Like all goodhearted people, I grew up watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a groundbreaking motion picture about a private detective (Bob Hoskins) embroiled in a film noir murder mystery in which the patsy… was a cartoon. That cartoon was Roger Rabbit, an all-new character created for the film, who resided in Toon Town, the home of such famous cartoons as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, who appeared on camera together for the very first time in Robert Zemecki's genrebending smash. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is 25 years old this year, and to celebrate, it's coming to Blu-ray today with all-new special features, and I got to talk to Charles Fleischer, the voice of Roger Rabbit himself, but also several other characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, including Benny the Cab and two of the weasels who menace Hoskins and Fleischer throughout the film.
Charles Fleischer is quite the character, hamming it up throughout the interview, but I was able to get him to talk seriously about the origins of the character, Roger Rabbit's signature speech impediment, the other actors who tested opposite Fleischer to play Eddie Valiant before Bob Hoskins got the gig, the ever-rumored Roger Rabbit 2, Fleischer's memorable live-action role in Zodiac and, surprisingly, Charles Fleischer's recently published scientific theory, which could very well change the way we look at gamma ray bursts forever. Yes, really.
CraveOnline: I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit again the other day, and it is still just so amazing…
Charles Fleischer: Thank you very much. And the Blu-ray is amazing for some reasons. Obviously the enhancement of the video and eye-popping color, in addition to which, the inclusion of the three shorts which appeared Dick Tracy and Honey I Shrunk the Kids: “Tummy Trouble,” [and “Roller Coaster Rabbit” and “Trail Mix-Up]. Those are also on the [Blu-ray]. So it’s a pretty extraordinary entertainment package.
I remember all of those in theaters. Were originally part of the deal? Did they sign you up for those when you started doing Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or only after it was a hit?
No, originally I don’t think they knew that they were going to do that, but after the initial success of the movie it occurred to them that they could continue to do that to in some ways reinforce what was, once, a staple of the entertainment industry, where you go to see a feature film but before there would be a cartoon short. In the same way that [Who Framed Roger Rabbit] started, with a cartoon. So they did three of those, and each one of them is on the Blu-ray release. It’s actually a Blu-ray/DVD release, so if you don’t have a Blu-ray player yet, you can get this, and when you get it you can hook it up.
Alright! We’re buying it already!
Well, you know. I’m not pushing it on anyone. I’m just letting people know! If they wish to partake of this, on March the 12th…
It would be a good opportunity.
Do you remember the first conversation you had about voicing Roger Rabbit? What were they first concerned about, or your thoughts on the character?
Well, the first, I got a call from Reuben Cannon, who was a casting director, to come in and do an off-camera voice for the audition process for the Eddie Valiant character. I did that for several different actors and began to develop an idea of what Roger would sound like, and then [Robert] Zemeckis asked me if I wanted to do it, and then they showed me the animation test of what Roger looked like and how he walked. And then we had to develop the voice, and they told me they wanted a speech impediment, because all great cartoons have speech impediments. First they wanted to include some kind of a whistling, like a whistling lisp kind of deal, and then I came up with the “P-p-p-p-p-please!” and actually filmed me doing that so they can figure out how to animated Roger doing that.
What do you call that? Are you rolling your P’s?
There is not really a technical name because I don’t think it had existed. But it’s a cheek flutter, where when I saw “P” I [flutters cheek], I vibrate my cheek so that it causes the modulation in the tonality. But if you want to give it a name now, let’s come up with “Pondohoga.”
How do you spell that?
P-o-n-d-o-h-og-a. Pondahoga! It’s a derivative of “pondohogaluca,” which is Hindustani word for “Cheek Flutter.”
Good to know. I’m going to be double-checking that. [EDITOR’S NOTE: I did. It’s a joke.] When you flutter your cheek, do you do that by yourself? I wish I could see you. Are you using your hand?
No, there’s no hands involved in this situation, sir. To give you proof of that, I’ll clap. [Pondohogas while clapping.] That was a demonstation of my live-time real skill.