Even though the mermaid from Splash didn't get her signature saloon with a tail-swinging neon sign, the idea may have inspired what we know as the Jessica Rabbit store. Let's take a closer look at the area of Pleasure Island where Jessica's was located, the building, brochure maps and what it was like for Jessica Rabbit creator, Gary K. Wolf, to see his character's very own store.
Toontown's favorite torch singer presents her "Boutique Collection," including accessories, gifts and movie-inspired items.
The logo was simply Jessica's signature and iconic lips, something that was used many times throughout the store and merchandise. Directly above the entrance was the famous Jessica Rabbit neon sign. I interviewed artist Mark Marderosian in 2008 about its creation and design:
[An] important piece to the Jessica's store to discuss, the neon Jessica Rabbit sign which became an icon in Pleasure Island for some 15 years. There are many Jessica fans and animation enthusiasts who never got to enjoy its original purpose, being part of her very own store. Can you tell me how you created this legendary pose?
I did a drawing of Jessica reclining on her back, looking at the viewer with both legs curled up. Just for the hell of it, I faxed it over to Mark [Seppala]. He came back and said, "Whew! We can't use that, especially with that pose, but it's a great drawing." The very next drawing I did was Jessica leaning against a stool with one arm behind her head, legs crossed. I submitted it and Mark said, "That's it! That drawing and her face is Jessica to me!" I then inked it by hand at a large size, about 2' by 2' without a single spot of white-out or exacto blade scrapping. I sent the original over and the inking sealed it. We cut the stool out, blew it up and it became the art for the large sign.
The sign also featured real sequins on her dress and the famous swinging leg. Who came up with that idea?
Once I drew the pose of her with her legs crossed, someone at Disney Merchandise had the great idea of not just making it the sign, but putting the gears in and having her leg swing back and forth. Just seemed a natural given my pose.
The Jessica sign was also two-sided, so that if you were approaching from the east you would see Jessica's back on the opposite side of the building. The whole sign was outlined with purple neon and looked stunning at night, reminiscent of the Vegas Vickie cowgirl sign in Las Vegas. When this almost 25 foot sign was part of her store you were in much closer contact to it than when it was moved hight atop the West End stage years later. As with all the buildings on Pleasure Island, this one also had an intriguing backstory:
Originally a wooden shack housing Pleasure Island's paymaster, accountant, bookkeeper, telegraphy office, mailroom, first aid station, and social center, the first building on this site (constructed in 1913) burned to the ground in 1933 during a party celebrating the repeal of Prohibition. A subsequent building erected on the site was blown apart by a savage 1944 typhoon. Refurbished 1988-1989.
As we can see from the black-ligh mural which once hung in the Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club, Jessica's became a noticeable and distinguishable part of the island. The sign was always attention grabbing, and even after the store had closed, the sign was moved to the West End Stage where it became part of the Pleasure Island Tonight! sign. It remained there until 2006 when refurbishments were started to re-theme the area.
To commemorate this 25th Anniversary, Jessica Rabbit creator Gary K. Wolf has given ImNotBad.com a firsthand account of seeing his character in lights:
I will never forget my first sight of The Jessica Store in Pleasure Island. There was my character, a hundred, no two hundred, no three hundred, no a MILE high, sitting on top of a huge store. She was lighted up and her shapely crossed legs swung back and forth, back and forth like a long, sexy metronome. When I went inside, I saw row after row, shelf after shelf, rack after rack of exclusively Jessica merchandise. I saw Jessica perfume, Jessica lipstick, Jessica sweatshirts, Jessica you-name-its!!! The merchandise was top quality and well suited to the character. And oh so not-Disney! The two especially un-mouselike items were both shear, spaghetti strapped, baby doll negligees. Items I guarantee would not been found in Minnie’s closet. I asked the sales staff who bought such suggestive lingerie. They told me they sold those mostly to conventioning businessmen who bought them as presents for their wives and/or girlfriends. Which, I suspect, accounts for the abnormally high birth rate during that period, and the correspondingly increased number of divorces. Ah, Jessica. You do know how to break, and make families!!!
In Part Three we will take an in-depth look at all of the merchandise available at Jessica's, from shirts to mugs to boxers and nightgowns - even art of things that were never made...