Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jessica's - Signature Store of a Toon Diva

For an updated look at the Jessica Rabbit store in celebration of what would have been a big anniversary, check out these articles:

Jessica Rabbit Store 25th Anniversary:
Part One: The Beginning
Part Two: The Building
Part Three: The Merchandise

Have you ever been obsessed with a cartoon character? We all have our favorite. Now, imagine finding out there is a store dedicated to selling merchandise of only that character! Well, if you happen to like Mickey, it's not a hard thing to grasp. But, if you liked a more obscure character, like Jessica Rabbit, it would have been nothing short of a miracle. Enough has been said on the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but what could be said for a character who wasn't even the star of the film getting her very own store!

Pleasure Island opened as a nightclub-based attraction for adults, but by day everyone was welcome. Disney began to focus attention on more park-exclusive merchandise. A few stores sold merchandise of the current Disney features, an exclusive Disney animation art gallery was located in the heart of the island and then of course, there was Jessica's.

Opened some time around that of Pleasure Island's debut, much like the character the store was based on, the store had some interesting features. The most dramatic and recognizable was the huge two-sided 30' neon sign of Jessica herself sitting atop the outside of the building. Not just a static sign, Jessica's leg actually swung back and fourth slowly. Her dress was accented with sequins that moved in the breeze and attracted the light. A purple neon outlined her silhouette. An entire corner area of the building used glass window panels from top to bottom. It had an extreme vaulted ceiling and its design seemed to mimic that of a big city skyscraper. The rest was a soft-purple colored metal which went along with the warehouse look of the island buildings. Located on Breeze Way, the outside of the store was just the beginning.

The dramatic glass corner allowed natural light inside, yet there were also lighted pillars which resembled those in the Ink and Paint Club. There was an art deco style to the counters and displays, which were mostly a dark and light grey combination with a shock of neon blue. The Jessica shower curtain hung facing out one smaller windowed area. A large circular mirror with Jessica's signature and kiss was nearby. In one corner of the store there was a dressing room door prop which included a star and Jessica's name on it. Another area had a large wood cut-out of Roger, Jessica and Benny the Cab. Above the cash register, located at the center of the store, was a dimensional cut-out of Jessica, laying across a sign of her name.

Some of the merchandise items available were T-shirts, suspenders, ties, shorts, jewelry, pins, bath towels, mugs and hats. There were also some signature store items created like key chains, watches and a Jessica Fashions line of clothing.

My Visit to Jessica's
On November 16th 1991, my family had the good fortune to take a trip to Disney World. After many difficult years that had just passed for us, it was a long needed and well deserved vacation. I had a friend go to MGM Studios and bring back enough photos to make me jealous, so I was finally getting my chance to "meet" Jessica at the park - even if it was only a cardboard standee, it was more than I needed. Little did I know what else Disney had tucked away in the middle of Pleasure Island. It was almost by accident that my mother found the listing for Jessica's in the Pleasure Island guide map where it invited people to visit the “torch singer’s” own boutique.

We were staying at the Buena Vista Palace, which was a short walking distance from the Disney Marketplace. I couldn't wait, so we immediately took a walk over the night we arrived, only to be told there was a fee to get into Pleasure Island during the evening and could not even enter if you were under 18. I could clearly see the back of the neon Jessica sign lit up and at that point, was not sure if I would get in. There was music playing and lights, it was all very exciting. We were informed though that we could come back in the morning and go to any of the stores when Pleasure Island was open to the public.

I've kept my Jessica's store receipt all these years and as you can see, I was up quite early the next morning. We arrived through the back entrance and there was a small red box next to the door with a neon blue "Jessica's" signature, dotted with a kiss. I described the building, but going in was such an experience. This was my favorite cartoon character and I was just lucky enough to enjoy a store dedicated solely to her - that up until a few hours ago didn't even know existed! It was a bit overwhelming. At the time, I was almost too young to fully enjoy it. I didn't have a need for ties, oven mitts or robes, but now I regret not spending so much more money there.

Cast members wore regular blue uniforms and there were no special shopping bags or print material. The store did seem a bit more aimed at women, with all of the Jessica nightgowns, jewelry and pink shirts around. Still, there was a lot of great merchandise, even a life-size Roger plush by the entrance. I believe we were the only ones in the store at the time but it was also still off season. I remember the cashier girl being very friendly and saying she thought the Jessica key chains were so cute.

I ended up only buying a blue mug with Jessica's face and signature on it, a postcard of her and Roger, a very rare key chain with her head and signature and an equally rare magnet - which I was charged twice for but the cashier did void it. As gifts though my mother did buy me a highly sought original Jessica beach towel and a Jessica jewelry box and my Aunt recently gave back to me a cup we bought her with Jessica and Roger filled with hearts and glitter. Over the years I have acquired other items from the store to piece together a nice collection.

I don't know why, but I did not take any photos of the interior. I took it for granted the store would always be there. Tomart's Disneyana Magazine # 66 did a full feature article called Remembering The Jessica Shop which included several interior photos, none of which have been seen since the store was open. Having not seen Jessica's since 1991, it was a nice little tribute to this fun store and it was great to see it again after all this time. You'll want to be sure and get a copy of this magazine while you can.

A few things I regret not picking up were some shirts that had the Jessica's tag on them, ties, shorts and the Jessica watch which featured a swinging leg like the store sign - although it was a woman's watch.

Speaking of the store sign, it was truly a sight - and when it was part of the store - you were in very close contact to it. I have often seen the store mistakenly referred to on-line as "Jessica's of Hollywood" or "Jessica's Secret" and until now there was never much information about it. On this blog, you will find a great interview I did with talented Jessica cartoonist, Mark Marderosian and get a better idea about this store.

Jessica's was abruptly closed in 1992. The building went on to become the Music Legends store, a tattoo parlor and in 2007 a smokers lounge called Fuego by Sosa Cigars . The large neon Jessica sign was eventually relocated to another area of the park atop the West End Stage along side a “Pleasure Island Tonight” sign, where it remained a popular visual for many years until the sign and entire stage were removed in June of 2006.

The following article first appeared on my original Jessica Rabbit Yahoo Group. It then appeared for a time on Wikipedia. The Jessica Rabbit and Roger Rabbit section of Wikipedia has severely changed and my article is heavily altered. The article was then part of my Jessica Rabbit Video Toonography. It's come to my attention that other sites have copied the origial article, are using my photos and videos. I do not have a problem with that, however one site tried to download something on my computer when I clicked the photo (I've since looked for the the page again but cannot find it, so perhaps it has been taken down). For a long time now, there have not been any websites for Jessica Rabbit fans excepts the ones I have created - p-p-p-please be careful of the pages you visit and bookmark this site to keep visiting the only Jessica Rabbit Fan Site, News Board and Archive on the web.

My original article was as follows:

Jessica Rabbit

After the film, Jessica also appeared in the Roger Rabbit/Baby Herman shorts; Tummy Trouble as a nurse, Roller Coaster Rabbit as a damsel in distress and Trail Mix-Up as a park ranger. She also appeared frequently in the Roger Rabbit comic book series and she had her own feature in most issues of Roger Rabbit's Toontown such as Beauty Parlor Bedlam where she comes face to face with her female weasel counterpart Winnie.

With the success of the film and upon the opening of Disney’s MGM Studios on May 1, 1989, the film’s characters had great presence within the company. After taking the Backlot Tram Tour, various props decorated the streets. This is where you had two different photo opportunities with Jessica. For regular photos, a glittery cardboard cutout awaited you by a green brick wall and nearby, The Loony Bin photo shop allowed you to take pictures in costume standing next to an actual cartoon drawing of characters from the movie. There was also a plethora of merchandise such as t-shirts and the infamous Jessica Rabbit rub-on stickers called "pressers."

Disagreements between the Disney Company, Amblin Entertainment and Gary Wolf (jointly owning rights to the characters) made it difficult for any merchandise or projects to get off the ground and caused the halt of a short film Hare in my Soup and the next film Who Discovered Roger Rabbit. In this prequel, Roger meets his bride-to-be, Jessica Krupnick, who is not yet exactly the sultry toon we had come to know. A completed score by Alan Silvestri is said to exist as well as test footage and computer generated versions of the characters. Also cancelled was an animated TV series, which was replaced by a show called Bonkers about a feline cop. Many park attractions never got out of development, like Roger Rabbit's Hollywood and Baby Herman's Runaway Buggy.

In 2000, MGM Studios stopped using any character memorabilia in the park but some props are still present. Across from the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show, a Maroon Cartoon sign with Roger, Jessica and Baby Herman still remains.

Who Stole Jessica Rabbit

Conjoined with MGM Studios opening was that of Pleasure Island, Disney’s nightclub attraction and shopping area. Included was the Jessica’s store that featured nothing but Jessica Rabbit merchandise. From her own signature nightgowns and jewelry to shower curtains and beach towels, the Jessica’s store had it all. A giant two-sided neon Jessica sign with sequined dress and swinging leg sat atop the light purple colored building. A floor to ceiling windowed corner of the store allowed light to shine in during the day and a great fireworks view at night. Another corner of the store had a large stage door with Jessica’s name on it. There was a cardboard cutout of Jessica reclining above the cash register area and another of Jessica, Roger and Benny the Cab. Cast members wore regular uniforms and there were no special shopping bags or print material for the store other than mention in the Pleasure Island guide map where they invited people to visit this "torch singer’s boutique." The store was abruptly closed some time in 1993 only to rumor that Jessica was "too sexy" for Disney. The large neon Jessica sign was relocated to another area of the park along side a Pleasure Island Tonight! sign where it stayed for many years until it was removed in June of 2006.

Jessica's Secret

In 1994, the Roger-based attraction Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin opened in a new Toontown section of the Disneyland park. This area was inspired by the Who Framed Roger Rabbit film and included, shops, character houses and rides. As part of the ride queue, passengers walk through the dark streets of Toon Town and see the shadows of Jessica and the Weasels walk by windows and hear their plot to kidnap her. There is also a glimpse of a complaining Baby Herman. On this entirely dark-light ride, you board Lenny the Cab, Benny’s cousin, and race through streets, back alleys and buildings. Jessica can first be seen in the beginning tied up in the trunk of Smart Ass Weasel's and then later with a giant mallet making her escape at the ride's end. Tokyo Disneyland also has a version of this ride and both are still very popular attractions.

In the early days of Toontown's opening, there was a fake magazine resting on an easy chair in Minnie Mouse's house entitled Jessica's Secret. An image of Jessica in pink overalls with a toolbox marks the Women's Room and you can hear special messages from Jessica by turning the dial on her mailbox in Disneyland’s Toontown Post Office:
  • Oh, this is much better than playing patty cake.
  • You really should drop me a line sometime. I’d like that.
  • My mail’s not bad, it’s just written that way.
  • I’m not bad, it’s my mail that is.
  • Oh I hope I get some strong handsome mail today.
  • My honey bunny Roger sends the cutest letters.
  • Roger, darling, is that you? Come home and I’ll bake you a carrot cake.

"Hoppy" Anniversary

Even with the success of the ride, Jessica and co. disappeared not too long after their big debut, leaving behind a multitude of confused and disappointed fans. Sporadic merchandise was produced, such as an embroidered baseball-style shirt, The Jessica Rabbit doll, a Classics Collection statue of the couple and a Jinglin’ Jessica and Merry Melodies Roger Christmas ornament set. However the 15th Anniversary Edition of Who Framed Roger Rabbit on DVD was a great tribute and long-awaited shot in the arm for the film and caused enough of a stir to revive these characters.

Relaxed, Refreshed, Reanimated

With the DVD release in 2003 and with the pin collecting craze already underway, Jessica herself made a splash with her Aloha, from Jessica pin, featuring the sultry toon in a bikini and grass skirt. It didn’t take long for people’s interest to be renewed and various pins were released each month, often selling out the same day. After time, a diverse array of Jessica pins were created featuring her playing sports, visiting New York City, dressed for various holidays and events and just being her "not bad" self with pins utilizing glitter accents, movement and multiple layers. These pins range from simple to elaborate.

The Nurses Association vs. Jessica Rabbit

A seemingly harmless hobby, some pins have become quite notable and notorious. One being the 2004 Nurses Day Jessica depicting Jessica dressed as a nurse from the Tummy Trouble short. Several complaints from the Nursing Association forced Disney to pull this pin off the store shelves. A very similar pin was released the year before and sold out within a few hours, however the 2004 pin included a Nurses Day logo.

An unnamed author of the Nursing Advocacy wrote: "At least 300 Nurses wrote to protest Disney's sultry Jessica Rabbit nurse pins..." "Within 48 hours of starting our campaign, Disney agreed to 'remove the pins from sale." "Therefore we are asking Disney to make amends to the profession by supporting activities to repair the harm that has been done to nursing's image."

Then-Executive Director, Sandy Summers, writes to Michael Eisner, "I am writing to urge you to end the sale of Disney's Jessica Rabbit 2004 Nurses Week pin and to refrain from 'honoring' nurses in the future with such pins. The sexually suggestive Jessica Rabbit pin, which reinforces the harmful 'naughty nurse' stereotype that has long plagued our profession, is not a good way to thank the skilled, hard-working nurses who are fighting a critical nursing shortage and associated short-staffing to save patients' lives." "In addition to retiring the Jessica Rabbit nurse pin, I encourage you to make amends to the nursing profession by supporting efforts to improve public understanding of the profession in a tangible way."

According to the Nursing Advocacy website, then-secretary David K Thompson of the Disney Company responded, "I hope you understand that no offense was intended in the release of the pin. Jessica Rabbit remains a very popular member of the Disney family of characters. Nonetheless, we understand your concern and have taken action to remove the pin from sale."

Upon the Associations call for a public apology, The Disney Company declined.

This Item Is Not Available

Another famous pin is the Jessica Movie Star Jumbo which features Jessica dressed as Marilyn Monroe (not to be confused with a similar Marilyn style pin released as part of the Jessica in Hollywood set on Being immediately dubbed the "Holy Grail" of Jessica pins, it was a limited edition of 100 and all were legitimately sold for $103 on Disney Auctions website. Days later, Disney sent out a statement to most bidders and claimed the pins were "not available" at the time of auction and that no one would be billed unless the pins arrive. Frantic pin buyers, who frequent such websites and DizPins and PinPics, banded together and contacted Disney cast members over several weeks by phone and email, only to be told the pins were "lost" and that no one would receive them. An attendee of the 2006 It All Started With Walt Pin Event photographed one of these pins as part of a prize package Disney was giving away, although that pin was an Artist Proof. This soon became a common occurrence with such pins said to be missing as Jessica Back to School and Jessica and Roger at the Beach, after bidding was complete. This may or may not be related to Disney Auctions closing in 2006.

Time To "TOON" In Again

The Disney Store in New York became the World Of Disney. Disney’s Catalog was discontinued and they also changed their website address three different times. Yet with all this controversy, Jessica fans saw merchandise continue to flow and as commonly as some of Disney's hottest characters; Stitch, Tinker Bell, and Maleficent. Disney began selling their precious pins on-line through Disney Shopping and listing them in the middle of the night. Many people quickly caught on and buyers were often disappointed to see Jessica pins, limited to 100 or 250, sold out by mid-morning.

More items soon followed such as a life-sized Big Figure, statues, shirts, snow globes and of course, pins. Disney Paris offered it's own character-accurate statue in 2006 while Tokyo Disney created dramatic and colorful stationery in 2007. Even Roger himself was not getting as much attention as his voluptuous wife, so it is now common to see him alongside his toon bride. By the close of 2006, the "goth-trendy" store Hot Topic became the first retail chain since 1988, other than Disney, to offer Jessica memorabilia and continued to surprise fans with edgy couture of this Disney diva.

Who Created Jessica Rabbit

  • Richard Williams and Russell Hall were the main artists who brought Jessica to life in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

  • Mark Marderosian (Jessica’s Store sign)

  • Kent Melton (Classics Collection Statues "Dear Jessica, how do I love thee", "I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way".) The Walt Disney Classics Collection piece "I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way" was first in the Leading Ladies Series.

  • Mark and Rita Dornan “Markrita” (Jessica and Roger Pin Box Statue)

  • Glenn Winters (Walt Sent Me! Pin from the 'It All Started with ....Walt' Pin Event)

  • Eric Robison (Disney Auctions Eric Robison Portrait Series Roger & Jessica Rabbit)

  • Cody Reynolds (Jinglin’ Jessica ornament, Jessica Big Figures)

  • Jennifer Oliver (Millennium Pin, Disney Auctions Jessica 6 pin set 2004, Jessica and Roger Light-Up Snowglobe Frame Statue)

  • Jim Licaretz (Jessica Rabbit Doll)

  • Rachael Sur (Jessica Rabbit’s Room Hinged Jumbo Pin)

  • Store Operations Cast Member, Ashley Baer, won a contest for creating the Jessica and Roger pin entitled, He Makes Me Laugh.

Exclusive Jessica Artist Interview - Mark Marderosian

Video of the Jessica's Store