Get ready for a curveball of epic proportions in Gary K. Wolf's latest novel, Jessica Rabbit: XERIOUS Business. In this story, Jessica is a human. Not a cartoon human - an actual human. She’s living an existence that’s not so much humdrum as it is unbearable. When a chance opportunity puts Jessica’s skills to the test (some of which she had to utilize living with her step-family) she finds herself becoming a secret agent for the XERIOUS Organization. It’s here that she not only comes into her own, but she also gets her iconic look and style that we are very familiar with.
A world where cartoons and humans coexist is something that vividly entered our minds with the release of 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The concept is something attempted several times before in films like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins and The Three Caballeros. Roger Rabbit went a lot further in that the animated characters interacted with humans throughout the entirety of the movie, not only for a few minutes. It also made use of every trick available to the team of incredible animators to get the cartoons to blend in as much as possible.
These characters were first brought to us by author Gary K. Wolf in the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?. The original novel is decidedly different, but those who have read it after knowing the film leave the story with a sense of “what if” wonder. The cartoons are actually comic strip characters, Jessica isn’t really in love with Roger, the toons can temporarily duplicate themselves at will, and there’s even a whole plot involving a genie.
Since Roger Rabbit and Co. have been sidelined for some time (the reason never being made clear other than it’s the one Disney property co-owned with Amblin Entertainment) we haven’t received anything in the way of new movies, reimaginings, reboots… or comebacks. It’s been Gary K. Wolf who has been continuing the adventures in Toontown with subsequent novels Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?, Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?, and short stories in The Road To Toontown.
I know you might be curious what I think of this story since I’m a lifelong Jessica fan. While I had my concerns at first, I did find myself liking the character of Jessica Krupnick we are introduced to early on in the novel. The modern-day story of wanting a more exciting life is very relatable, and we get to see things play out for our heroine in a way that she lives out here dreams - beyond a traditional fairytale.
As fans of the character, there are a few things I’d like everyone to consider when hearing of this new incarnation. Our beloved characters have sadly stood still in time without being used. While many might want to keep those representations sacred, myself included, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some of the drawbacks to this - no pun intended.
Toy company Super7 was apprehensive about releasing their Roger Rabbit ReAction figures. There was no knowledge or data to suggest if people would even want these characters because they have fallen off the radar. Luckily, Super7 took a chance and the figures sold very well. This proved to the company they can explore the possibility of more merchandise. This will hopefully send a message to other companies as well.
Out on another limb, I think back to the popular ABC show Once Upon a Time. I avoided this show during its first three seasons. I couldn’t accept the human actors playing renditions of our classic Disney characters. Ironically, I fell in love with the show after I gave it a chance. Since then we’ve had several recreations of characters, like in the Marvel What If…? series and the new Ren and Stimpy-esque Mickey Mouse cartoons which have gone on to become park attractions.
I often see people talk about which actress could play Jessica if there was ever a remake of the 1988 film. Since some of the choices actually resemble Jessica in a way, I’m not totally understanding if people mean for the actress to simply lend her voice or to actually play her somehow. In this era of cosplay and social media, there have been many individuals to recreate Jessica’s appearance. So, I do think there is a calling for live action, reimagined and CGI versions.
Keep in mind, we have the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers movie releasing May 20th on Disney+. Part of the plot is Dale becoming an actual CGI character while Chip stays as a traditional cartoon. Worlds have already collided and the possibilities for characters to take on many forms is underway. This is something that has happened with comic book characters for decades - so why not for Jessica Rabbit too?
Though the film holds such a special place in my heart, I also don’t want my favorite characters to fade into obscurity. Let us not forget that without Wolf’s original story and vibrant imagination, the Jessica we are familiar with wouldn’t even exist. I do recommend reading this new, modern take on Jessica and the world of Toontown. It keeps you guessing, leaves you entertained and allows you to see many more possibilities for the character.
Jessica Rabbit: XERIOUS Business is now available through Amazon.