Charles Fleischer Talks Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, available now on 25th Anniversary Blu-ray
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this week with a brand-new 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, which is in stores now! To celebrate this long-awaited release, we caught up with Roger himself, Mr. Charles Fleischer, to talk about his long history as the man behind the bunny. Charles isn't only a stand-up comedian and actor, he is also a published scientist and inventor who recently did a study on Gamma-Ray bursts for Cornell University. He talks about this, the inspiration behind Roger, and more in our exclusive interview.
Will we see Roger on screen again in the near future? Will Moleeds save mankind? Here is our very interesting conversation with the man of many talents, Charles Fleischer.
Charles Fleischer: What kind of recorder are you using? Are you using your computer?
No, I am using an Olympus digital recorder that I've had for many years now.
Charles Fleischer: Stereo?
Charles Fleischer: Yeah, that's a nice one.
Are you a big recorder enthusiast?
Charles Fleischer: I'm a big technology individual. I love science and technology, and anything that has to do with capturing events so that they can be experienced later.
Which recorder do you use?
Charles Fleischer: I also have the Olympus.
So I'm in good company...
Charles Fleischer: I knew that before you answered the phone.
First things first, I've heard a rumor that Mickey Mouse and Roger are getting back together for a remake of the old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movie the Stooge. Is there any truth to that?
Charles Fleischer: I would say the key word of the phrase you just used is rumor. Yes. Its unsubstantiated, and I would say that any sequel that occurs will more than likely involve Robert Zemeckis. Definitely. Though, I'm not an executive at Disney Studios. I would wager to say that is more than a rumor. I would say that it's closer to a fabrication. But you never know. That's why they call it a rooooo-maahr!
That rumor came from the writer of the original book...
Charles Fleischer: Gary K. Wolf. Yes. He did...But I would say, what isn't a rumor is the Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, which is available right now! That is not only important because it represents Roger on his 25th Anniversary, in eye-popping color, but it also includes the three shorts that were released subsequently as the openers for Dick Tracy, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Out of Africa.
Yes, I remember all of those shorts. That was the only reason I went to see Honey I Shrunk the Kids in the theater, because of the short.
Charles Fleischer: I think you may have hurt Rick Moranis' feelings a little bit, but I'll certainly let him know that nothing personal was intended.
Its what got me into the theater. I didn't say I hated the movie. Honey I Shrunk the Kids was a kid's movie, though I think the first one is quite brilliant.
Charles Fleischer: I take nothing you've said as a slam. I appreciate that you did modify that statement to soften the blow, for people who might say, "What? He didn't like Honey I Shrunk the Kids?" But its good to know Roger was a calling card for you. Hopefully it will be for others. Not just for this release, but to also open their eyes about the things that happened in the past.
What was the evolution of the voices, in terms of both Benny and Roger? I have to imagine Benny was a little more easy to find...
Charles Fleischer: Easy is an interesting word. When you are an artist, you want your audience to think it's effortless and easy. Roger was, of course, the first, and I used a process that is similar to any actor preparing for a role. Its based on reading the script, and indicated by what he says and does. That is an indication of who he is. On top of that, I had to factor in the visual appearance of what Roger Rabbit looked like. So the voice would match up. If he were really large, a high, squeaky voice would not be affective. If he were tiny, a really deep voice wouldn't work. So, combining those, and throwing in a speech impediment were the chief aspects of finding that. Combining all of those things, you come up with a voice. With the cab and the two weasels, that took place after principle photography had already been done. Knowing what the characters look like, you just come up with something, and Robert Zemeckis says, "Yup." "Nope." Or, "Okay, lets do that one."
So it was just like that? He knew the right voice as soon as he heard it...
Charles Fleischer: For Psycho, Greasy, and Benny the Cab? I would say yeah. Robert Zemeckis is a genius filmmaker who is an amazing individual. I feel really blessed that I've gotten to work with him on many different occasions. Like any director, you present an idea. They can shoot it down, or say, "What else you got?" I came up with something, and he liked it, and now you can check it out on the Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, available now!
When I used the word easy, I wasn't implying that it was easy for you to find these voices. I meant that Benny, to me, seems like he may have been easier, just because we all kind of have a similar idea about what a cab sounds like...
Charles Fleischer: Yeah, that makes sense. I don't think we've heard cabs talk too much, but I guess that could be true. I mean, I suppose who you are talking too, and how many talking cabs they've played. But once you've done something, any struggle that has occurred in achieving it is nullified. It's all easy, yet it's complicated and difficult. If that sounds somewhat oxymoronic, that is intentional.
Roger Rabbit came out at a time where I was just starting to learn how films are made. And I remember following the film throughout production, learning about all of these new things that were being done in terms of special effects and film technology. Even though, back then, we didn't have the Internet. I remember going to the bookstore, and flipping through magazines, and I would see pictures of you in costume, on set. I would have to think this is the first time an actor was on set to perform an animated character. Right? I mean, we see that all the time now, with motion capture, but this was the first step towards that...
Charles Fleischer: I think you are correct. Motion capture is a different technology entirely. The fact that it was live action and animation, and the time factor, I had to be there. So I could record my voice opposite Bob Hoskins, so the animators could start working on it. Bob Hoskins needed something to act with. In other occasions that had been similar, other people would stand off to the side, read the lines, and that voice would be filled in later. I think Roger Rabbit was important in popularizing the whole genre of animation. Prior to this, there were a lot of animators that were out of work. After this, it became more expensive and difficult to hire animators.
The whole process set in motion what we see happening today with motion capture, am I wrong?
Charles Fleischer: Robert Zemeckis has always been a ground breaker in everything he has done. From Back to The Future on, he always likes to use the tools. If you think about it, its all science, and film is technology as well. We have to capture people moving around. Now we have to add sound to that. What type of new technology can we use to enhance your storytelling. That is what makes Robert Zemeckis such a genius guy. He doesn't just use it as a bell or a whistle. It is something he uses to enhance the story telling, he uses this as a grid.
Was Kathleen Turner on set with you guys as well?
Charles Fleischer: No, at the time, a woman named Betsy Brantley was providing the voice for Jessica, on set. Yes, sir.
What about dressing in costume as Roger? Was that your choice? Was that just for publicity reasons?
Charles Fleischer: Oh, no. I asked the costume lady if she could make me a Roger Rabbit suit. When you have a job as an actor, you go to set and you put on your costume. Its part of the transformation process, I think. It just made sense. If I'm going to be on set all day, I might as well have a costume. It made sense to have them make me a Roger Rabbit suit. It turned out to be quite effective, especially for Bob Hoskins, who later thanked me, because it helped in his process of visualizing Roger.
It was a pretty big deal back in the day when they released the cast, that you would be playing Roger, and Bob Hoskins was Eddie Haskell...Wait, am I saying that right?
Charles Fleischer: Eddie Valiant...
Wait, Eddie Haskell is someone from Leave It To Beaver...
Charles Fleischer: Yes, with the great Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver...
Sorry, getting off track...I wanted to know, you weren't exactly a household name when you were announced as the voice of Roger...Was Robert Zemeckis a fan of your comedy before hiring you for the lead?
Charles Fleischer: You are correct, sir! He saw me doing stand-up prior to Roger Rabbit, and he brought me in to help audition Eddie Valiant, or Eddie Haskell, which...Isn't quite as good a name as Valiant, cause Haskell is a hassle...Yeah, he saw me do my set, which I still do. I do lots of different characters and I do some things that are more or less surreal. Robert Zemeckis liked that, so he brought me into do Roger.
Did you find any little tricks in creating the voice that wouldn't allow for another performer to come in and mimic the voice? Its like Mel Blanc and the Looney Tunes after he died, I know its not him. I think I would be able to tell if anyone but you were doing the voice of Roger...
Charles Fleischer: I think you are correct. Certainly I didn't do anything consciously, like I'm going to put a little time stamp on it. But I do think that anything that comes from your soul, and the depths of your being, are going to be marked with that thing that is distinctively, and unique individual. I do think there was some kind of soul transfer. More than any character I have ever played on camera or off camera, Roger is closer to the essence of who I am....Just making people laugh. I do that for a living. Its like taking the handcuffs off...I could do that at any time, but I only do it when it's funny. Jessica loved Roger because he made her laugh. I really related to the character of Roger. You don't have to relate to any character. For instance, in the film Zodiac, directed by David Fincher, the character I played in that isn't anything like who I am. But as an actor, that's what you do. You find something interesting to bring to the character.
It's funny that you bring up that movie. You're so great in that movie...
Charles Fleischer: Well, thank you! It was definitely a chance to allow me to come out and say, "Look, I'm an actor! I'm not just a rabbit!"
That is a very underrated movie...Or, rather, under-seen, I should say...
Charles Fleischer: I think it will pass the test of time.
I know one of the reasons we never saw a sequel was because hand-drawn animation fell out there for a while, and everything became CGI. Do you think we might see more shorts in the future?
Charles Fleischer: As to why that happened, I couldn't give you an explanation for that, because I am not presently employed at Disney Studios. I couldn't tell you if more shorts will ever happen. I welcome that happening, but I don't have any specifics on that. It's not within my realm. Something that is in my realm, and may give you a different spin on who I am...My love of science! I have invented things that I have a patent on, and recently I made a discovery in something called Gamma-Ray bursts. I wrote a paper that has been published on the Cornell University website. To get on the site, you have to be endorsed by published scientists. And a high energy astrophysicist endorsed me. I have made a discovery, and the paper is there for the world to see. () if I am correct, that will definitely help promote the Roger Rabbit violet ray. Which will occur sometime between now and when it appears.
Are you teasing me?
Charles Fleischer: Well, the violet ray is...
I know what the violet ray is, its on this new Blu-ray, right?
Charles Fleischer: No, but it will be around. And I am very serious about my Gamma-Ray paper. And if you want any follow-ups, the Disney people can send you links. It's an actual scientific paper that I have written, and it has to do with Gamma-Ray bursts, which is the largest display of energy in the universe. They are thought to be random, but what I did was look at them sequentially, and connect them sequentially, and examine the angles created by sequential linking. If they were truly random, you would expect the angles to go from 1 to 180. But they skew lower. That, and other things that I won't discuss presently, allows me to present a hypothesis that they are not random.
Does this tie into what scientists have recently said about the fact that we are all living in a simulated computer program, a matrix? That there are no random events in this universe?
Charles Fleischer: When you say the word Matrix, are you talking about the movie? Matrix and the word pattern come from the word mother and father, pattern and matrix...But I'm not sure what you are talking about in terms of the matrix...
I'm talking about the science paper that just came out that claims to prove we are living in a simulation.
Charles Fleischer: Well, there have been many. There is one guy that describes us living in a mathematical universe. There are certainly some truths in that...
This paper I am talking about claims to have found a grid in the layout of the universe. I don't know any of the names involved. I guess I should do more research, but it was all over the news in the last month.
Charles Fleischer: I'm not specifically familiar with it, but you can certainly check out my paper and draw your own conclusions. I present a valid scientific paper following the procedures utilized by scientists everywhere. The fact that I'm not a part of the scientific community would make some of the scientists somewhat reluctant to accept my findings. Even if I were a member of the scientific community, anything that is slightly new or different is frown upon, originally. That is a historic, scientific fact. But you should definitely check it out. As I said earlier, the Disney press people are efficient and delightful, and they will provide you with any links you need, regarding that or my mathematical discovery, which I call Moleeds.
Yes, I can find the paper at Cornell University. I'll definitely look into it. It sounds interesting...
Charles Fleischer: It is interesting. How many cartoon rabbits have made a scientific discovery that could change science?
No other rabbits that I can think of...
Charles Fleischer: Paul Winchell, he did something with an artificial heart. Hedy Lamarr helped come up with a coding system that was used in WWII. Prince has a patent on a guitar.
Those aren't rabbits...
Charles Fleischer: Its unprecedented. But certainly presents a new view. Regarding my scientific view, that love is for real. I have never had a problem combining science and comedy, it intermingles, because I am definitely a scientific, comedic person. Its great, too, because Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is definitely a combination of comedy and science. Just the fact that it's on Blu-ray now, that's science. Movies themselves are a combination of all the arts. You have costume design, photography, painting, it's writing, it's a convergence. That is part of my compassion...
And the violet ray...
Charles Fleischer: Well, the violet ray hasn't come out yet, but that is just a matter of time. We're not talking about 8 track.
Am I confused? I thought the violet ray you were talking about was already available on this new DVD...
Charles Fleischer: No, that is Blu-ray...
Uh-uh...They have violet rays, it makes your movie accessible in the cloud...
Charles Fleischer: The violet ray isn't developed yet. Violet is a higher frequency than blue, the wavelengths are shorter, which allows for more data to be compiled on the medium. So I am empathetically about the violet ray. But the Blu-ray is available March 12th.
Then what am I thinking about...What is this Ultra-Violet that is on there?
Charles Fleischer: I don't know anything about Ultra-Violet, that is just in the spectrum. There is visible light, and then above red, there is infrared, and above that there is violet, and then ultra-violet, and then x-ray, and then Gamma-Ray, and Gamma-ray Bursts, which go back to my discovery, so you just allowed me to do a very swift blend...
Just to let you know, ultra-violet does exist on the DVD.
Disney Rep: We don't actually have that on this particular Blu-ray. You mean the digital copy.
Charles Fleischer: Are you talking about something that allows you to hook up with the Internet?
I don't know. It allows you to stream your movie in a data cloud. But what you're telling me is, after we get Blu-ray, we're going to get Violet-Ray. That's where we're headed.
Charles Fleischer: Yes. I was thinking in the hypothetical, as to sometime in the future. It is an advancement in data compression.
So maybe with the 50th anniversary of Roger Rabbit, we'll see that.
Charles Fleischer: I think it will be before that. Definitely. Information is changing every nano-second.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this week with a brand-new 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, available in stores now.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released June 21st, 1988 and stars Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Alan Tilvern, Richard LeParmentier, Lou Hirsch. The film is directed by Robert Zemeckis.