Who Censored Roger Rabbit Was Darker & Way More Twisted Than The Disney Film

Touchstone Pictures' "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is not exactly a chipper film. Despite it being a blend of live-action and hand-drawn animation, much like Warner Bros.' "Space Jam" franchise, the Robert Zemeckis project satirizes noir murder mysteries and that's not a genre well known for its giggles. Please don't misunderstand — the 1988 film is absolutely a comedy but it also features animated characters pleading for their lives as they're slowly lowered into a lethal vat of toxic ooze, so there's that. Here's the real kicker, though, because "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is still somehow infinitely cheerier than its source material.

The film is based on Gary K. Wolf's novel "Who Censored Roger Rabbit?" Immediately, attentive readers will note a minor change in titles. But that's not where the variations end. In fact, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Who Censored Roger Rabbit" are drastically different narratives and Wolf's book is unquestionably darker. There's no love lost between Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner, Amy Irving) and Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer) on the page, even though their on-screen romance is built of sturdier stuff. In fact, the cause of their estrangement is key evidence for finger-wagging during the plethora of murders that take place, many of which occur because Wolf forgot to write a hero in his book. 

Private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) might be the protagonist ... but he's no hero. Some of his nastiest choices are given to Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), a character that Zemeckis created from whole cloth in the film adaptation because it's really hard to root for a vicious killer. Don't expect anything better from Roger, though, because he's got just as much blood on his hands, even if he's technically dead. There's a lot to unpack with this one, isn't there? 

Censored and Framed are literally different stories

Let's break it down side by side. The plot of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" sees private detective Eddie Valiant join forces with celebrity toon Roger Rabbit to save the animated bunny from rotting in prison for a murder he did not commit. Conversely, "Who Censored Roger Rabbit" sees Valiant join forces with a second-rate comic strip talent. And it's not even the real second-rate comic strip talent because 2D performers can create clones of themselves ... don't ask. Onscreen, wacky shenanigans ensue and Jessica Rabbit helps Valiant clear her dopey husband's name. On the page, she's a golddigger who's happily estranged from Roger. She might be a greedy jerk but Roger does kill her new lover, so who's the real villain here? 

The film adaptation goes on to feature delightful cameos from popular characters like Betty Boop, Donald and Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Bugs Bunny. The book goes on to feature a malicious genie who kills Roger out of sheer irritation. When Book Valiant discovers the genie's crime, he dissolves the genie in salt water. If that feels reminiscent of Judge Doom's method for murdering the helpless shoe creature, well, we're pretty sure that's where Robert Zemeckis got the idea for the film. Speaking of, the film sees Roger cleared of all charges and reunited with his love. The book sees Roger's clone confess to Roger's crimes, shortly before disintegrating, because that's just something that clones do.

Surprisingly, Wolf loves the film! In an early 2010s Reddit AMA, he said, "I considered ["Censored"] to be unfilmable ... Then [Steven] Spielberg and Bob Zemeckis got involved ... I don't begrudge anything they did to make that happen ... I'm delighted with the result." And so are we, Mr. Wolf. So are we.