblers.

I declined.

The rabbit selected a chunky specimen for himself and gnawed at it noisily, freckling his chin with tiny orange chips that flaked off in the gap between his front incisors. "About a year ago, the DeGreasy brothers, the cartoon syndicate, told me that if I signed with them they would give me my own strip." He laid his half-eaten carrot on an end table beside a display of framed and autographed photos, some human, some Toon. They included Snoopy, Joe Namath, Beetle Bailey, John F. Kennedy, and, in a group shot, Dick Tracy, Secret Agent X-9, and J. Edgar Hoover. "Instead they made me a second banana to a dopey, obese, thumb sucking sniveler named Baby Herman."

"So find yourself another syndicate."

"I can't." The rabbit's face collapsed. "My contract binds me to the DeGreasys for another twenty years. When I asked them to release me so I could look for work elsewhere, they refused."

"They give you any reason?"

"None. Being somewhat an amateur private eye myself, I did some legwork." He displayed a hind limb that would have looked exceptionally good dangling from the end of a key-chain. "I nosed around the industry and uncovered a rumor that someone wants to buy out my contract and give me a starring. role, but the DeGreasys refuse to sell. I want you to find out what's going on. If the DeGreasys won't star me, why won't they deal me away?"

Sounded horribly boring, but one more look at his check convinced me to at least go through the motions. I hauled out my notebook and pen.

Normally I would have asked some questions about his background and personal life but, since I only intended to give this case a lick and a promise anyway, why bother? I asked for the DeGreasys' address, and he rattled it off.

"I'll stay in touch," I promised on my way out.

"See you in the funny papers," joked the rabbit.

I didn't smile.

Chapter 2
I stopped off at a newsstand and bought a candy bar for lunch and a paper to read while I ate it, making sure to get a receipt for my expense report.

I turned to the comic section and found the Baby Herman strip.

The rabbit appeared in one panel out of the four, barely visible behind the smoke and flame of an exploding cigar given him by Baby Herman.

I folded the paper shut. Hardly an earthshaking caper, this one. A fast buck and not much more. But what did I expect? Hobnobbing with a rabbit only gets you to Wonderland in fairy tales.

I met the DeGreasy brothers, Rocco and Dominick, in their offices high atop one of L.A.'s most prestigious skyscrapers.

The two were human, although almost comical in their marked resemblance to one another. Their ridged foreheads formed a wobble of demarcation between bowl-shaped haircuts and frizzy eyebrows. Their noses would have looked perfect behind a chrome horn bolted to the handlebars of a bicycle. Smudgy moustaches curtained their circular porthole mouths. Their biceps looked to be half the size of their forearms. And they had feet large enough to cut fifteen seconds off any duck's time in the hundred-meter freestyle.

Had the DeGreasy boys been discovered frozen beneath some Arctic tundra, a good case would probably have been made for them being the long-sought missing link between humans and Toons.

But, as funny as they looked, when I checked them out, they had come up professional and efficient, the most astute guys in the comic strip business. I gave my card to Rocco, the eldest, who passed it across his handsome antique desk to his brother Dominick.

Not wanting to spend a minute longer than necessary on this case, I came straight to the point. I told them Roger Rabbit had hired me to find out why they refused to honor their contractual obligation to star him in a strip of his own.

Rocco chuckled, then scowled, the way a father might when he sees his youngster do something irritating but cute. "Let me explain our position with regard to Roger Rabbit," he said, without the slightest trace of rancor. His precise manner of speech and his six-bit vocabulary gave me quite a surprise. From his looks, I expected Goofy, but got Owen Cantrell, Wall Street lawyer, instead. "My brother Dominick and I signed Roger specifically because we felt he would play well as a foil for Baby Herman. We never made any mention of a solo strip then or since."

Rocco leaned toward me, displaying in the process an impressive array of his stars' merchandising tie-ins–a Superman tie bar, Bullwinkle Moose cufflinks, and a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. "Roger frequently concocts absurd stories such as this one. We tolerate his delusions because of his great popularity with his audience. Roger makes a perfect fall guy, and his fans love him for it. However, he does not have the charisma to carry a strip of his own. We never even considered giving him one. Right, Dominick?"

Dominick's head bounced up and down with the vigor of a spring-necked plastic dog.

Rocco got up, opened a file drawer, and pulled out a sheaf of papers, which he handed to me. "Roger's contract. Read it through. You'll find no mention of a solo strip. And it stipulates a very generous salary, I might add." He closed the drawer and returned to his chair. "We have treated Roger fairly and ethically. He has no reason whatsoever to complain."

I flipped through the contract. It seemed to be in order. "What about the rumor going around that somebody wants to buy out Roger's contract and make him a star?"

Rocco and Dominick exchanged quizzical glances and shrugged more or less in unison. "News to us," said Rocco. "If someone did approach us with an offer for Roger, if it made financial sense, and if Roger wanted to go, we would gladly sell him off. We're not ones to stand in the way of our employees' advancement, and there's certainly no shortage of rabbits to replace him."

He stood and ushered me to the door. "Mister Valiant, I suggest you consider this case closed, and next time get yourself a more mentally stable client."

Sounded reasonable to me.

Chapter 3
I took a few random jogs. The trench coat, broad-brimmed hat, and large sunglasses matched me move for move. A tail.

I picked up my pace, turned a corner, and ducked into a doorway.

Seconds later my tail came around the corner after me.

I let him get three paces past, then jumped him, grabbing his arm. I twisted it behind his back and slammed him against the nearest wall.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" I hissed, applying some persuasive pressure.

"I was only curious about how a real detective operates," read my tail's balloon. "I just thought I'd tag along. Kind of observe from a distance. I'm sorry if I fouled up your modus operandi."

I released my grip, and snatched away the broad-brimmed hat, exposing a set of carefully accordioned eighteen-inch ears.

"Look," I told the rabbit, honing the hat against his concave chest, "when I have something worthwhile to report, I get in touch. Otherwise you stay away from me. Clear?"

The rabbit smoothed out his ears. However, the left one sprang back into a tight clump giving his head the lopsided appearance of a half-straightened paper clip. "Yes, I understand." He fiddled with his ear, fiddled with his sunglasses, fiddled with the buttons on his trench coat, until finally he ran out of externals and began to fiddle with his soul. "My entire life I've wanted to be a detective."

Sure. Him and ten million others. Toon mystery strips suckered them into believing that knights-errant always won. Yeah, maybe Rip Kirby bats a thousand. But I consider it great if I go one for ten. "Forget it," I said. "Besides, I'm not so sure how much longer I'm going to stay on this case." I reported my conversation with the DeGreasys, adding that they'd suggested him as poster boy for the Failing Mental Health Society.

He took it in stride. "I never said they put in writing that bit about me getting my own strip," he countered. "They made the offer verbally, and Rocco repeated it several times since."

"Anybody besides you ever hear him?"

"Sure. He said it once at a photo session in front of Baby Herman and Carol Masters, my photographer. Just ask them. They'll remember. As for my being crazy, yes, I see a psychiatrist, but so do half the Toons in the business. That hardly qualifies me as a full-blown looney."

"I don't know," I said, figuring to cut it off here. "The whole mess sounds like a job for a lawyer."

"Please," the rabbit begged. "Stick with it. I'll double your fee."

Such persuasive words. "All right. You double my fee, and I stay on your case." I turned and walked away. The rabbit plopped his hat into the chasm between his ears and bounded after me, hopping so fast that his word balloons whipped across the top of his head, snapped loose with sharp pings at the base of his neck, and bounced off across the sidewalk. "Let me help you," he said when he caught up with me. "It would mean a great deal to me. Please."

"No way," I stated flatly. "I work alone. Always have, always will." Call me rude, but I say what I mean. If people want sympathy, let them see a priest.

At least he got the message. He did an abrupt about face and shambled away.

Chapter 4
Apparently the strip business paid babies a whole lot better than rabbits.

Baby Herman lived in an honest-to-God, balconied, marble-pillared, stone-lions-at-the-front-gate mansion tucked neatly away in the kind of neighborhood where middle-class rubbernecks ride bicycles on Sunday afternoons.

His place covered nearly enough land to qualify for statehood. The house proper sat far back on the property. A jumbo herd of bib-overalled Toon goat gardeners puttered about the grounds, nibbling back the grass and shrubs.

The ultimate Toon status symbol, a human servant, in this case a butler in full regalia, opened the door. He ushered me through to a den furnished in sophisticated playpen.

A Barcelona chair rested beside a rocking horse. Abstract metal sculptures straddled wobbly towers of alphabet blocks. A fine, post-impressionistic painting hung just above a wooden peg supporting a tatty security blanket, one end well chewed.

Baby Herman, two feet high, wearing only a diaper, and bald save for one dark hair sprouting from the precise center of his crown, sat in a highchair in front of the TV. A good portion of his lunch–strained peas, pureed beef, and applesauce–still clung to his chin and to the tray in front of him.

He was watching his own show, giggling happily every time one of his Toon foils took a clout to the chops.

The butler announced me as Eddie Valiant, private investigator representing Roger Rabbit, then left me and Baby Herman alone.

I had no idea how to proceed. I didn't have much of a way with kids. They generally react to me as they would to the man who shot Bambi's mother.

On the TV screen, a tuxedoed raccoon struggled vainly to extricate himself from the inside of a trombone. Baby Herman laughed uproariously and pounded his tray with a silver spoon, splattering the front of my coat with a fine layer of goo. I steeled myself for a long, hard afternoon.

Just then the butler returned bearing a cigar box, full of robust Havanas. I helped myself. And so, to my surprise, did Baby Herman.

"Kind of young for that stuff, aren't you?" I asked.

"Hah, hah," appeared over Baby Herman's head in the lettering style found on a preschooler's handmade valentine. He lit up and exhaled a cloud that would have done credit to a locomotive. "That's rich. Just how old do you think I am?" When he turned his head so I could examine his profile, he also twisted his word balloon around one hundred and eighty degrees, thus flopping his words into mirror images of themselves.

"I never play guessing games."

"Come on. Just this once. Try."


"OK, then I'll tell you anyway." Baby Herman unsnapped his tray and climbed to the floor where he stood, puffing his cigar, one chubby hand on each hip. "I'm thirty-six. Don't look it, do l?"

I admitted that he didn't.

"Most people guess me between two and four. Of course, most people don't know enough about Toons to realize that some age and some don't."

"And you're one of the lucky ones?"

Baby Herman plopped down on his hind end and zigzagged his fingers across the rug. "Depends on your point of view. Eternal youth isn't everything it's cracked up to be. Imagine going through life eating mush, wearing diapers, and sucking on plastic doodads." He displayed the teething ring hung on a gold chain around his neck. "And women. Need I even mention women? Here I sit with a thirty-six-year-old lust, and a three-year-old dinky."

He climbed aboard his rocking horse and began a bouncy journey to nowhere. "Why does the funny bunny need a detective? He decided to file for divorce? That what you do? Bust into motel rooms and shoot quickie photos of cheating wives?"

An obscene musing encased in a fluffy, cherubic balloon floated above the kid's head. It bobbled around playfully awhile before impaling itself on his single wiry hair, and bursting in a shower of dust that layered his shoulders with the fine powder unknowledgeable humans mistook for dandruff. He immediately conjured up a second image even worse.

"Roger Rabbit has a wife?"

"He did until she left him."

Baby Herman dismounted his rocking horse and waddled out from under his pornographic fantasy. "Jessica Rabbit." His second vision turned to sand and dirtied the carpet behind him. "Gorgeous creature. Does a lot of commercials. Wouldn't mind taking her for a hop myself."

"How long they been split up?"

"I guess two, maybe three, weeks."

"What caused the breakup?"

"How should I know? What do I look like, Mary Worth? I mind my business, let other people mind theirs."

He crawled to the wall and pulled his blanket off its peg. He bundled it around his legs, torso, and head, enveloping himself so completely that only the end of his cigar remained uncovered.

"Confidentially," he whispered from out of the snuggly depths of his blanket, "I hear she left Roger for Rocco DeGreasy."

Rocco DeGreasy and a female Toon rabbit? Sounded ridiculous, but I'd heard of guys with stranger tastes in women. "Actually, I'm not really interested in Roger's wife. I'm investigating Roger's treatment by the DeGreasy syndicate. I understand you heard Rocco promise Roger his own strip."

The blanket bobbed up and down. "Sure. Day before yesterday at a photo session, but only because the bunny was threatening to hit him over the head with his lunch box. It was the first time they'd met since Roger's marital breakup. Roger accused Rocco of putting pressure on Jessica to leave him. Rocco denied it, and Roger went for him. Carol Masters, our photographer, jumped in between them and kept them apart. Rocco came up with that bit about giving Roger his own strip mainly to cool him off, but it didn't work. I never saw Roger so riled. He kept threatening to kill Rocco. Can you imagine that coming from a pussycat like Roger Rabbit? After Carol finally got Roger calmed down, Rocco offered to drive him home. He suggested they could sit down there and discuss their differences rationally until they had them all worked out. A fair and classy guy, that Rocco. Anybody else would have canned Roger on the spot."

"Did Roger and Rocco leave together?"

"No, Roger stormed out of the studio in a huff. Darned inconsiderate of him. We still had half a day's shooting left that we had to cancel. Threw my feeding and naptime schedule into a complete tizzy."

"So Rocco wasn't serious when he offered Roger his own strip."

"Nope. Rocco was scared, plain and simple. When Roger threatened to kill him, I believe he meant it, and Rocco believed it, too."

The butler entered and gave the lumpy blanket a' courtly bow. "Don't forget your two-o'clock photo session, sir."

"Right." Baby Herman unwrapped himself and stood. "I'm doing some baby food spots." He ground his cigar out on the rug. "I sold eight million jars of that junk last year. My wholesome image."

He extended his pudgy arms to Eddie. "Carry me to my limousine?"

Outside, I set him into an infant seat strapped in the right front bucket of a white Mercedes. "Hey, detective," said Baby Herman as I shut the door. "I like you. You come back sometime, and we'll have us a party. I'll supply the funny hats, the cake, and the noisemakers. You supply the broads. Just make sure they go for younger men."

Baby Herman waved bye-bye, and his Mercedes pulled away.

A tough detective tries to clear a cartoon character charged with murder.

Release Date: June 22, 1988
Release Time: 104 minutes

Bob Hoskins - Eddie Valiant
Christopher Lloyd - Judge Doom
Joanna Cassidy - Dolores
Charles Fleischer - Roger Rabbit / Benny The Cab / Greasy / Psycho (voice)
Stubby Kaye - Marvin Acme
Alan Tilvern - R.K. Maroon
Richard LeParmentier - Lt. Santino (as Richard Le Parmentier)
Lou Hirsch - Baby Herman (voice)
Betsy Brantley - Jessica's Performance Model
Joel Silver - Raoul
Paul Springer - Augie
Richard Ridings - Angelo
Edwin Craig - Arthritic Cowboy
Lindsay Holiday - Soldier
Mike Edmonds - Stretch
Morgan Deare - Editor / Gorilla
Danny Capri - Kid #1
Christopher Hollosy - Kid #2
John-Paul Sipla - Kid #3
Laura Frances - Blonde Starlet
Joel Cutrara - Forensic #1
Billy J. Mitchell - Forensic #2
Eric B. Sindon - Mailman
Ed Herlihy - Newscaster
James O'Connell - Conductor
Eugene Gutierrez - Teddy Valiant (as Eugene Guirterrez)
April Winchell - Mrs. Herman (voice)
Mae Questel - Betty Boop (voice)
Mel Blanc - Daffy Duck / Tweety Bird / Bugs Bunny / Sylvester / Porky Pig (voice)
Tony Anselmo - Donald Duck (voice)
Mary T. Radford - Hippo (voice)
Joe Alaskey - Yosemite Sam / Foghorn Leghorn (voice)
David L. Lander - Smart Ass (voice) (as David Lander)
Fred Newman - Stupid (voice)
June Foray - Wheezy / Lena Hyena (voice)
Russi Taylor - Birds / Minnie Mouse (voice)
Les Perkins - Toad (voice)
Richard Williams - Droopy (voice)
Wayne Allwine - Mickey Mouse (voice)
Pat Buttram - Bullet #1 (voice)
Jim Cummings - Bullet #2 (voice)
Jim Gallant - Bullet #3 (voice)
Frank Sinatra - Singing Sword (voice) (archive sound)
Tony Pope - Goofy / Wolf (voice)
Peter Westy - Pinocchio (voice)
Cherry Davis - Woody Woodpecker (voice)

Author Bio:
I wrote my first short story when I was in the third grade. Our teacher told us to write about our summer vacation. I wrote about my trip to the moon! I always did have an over active imagination.

I've gone back to the moon many times since. Also to places in the galaxy far, far beyond that.

I've written many short stories and ten novels.

I'm well known for two kinds of writing. My science fiction novels include Killerbowl, A Generation Removed, The Resurrectionist, Space Vulture an old-school, throwback, pulp science fiction novel which I co-wrote with my childhood friend Catholic Archbishop John J. Myers,, and my newest Typical Day. Hollywood seems to especially enjoy my work. Both Killerbowl and The Resurrectionist are currently in production as major motion pictures.

My other kind of writing isn't as easily categorized. I call it fantasy fiction. I was told early on by a marketing executive at a major publishing house that this kind of writing wouldn't sell. Because there was no place for it on the bookstore shelves. It's not a regular novel, not crime, not science fiction, not romance. I asked him what he would do if he got Gulliver's Travels, The Wizard of Oz, or Alice In Wonderland? He thought for a moment and told me he couldn't sell those either.

Well, he was wrong. My fantasy novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? did indeed get published. It went through sixteen printings. It became a visual reality in Disney/Spielberg's $950 million blockbuster film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film won four Academy Awards and the Hugo Award. Walt Disney Pictures has also purchased film rights to my sequel novel Who P-p-p-plugged Roger Rabbit?

I currently live in Boston but regularly travel around the world.



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