When Paul Reubens Was Roger Rabbit?

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It may be a classic blockbuster, now, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit? actually languished through development hell throughout the early 80s.

A recently-rediscovered segment from the Disney Channel features a visit into the production offices of a earlier version of the movie, with a totally different crew and cast. Most notably, the 1983 clip shows off test footage with the voice of Paul Reubens (when he was still being considered for the role of Roger). Watch on, and see what might have been.

Fun fact: Reubens recorded this after his first Pee-wee Herman special on HBO, but before the release of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The latter, of course, was directed by Tim Burton, and in ’83, he was still an animator working at Disney. Maybe the two first crossed paths around here?

The clips also feature a very urbane Baby Herman, a vampish Jessica Rabbit who looks much more like Veronica Lake, and the hard-nosed cop, Captain Cleaver (an antagonist for Eddie Valiant who more-or-less evolved in Judge Doom). If it all seems like a darker angle on the plot, that’s because this iteration hewed a bit closer to Gary K. Wolf’s original novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

Vastly different from the final film, the book happens in a contemporary setting with comic strip characters instead of cartoon movie stars. The toons literally speak in word balloons, often just leaving them behind; and one balloon becomes an important piece of evidence at the scene of Roger Rabbit’s murder. Yes, that actually occurs in an early chapterand it’s Roger himself who hires Eddie to solve the case. If this segment seems intriguing, then the book is definitely worthwhile to dig up. It’s like a nightmare inversion of the movie, in the best way possible.

Would you like to have seen Reubens in this role? What other early castings in classic movies have always intrigued you? Share your thoughts in the talkback below.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros

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