If you're looking to make some money and bring in a steady paycheck, you'd be better off starting a YouTube channel or going on Shark Tank than you would as a private detective…at least if Eddie Valiant is an accurate example of the job.
Eddie fits into the mold your average noir detective. He's gruff, he has a drinking problem, he's struggling to pay the bills, and he has a heart of gold. (The heart is hidden under all that other junk we mentioned, though.)
Eddie buries his heart—and his conscience—when he takes the job to photograph Jessica in a private moment. It seems that Eddie initially got into this job to help people, especially Toons. He didn't become a private eye to spy on personal moments. But he needs the cash, so he snaps a few pics of Jessica playing patty cake. Those snapshots get the ball rolling on the plot, and Eddie's pulled into a situation that otherwise would have nothing to do with him.
The reason Eddie gets involved and stays involved is his conscience. He initially tries to talk himself out of helping Roger:
VALIANT: Ain't my fault the rabbit got himself in trouble. All I did was take a couple of lousy pictures.
Sounds like the Eddie doth protest too much. Because he feels bad, he relents and he helps Roger and ends up saving Toontown in the process. Good thing he didn't bury his conscience as deep as he thought he did.
We imagine Eddie's pretty well off after the end of the movie…but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Throughout the movie, Eddie's poor and downtrodden, sleeping in his office and drinking to forget the tiniest of stresses.
It isn't the gentrification of Los Angeles that's affecting Eddie—although the transit system dilemmas aren't helping matters. Eddie carries a lot of sadness and guilt with him that is hinted at throughout the film.
Eddie borrows Dolores' camera to take pictures of Jessica. When he has the film developed, he sees pictures of his last vacay with Dolores a long, long time ago. But just to the beach, not a galaxy far away. We're not sure why Eddie doesn't spend more time with Dolores, but he probably just doesn't have the time or the money…and his drinking is also probably putting a strain on their relationship.
There's another picture on the roll that triggers bad memories for Eddie: a picture of his brother, Teddy. Yes, the Valiant brothers are Eddie and Teddy. Hold your laughter, please. The man is dead.
We learn during the film that Eddie hates Toons for a specific reason:
DOLORES: Toon killed his brother. […] Dropped a piano on his head.
Eddie never got over this. Maybe he feels responsible for not protecting Teddy. (We were a wreck after our favorite Teddy bear's stuffing came out in the washing machine, so we can't imagine the pain at losing a real person named Teddy.)
Eddie's tried to preserve Teddy's memory by keeping his desk exactly the same. All the objects on it are untouched, and it is covered in a thick layer of dust. But Teddy's memory is holding Eddie back, and Teddy wouldn't have wanted it that way.
Before heading to Toontown, Eddie stops drinking. Actually, he doesn't just stop drinking; he throws his liquor bottle into the air and blows it away with a gunshot. That's one way to quit.
Eddie doesn't express out loud why he quits, so we can only speculate why he goes cold turkey at this exact moment. One reason may be that he is heading to Toontown, where his brother was killed. That makes a man want to drink himself into oblivion, but Eddie needs to be on top of his game.
He needs to have full control over all his senses, or someone else could get hurt. Eddie throws his big vice away to make sure he can keep others safe. By doing that, he lives up to his name: Valiant.
Move over, Bugs Bunny. Step aside, Thumper. And get outta here, White Rabbit—you're always late anyway. Roger Rabbit is the star of this show.
Okay, he's not quite the star. His name may be in the title, but we're giving him second billing. Eddie Valiant is head honcho. Top banana. The big cheese. Roger's the sidekick. The second fiddle. The low bunny on the totem pole.
But he's a loyal-to-the-end low bunny. Check out his response to photos showing his wife canoodling (in the most innocent of ways) with Marvin Acme:
ROGER: Somebody must have made her do it.
That shows us that he trusts his wife. We hope he's right.
But Roger's not just loyal—he's also empathetic. He puts up with a lot of anger from Eddie…who in turn puts up with a lot of annoyance from Roger's constant slapstick. But the two come to know, understand, and even like each other. The moment that cements their friendship is when Eddie confesses to Roger than a Toon killed his brother. Any other Toon might take this opportunity to make a joke, but Roger responds with tender sympathy:
ROGER: No wonder you hate me! If a Toon killed my brother I'd hate me too.
This moment helps Eddie see Roger as more than just a source of non-stop humor. He has a heart and he's not afraid to use it.
Speaking of Roger's heart, Roger's willing to sacrifice himself to save Toontown. In the movie's climax, he marches up to Judge Doom and channels his inner Batman with the following statement:
ROGER: We Toons may act idiotic but we're not stupid. We demand justice.
Roger stands up to Judge Doom at the end not just to save Jessica, but in an attempt to keep all of Toontown out of his clutches. In fact, an early draft of the script actually had Roger sacrificing himself at the end of the movie. (Source)
We're glad he didn't. But he we know he'd give everything to save everything he believes in. That's more than we can say for Bugs Bunny. That rascal only looks after his own cottontail.
Jessica Rabbit. Women want to look like her and men want to be with her. (And let's be real, some men want to look like her and some women want to be with her, too.)
But what's the big appeal?
On the ink and paint surface, Jessica's your typical femme fatale. She's a human Toon with a killer figure that no real human could possibly achieve. Jessica's a straight male fantasy, with a chest out to here and hips out to there and a waist that's in there somewhere. (It's so small, it's hard to find.)
In addition to the killer figure, Jessica might actually be a killer—hence the "fatale" part. She's a suspect in the murder/blackmail of Marvin Acme.
The reason she's a suspect is twofold.
Numero uno: apparently the men in Roger Rabbit don't trust beautiful women. Maybe it's insecurity, but Eddie and Maroon think Jessica is up to something. Maroon offers up the following lines in an attempt to console Roger:
MAROON: Take comfort son. You're not the first man whose wife played patty cake on him.
Also, Eddie just can't understand why Jessica would be with a man…er, a rabbit like Roger. To Eddie, she must have an ulterior motive. Money, perhaps?
Numero dos: money is a factor. It turns out Jessica was being blackmailed by Maroon to set up Acme. Maroon told Jessica that Roger would never work again unless she patty-caked with Acme…so she did it. She put her reputation on the line for Roger. It's sweet and it shows us that she loves him.
In fact, everything Jessica does is motivated by her love for Roger. When the two of them are facing certain death in the face of the Dip, Jessica declares her love for Roger.
JESSICA: Roger, darling. I want you to know I love you. I've loved you more than any woman's ever loved a rabbit.
This is definitely one of Hollywood's greatest love stories.
Jessica is also the speaker of one of the greatest lines in movie history:
JESSICA: I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way.
This line's a direct response to what we mentioned above—men don't trust her because of how she looks. But, to be fair, women don't trust her either. They expect her to steal their man. Dolores falls into this category when she catches Jessica in Eddie's office, and Eddie just happens to have his pants off.
The way Dolores responds shows us she doesn't believe Eddie's pantslessness to be a coincidence:
DOLORES: Ahem! Dabbling in water colors, Eddie?
But it is a coincidence—Eddie had just came out of the bathroom. It definitely looks bad, but Dolores puts almost all the blame on Jessica for tempting the good detective.
Of course, Jessica defies what everyone expects of her by being a good woman and a faithful wife. She also helps Eddie unravel the biggest mystery of the movie. Why does a woman who looks like Jessica love a goofy rabbit like Roger? Before the movie's final chase, Valiant asks Jessica what the deal is with their relationship.
JESSICA: I have to find my darling husband. I'm so worried about him.
VALIANT: Seriously, what do you see in that guy?
JESSICA: He makes me laugh.
It's super sweet, but it also ties into Jessica being the ultimate male fantasy. Jessica lets many men believe that they don't need a supermodel body to snag a woman who has a super bod of her own. You just need a sense of humor.
And maybe some long fuzzy ears.
We feel confident that not even (insert crazy political candidate of your choice) would nominate Judge Doom to the Supreme Court. This guy is crazy. The police officer, Lt. Santino, tells Eddie that Doom "bought the election," which explains how a xenophobic nutcase who advocates punishment by death was able to take public office.
Who knew Roger Rabbit made such a compelling argument for campaign finance reform?
Judge Doom looks a wee bit like Toht (the crazed Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark). And, like Nazis, he has no problem with large-scale, systematic murder. In fact, he wants to wipe Toons off the map with his Dip cannon. You might even say that the Dip would be the "final solution" for Toons…because it's a) a plan of genocide and b) literally a solution of turpentine, acetone, and benzene.
Even if he looked non-creepy and dressed in a less oppressive outfit, Doom would still be evil. This guy probably goes out of his way to kick puppies on the way to work—just watch his glee as he dunks a cute innocent shoe in Dip.
But Judge Doom's a special kind of criminal—he commits heinous acts because of his own self-loathing. Check out his rationale for supporting a Toon death penalty:
JUDGE DOOM: Since I've had Toontown under my jurisdiction my goal has been to reign in the insanity. And the only way to do that is to make Toons respect the law.
He thinks Toons don't respect the law, yet he robbed a bank. He thinks Toons are insane, yet he has no problem killing Toons. And he is a Toon, but he wants to wipe out Toontown.
Judge Doom is crazy dangerous. And dangerously crazy.
Judge Doom hides his identity as a Toon until the film's climax, but if you pay careful attention you can catch some clever foreshadowing.
Remember how Lt. Santino said Doom bought the election? How'd he get that money? The clue is in the story of the Toon who killed Eddie's brother during a bank heist. He got away with the money, and that dirty money funded his shady election.
The other big clue comes when Doom lures Roger out of hiding by tapping the tune to "shave and a haircut" on the walls of the speakeasy. Eddie makes a shrewd observation and doesn't even realize it:
VALIANT: I don't know who's toonier. You or Doom...
Doom knows Toon logic well. A little too well. Takes one to know one.
Dolores is Eddie's Girl Friday. She's got his back, listens to his problems, and helps him out of many a scrape.
But speaking of scrapes—and Fridays—she also knows that there's trouble in Dolores/Eddie paradise. Eddie's a drunk, and he's also broke as a joke:
DOLORES: Tomorrow's Friday Eddie. You know what happens here on Friday?
VALIANT: Fish Special?
DOLORES: No, My boss checks the books on Friday and if I don't have that money I gave you back in the till I'm gonna lose my job.
They're supposed to be in a relationship, but Eddie's business troubles—and booze-related problems—are putting a strain on it. Dolores wants to go on vacation, but Eddie's stuck living in the past. And as we see in this next exchange, Dolores has a sense of humor, and Eddie shoots it down:
DOLORES: So tell me Eddie. Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
VALIANT: Cut the comedy, Dolores. I've had a very hard day.
But just as Jessica and Roger stand up for one another, Dolores always stands up for Eddie. She just has to put up with a lot more in order to do it. The name Dolores means "pain" in Spanish, which is highly appropriate for all the emotional turmoil Eddie puts her through.
Their past must be really good, because we see here that even when Eddie gives her an out, she stays with him:
VALIANT: Dolores, you oughta find yourself a good man.
DOLORES: But I already have a good man.
And she's right. Eddie shapes up by the end of the movie. She saw the good in him when even he couldn't see it himself (it's hard to see straight when you're up to your eyeballs in whiskey). We imagine they'll have a happy future together, and prove her name wrong.
Burpy. Sappy. Goopy. Hungry. Deaffy. Woeful. Sleazy. These are all actual-factual real-deal rejected names for Disney's seven dwarves. (Source)
And we're surprised Robert Zemeckis didn't use these names for the five weasels of the Toon Patrol. Instead they're named Psycho, Greasy, Wheezy, Stupid, and Smart Ass. (You'd never see those names in an official Disney cartoon.)
The Toon Patrol is Doom's muscle, the weaseliest group of weasels who ever weaseled. They're bullies, but mostly so incompetent they're harmless. Most of them stay in the background. Greasy wears a sleazy looking leisure suit that's about two decades out of style, even though the movie takes place in the 1940s. Wheezy has a smoking problem. Stupid has a shirt that's too small and wears a beanie with a propeller. And Psycho laughs like a hyena and wears a straightjacket.
The one with the most personality is Smart Ass, although he's smart in name only. He has a habit of getting words wrong, like in this smarmy line:
SMART ASS: Search the place boys. And leave no stone interned. Look, Valiant. We got a reliable tip off that the rabbit was here. It was corrugated by several others.
And also this one:
SMART ASS: Shall I repose of him right now, boss?
We added the emphasis for words that should be "unturned," "corroborated," and "dispose." There's a Smart Ass in every group—the guy who tries to make use of his Word-a-Day Calendar and always gets it wrong.
Eddie "kills" the Toon Patrol by making them literally die laughing with his comedy routine. (We put "kills" is in quotes because the only thing that can kill a Toon is Dip. Eddie turns the Weasels into little cartoon angels. Mostly harmless on Earth, but we imagine they must be causing a racket in Toon heaven.)
Marvin Acme is like the late, great Billy Mays of the gag world. Remember Billy Mays, the guy who pitched everything from Oxi-Clean to KaBoom? (A great name for an Acme product, btw.)
Acme's the man behind all the greatest cartoon gags: reusable holes, mallets with boxing gloves in them, and his famous disappearing/reappearing ink. Wile E. Coyote alone could keep Acme in business.
But the businessman has a bit of a dark side. He enjoys playing patty cake with another man's wife. That's mostly harmless, right? A victimless crime?
Acme offsets his slightly sleazy side with his philanthropic side. For some reason, Marvin Acme owns Toontown, and he plans on bequeathing it to the Toons in his will. The problem is that he wrote the will in that disappearing/reappearing ink, causing it to be lost for most of the movie. Acme is a guy who never takes anything seriously, and that sometimes brings harm to others.
Baby Herman is a fifty-year-old man who looks like an infant. He's a comic relief character—a baby who smokes stogies—with little depth. He does go to Eddie and defend his good friend Roger. Beneath the baby exterior is a gruff interior, and beneath that is a loyal friend.
You've heard of Big Business and Big Agriculture and Big Tobacco. Maroon is Big Toon. As the head of Maroon Cartoons, he appears to be the boss of all Toons. He cranks out cartoons like China churns out iPhones. And he has no guilt about selling out all of the Toons to make himself richer. What a jerkbag.
Maroon acts like he has the Toons' best interests at heart, but by resorting to blackmail in order to score an advantageous sale for his studio, he empowers Judge Doom to take over Toontown and kill the Toons.
In a movie like this, Maroon ends up getting what's coming to him—and that's a bullet in the back.
Before Uber, before self-driving cars, there was Benny…a cartoon car who not only drives himself, but can get in the driver's seat of an actual car and drive that too. Let's see a Google Car do that.
Benny's another comic relief character, a cab who talks like a rowdy cab driver. He almost exclusively talks in puns:
BENNY: Now that's what I call a couple of road hogs!
Benny is voiced by Charles Fleischer, who also performed as Roger. The real question is, did Fleischer, who dressed as Roger on set, dress as a yellow cab when he voiced Benny?