Roger Rabbit is one of those movies from my childhood that I absolutely love to watch well into my adulthood. As I get older, I find that I have a better appreciation for the movie; the mechanics of merging that much live action and animation together, the humor (both blatant cartoon and subtle adult humor), and the throwback to the detective/film noir era of Hollywood. But I also noticed that I pick up on certain things that I didn’t when I was younger. When I sat down and watched this movie with my son, I realized that there were subtle hints to Judge Doom’s real identity sprinkled through out the movie, particularly in the beginning, that went way over my head when I was kid.
Considering that this movie came out in 1988, I don’t think a Spoiler warning is really necessary, but in case there are some on here who haven’t seen this movie, there are spoilers from this point forward.
Anyone who has seen this movie probably remembers how they felt the first time they watched it and discovered that Judge Doom (played beautifully by Christopher Lloyd) was a toon wearing a disguise. The entire movie revolves around Doom’s plan to take ownership of Toon Town and wipe it off the face of the Earth. The land on which Toon Town exists would then be used to build a freeway (a new concept in 1947 Los Angeles), lined with billboards, gas stations, car dealerships, etc. It is up to Detective Eddie Valiant to clear the name of toon Roger Rabbit and expose the plot of the villain. In the end, we find out that Doom was an evil toon who had no qualms about eliminating the other toons for his own personal gain.
From the beginning of the movie there are hints of Judge Doom really is. We first meet Doom at the ACME factory, where Marvin Acme was murdered (Roger Rabbit was framed for this murder). During the scene Doom’s henchmen, the Weasels, show up and in the back of their van is a barrel of DIP (a mixture of Turpentine, Acetone, and Benzine…all known paint thinners), the only known substance that can kill a toon (of which Doom “discovered”). Doom puts on a heavy, rubber glove and picks up a stray toon shoe and proceeds to dip the toon into the DIP. Besides the horrifying screaming that probably traumatized some kids in theaters (remember, this is a Disney movie released through their Touchtone Pictures studio), it is the fact that Doom wore such a heavy glove that is the first hint of who he is. Near the end of the movie, Eddie Valiant comes into contact with DIP and we see that it has absolutely no effect on humans. If Doom had been human, he wouldn’t have needed to put on the glove.
During the DIP scene at the ACME Factory, Eddie asks Lieutenant Santino (played by Richard LeParmentier…the Imperial that Darth Vader chokes on the Death Star), how Doom became a judge. Santino tells him that the judge bought the election by spreading out a ton of simoleons a few years back. We later find out that the toon that killed Eddie’s brother had robbed the Bank of Toon Town, stealing a large number of simoleons. It was during that pursuit that the culprit dropped a piano on Eddie and his brother.
Which brings us to the next connection. The method in which Marvin Acme was killed, a safe dropped on his head, is eerily similar to the method in which Eddie’s brother, Teddy, was killed during the pursuit of the toon that robbed the Bank of Toon Town.
The next hint of Doom’s real identity is during the bar scene after Eddie and Roger go there to hide. The first hint in that scene is the “shave and a haircut” bit. One could argue that Doom’s experience as a judge bringing toons to justice would explain how he knew that trick would work so well in getting Roger to reveal himself. But the fact that Doom was a toon would give him intimate knowledge of toons that most humans wouldn’t think about. The biggest hint during that scene though is when Eddie tips over the barrel of DIP. As the bar patrons scramble to back out of the way of the liquid (a standard response), Judge Doom looks a bit more afraid than everyone else as he scrambles to get away from the liquid.
After that, Doom is absent for a good portion of the movie. He is back on screen after Jessica Rabbit saves Eddie’s life in Toon Town. It is then that we learn that Doom killed R. K. Maroon and Marvin Acme and the motivations behind Doom’s actions. During the climax of the movie, Doom is run over by a steam roller and is revealed to be a toon wearing a disguise. He is killed during the final fight when Eddie releases the DIP from the dipping machine.
Roger Rabbit was one of those rare movies that is just so good, that you can enjoy both as a child and as an adult. It has so many things in it; Easter Eggs, little nods to film history and fantastic performances by the cast. It’s definitely one of those movies that should be in everyone’s film library.
I swear it’s not me
one of my favorites from the late 80’s
Roger Rabbit was a staple of my childhood movie watching. It was a family watched that we all enjoyed.
Dat Jessica rabbit moment tho…Amirite?
It won’t be long before it gets cancelled, edited, censored, and then remade.
Yeah, Baron Von Rotten is a creepy evil toon. I’ve always been curious what he looked like in his full toon form. We all know he has red eyes. But I’m guessing the rest of his body is yellow because the weapons he formed out of his hand were yellow and after he melts in the DIP the liquid is a yellowish color.
Christopher Lloyd played Baron Von Rotten aka Judge Doom and Lloyd played Doc Brown. So imagine if when Doom turned his hand into a saw and he said:
“When my buzz saw hits 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some real shit”.
Just for the record I didn’t come up with that. Someone else did but I thought it was funny.
It was one if not only time all the major cartoon studios allowed their characters in one movie.
That in itself is worth mentioning.
That we got the famous piano scene with Daffy and Donald Duck is PRICELESS, IMO.
Roger Rabbit is a great film and still is. The first time seeing the film was at my grandmother’s house on VHS and now owning it on DVD. Loved the whole scene when Eddie Valiant went into the tunnel to get to Toon Town and everything is so brightly colored and wacky always something happening in the scene. The elevator scene with Droopy “Going up sir” so good and of course the falling off the building with Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse “Whatever you say doc, here’s the spare” lol. Christopher Lloyd did great playing Judge Doom pulled off the character very well just the all black outfit and a hint of wind to move the clothes fit well into the character being menacing plus the dark music topping it off with him holding a cane showing fear without him talking in some scenes. Like the Toon Patrol the Weasels working for the Judge and the truth is can’t really pick a favorite weasel out of the three they are all great in their own way. Of course can’t forget Jessica Rabbit *turns red and loosens collar around the neck* need I say more lol great introduction scene and song for her character.