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DVDTalk Interview - Charles Fleischer - Roger Rabbit
by Phillip Duncan

DVDTalk Interview - Charles Fleischer - Roger Rabbit

With a background in stand-up comedy, actor/comedian Charles Fleischer brought a unique personality to the voice of Roger Rabbit and can be partially credited for the immense success of the character. On the film’s 20th Anniversary, Disney has given this modern day classic the release it deserves in a special 2-disc Vista Series edition. DVDTalk writer Phillip Duncan had the chance to talk with Fleischer about the film’s success and what exactly it takes to be one of the most popular cartoon characters of the past decade.

With your background being mainly in stand-up comedy, how did you get involved with and cast as the voice of Roger Rabbit?

The director Bob Zemeckis had seen me do my stand-up act at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles and remembered me and brought me in about eight years later to actually do the voice. Audio Link Hear the response...

He must have seen something in that performance?

He enjoyed it and was perhaps was able to sense that I had the chops to create the kind of characters that he wanted and a personality to infuse a certain amount of comedic sensibility into it. Audio Link Hear the response...

Charles Fleischer

How involved were you in creating the character? How much was scripted and how much were you able to bring to the role?

It was all scripted, but there were parts where I would come up with an idea that if they liked it they would let me use it. It was certainly all scripted, but oftentimes you can embellish on or bring something new to it, if it’s good, they’ll let you use it; if it’s not, they won’t. Audio Link Hear the response...

You’ve done a lot of acting, as well as voice-over work. Which do you enjoy more?

I enjoy all the aspects of performance. Roger was an unusual voice role because my work was recorded live everyday on set while the other actors did their performances. Most traditional animation voice-overs are done in a studio someplace into a microphone. Audio Link Hear the response...

You performed several voices in the film, how do you create individual performances and voices for all of them?

Basically you have two things to work with. One is what the character looks like…(interruption)...as I said, the size and shape of the character determine the pitch and tone of the voice and the material written determines the personality and attitude. A combination of those two things form the parameters into which you infuse whatever your talents might be. Audio Link Hear the response...

Did you approach the role differently since your were on set?

No, it was more like any other character I would create. The only difference was they asked me to come up with a speech impediment, which is not something I usually get. Audio Link Hear the response...

The Voice-Actors on set

What was the reasoning behind that?

Well, most great cartoon characters have some kind of speech impediment.

That’s true…

So, it’s keeping with tradition. That’s what they asked, that’s what they got. Audio Link Hear the response...

Were there any particular challenges to this film?

Well, doing a voice is always slightly different because when you appear in a film you can rely upon your physical appearance to communicate things. Often less is more, where you’re thinking something and it shows up and people read that. Where if you’re doing a voice, it has to be in that performance and that is a challenge in itself. Certainly that can make work exciting and feel like your doing it. Audio Link Hear the response...

At the time the film was made, most of the effects were done physically, instead of on a computer. Did that present any problems?

There was a time I recall when Bob Hoskins had the wrong eye-line. He wasn’t looking at where Roger was supposed to be, so the animators stretched Roger up so he was in the same place Hoskins was looking. They were getting out of the car and about to go up to Maroon’s office, you can see Roger kind of stretch up. They may have referenced that on some of the extras that are on the DVD, including the cartoon shorts that we did. I hosted a little documentary about how we made the movie and of course there are commentaries from all of the participants. Audio Link Hear the response...

Charles Fleischer in costume

Did you enjoy going back and looking at the film again?

I’ve always been fascinated by the magic that they utilize to create this. Bob Zemeckis is just a unique and incredible talent. When he gets and has something, he makes it incredible. Audio Link Hear the response...

Looking back at the film, what do you think made it so unique at the time? Was it the technology or a combination of other things?

Well, I would say more than technology, it was human ingenuity and artistry, not that technology doesn't involve human ingenuity. It was the talents of Bob Zemeckis, Richie WIlliams and all the writers and everyone who was involved, Ken Ralston at ILM, the special effects superviser, Joanna Johnson, the costume lady, everyone that was involved in the movie was top drawer talent. When you get all of those people working together with one goal, you get something as extraordinary as Roger Rabbit is. Audio Link Hear the response...

Do you think the success of Roger Rabbit could be repeated now with computer technology? It would make the process easier, but perhaps part of the success of the film came from the physical effects.

I don't think it could ever be repeated but I certainly they could do a sequel to it and it could have a whole other aspect to it, especially at this time. Audio Link Hear the response...

Menu on the 2nd DVD

From your background in stand-up, how did you get started in film?

I went to college for two years and did some plays. I studied at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, while there I started working in night clubs doing comedy. There weren’t really comedy clubs in those days. I just worked in Folk clubs in-between folk singers. After I finished Goodman I moved to Los Angeles. I started to working in comedy clubs and going out to audition for roles in TV and movies. Audio Link Hear the response...

Are you still active in stand-up?

Yeah. When I’m in Los Angeles I work in the comedy store and I drive around the country. What city are you in? Nashville? Right? I’ve worked in Zanies. But I travel around and go where they want me. Audio Link Hear the response...

I looked for a schedule and found your website (http://www.monkeydog.com) and the only thing active on it was the insult generator.

My links have been down. I’ve been traveling around and I haven’t been in touch with my web people. My insult engine is still very active. I actually did a show here in San Francisco yesterday that went out around the globe I guess, because I had a lot of hits that closed down a lot of the other servers. Audio Link Hear the response...

I played around with the insult engine a bit.

Did you send an insult to anyone?

No, I kept generating the dirty ones.

Just so you know, when you send an insult, they don’t know who it’s from.

Oh really, I didn’t know that. I’ll have to go back and send a couple then. If it’s totally anonymous, there we go.

There you go. They’re always different too. Audio Link Hear the response...

That’s about all we have, so thanks for talking to us.

Thank you for helping promote the DVD and the next time I get to Nashville maybe I hope I could get to meet you. Audio Link Hear the response...

We’ll definitely do that, thanks.

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