In a rather busy year with some of the most interesting interviews I've had which have been plentiful and very exciting ranging from dancer Sonya Tayeh to composer Jeff Cardoni amongst many others, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to interview one of the more fun and engaging authors who may need no introduction to those who know of the world of "Roger Rabbit".
Author Gary K. Wolf is the fun loving creator of the world of "Toontoon" who for the last year worked on getting Roger Rabbit back en vogue again with the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" celebrating its' 25th Anniversary this year. Wolf has been working on his latest novel, "Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?" for over twenty years and surprisingly forgot about it mainly because Disney had been planning a sequel to their hit film that almost came to fruition in the late 90's, but has yet to materialize and there's still hope for one.
With his latest Roger Rabbit novel being released by Musa Publishing digitally this week and with a general nationwide release of November 29th, "Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?" should spark some interest in Disney to spur on a sequel finally as well as satisfy fans of character and this amazing world that Gary has created with his wonderful and vivid imagination that is infectious and full of life.
For this very special interview, Gary candidly shares with me all of his personal insights on the world of the famous character while looking back 25 years later on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and his experiences seeing his wonderful world come alive on screen, who his favorite character from his series is and his very special advice for writers who suffer from writer's block.
Hi Gary, It’s truly an honor to meet you and I’d admire your work. I hope everything is well.
Gary: Thanks, Danny. Nice to meet you too.
Before we begin talking about Roger Rabbit, can you please tell the readers about what inspired you to become a writer.
Gary: I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. My writing career started unofficially in the third grade. My teacher told us to write about what we did on our summer vacation. I wrote two pages about how I built a spaceship out of tin cans in my back yard and used it to go to the moon. Nowadays, that would be cause for years of therapy with a child psychologist. Back then, I was simply regarded as slightly off-kilter and allowed to develop and shape my imagination into the fantasy engine it eventually became.
Let’s talk about “Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?” the third book in your acclaimed series. What inspired you to write your last adventure after twenty years?
Gary: I started writing "Wacked" in 1991. My agent at the time suggested that I wait until the second movie came out before shopping it to publishers. He said I would get more money if I did it that way. Well, we all know how that second movie turned out. I’m still waiting for it. I went on to many other projects. I honestly forgot about Wacked. My current publisher, MUSA, and I were talking about things I could put on my website to attract visitors. I looked through my files and rediscovered the Wacked manuscript. I suggested running it free in installments. MUSA had a much better idea. They said let’s publish it. I did have to do quite a bit of work to bring it into line with my two previous Roger books. That took almost a year and that was a fun process. Like collaborating with my younger self. Now it’s done. I’m quite proud of it. Wacked will stand up well with my best Roger writing.
Was it difficult for you to come up with the proper storyline to resurrect the character in a good way?
Gary: In order to write about Toontown, I have to transport myself there. I rent a fun house, hire a talking car, wear goofy clothes, talk in word balloons. I treasure my time in Toontown. The story mostly takes care of itself. I just look around and write down what I see.
Tell us about the villains in “Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?” this time around.
Gary: I’ve got some very good ones. There’s Willy Prosciutto, a failed ham actor and the crime lord of Toontown. He’s out to grab up all the pork he can. His right hand vermin is Louie Louie Louse. Louie Louie is big, mean, ugly, and smells bad besides.
Roger Rabbit is filled with wonderful cartoon characters that I personally grew up watching as did many of my generation in the 1980’s that were exposed to the older cartoon characters like Betty Boop, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck and in particularly Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse (who need no introduction) amongst many. Do you feel that the eclectic mix of these characters was the driving force behind the success of your books?
Gary: I put recognizable characters in to give verisimilitude to the concept. I felt readers would be more inclined to buy into the concept if I used characters readers already knew. I was pretty successful in that. Especially with Baby Herman. Most people believe that he was a character from the 1930’s. They don’t realize that I created him new.
When you started writing Roger Rabbit, was it in your plans to include all of cartoon characters that you did or was that something that happened while you were writing?
Gary: I always intended to use existing cartoon and comic strip characters. They were part of my youth. So real to me that I didn’t consider them characters at all but rather my actual goofy pals.
Who was the inspiration for the character of Eddie Valiant?
Gary: I based Eddie on a number of hard boiled private eyes. Mike Hammer primarily but also Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. Tough guys with a soft heart.
Let’s talk about “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” which is celebrating its’ 25th Anniversary and still one of the breakthrough films in cinema history for its' wonderful technical aspects and the direction of Robert Zemeckis. How did you feel when your book was chosen to be adapted to be a major motion picture?
Gary: That was the single most exciting moment of my life. I still remember the phone call. The voice on the other end said “Hi, this is Roy Disney, and I’d like to buy your book and make it into a movie.” My reaction? “Yeah, right...Who is this really?” I assumed it was one of my friends playing a joke. Thank goodness it wasn’t.
Were you able to visit the set while the film was being made?
Gary: Yes, as much as I wanted to. I didn’t do it much. Movie production doesn’t hold my interest. It’s too technical and repetitive. Truthfully, I’m happier going back into my little office cubbyhole all by myself, and retreating into my own mental version of Toontown.
When did you see the finished film and what was your reaction after you finally saw your creation on screen?
Gary: The first time I saw "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" in its entirety was at the premier at Radio City Music Hall. I was seated next to Kathleen Turner who voiced Jessica Rabbit. I thought to myself, “Life doesn’t get better than this.” Then life surprised me by indeed getting better! Kathleen put her hand on my knee and whispered “Gary, are you excited?” I said, “Kathleen, you have no idea!”
Do you think that we will ever see Roger Rabbit on the big screen again?
Gary: Probably. That decision is way above my pay grade.
If we do see Roger Rabbit, who would you like to see direct the film and who would you want to star?
Gary: Bob Zemeckis understands the Toon concept and the characters perfectly. Obviously he would be my choice to direct. As for the star, I’m not sure. Bob Hoskins is a tough guy to replace.
Let’s talk about your personal dedication to Bob Hoskins, a brilliant actor who recently retired because of illness. He really made Eddie Valiant so memorable. How hard would it be to replace an actor of his caliber if another film would be made?
Gary: Bob was an essential part of that movie. It was Bob who made viewers believe that the rabbit was real. My one regret about the movie was that Bob made his role look so effortless that he never even got nominated for an Academy Award. When in reality, what he was doing was the most complex bit of acting I’ve ever seen.
When you’re writing, what drives you?
Gary: I write because I can’t not write. Once I started writing fiction, the process became like a drug to me. I need to do it every day or I die a little bit.
How do you deal with writer’s block? Because I know for many, including myself it is really difficult and at times a burden to overcome.
Gary: I have long believed that you don’t attain your maximum level of creativity until you’ve also attained your maximum level of physical conditioning and mental awareness. For physical conditioning, I run for 70 minutes every day. I’ve done this since 1971. In that time frame I’ve run 38 marathons, qualified for and run the Boston Marathon 16 times. My best marathon time is 2:47. For physical and mental training, I practice yoga for an hour and a half every day. To relax and focus my mind, I’ve been meditating twice a day since 1976. As a result of all that physical and mental exercise, I rarely if ever get writer’s block. When I need an idea, I go for a run, meditate, do yoga, and inevitably the perfect idea comes to me. I don’t know if that would work for everybody. All I can tell you is that the process works well for me.
In looking back at your work, do you feel that you’ve done everything you’ve wanted to accomplish or do you feel that you still have more to share?
Gary: I’ve got a whole head full of ideas I can’t wait to put down on paper. I hope the day never comes when I no longer want to share my thoughts with the world.
Do you look back at your work after you’ve written it? Because there are many artists that don’t including myself even though I do sometimes and I go “Did I really write this?”.
Gary: Some writer once said that writing isn’t writing, it’s rewriting. I wholly agree. I go back over every page of my work once, twice, a hundred times. If I didn’t have deadlines (and bills to pay) I would never let anything go. I would still be rewriting my original Roger Rabbit novel.
Who is your favorite character in the world of Roger Rabbit?
Gary: I’m fond of Eddie Valiant. He’s the kind of guy I always wanted to be. Cocksure, quick witted, nail tough, and able to handle himself in a bar fight.
If there’s something you would love to write at this moment, what would it be and why?
Gary: I would love to write a simple magical spell that would cause all of the world’s creatures, Toons and humans alike, to love and respect one another. Number two on the list would be a joke that would makes everybody laugh.
There many aspiring writers in this world and I’m still growing as one personally, what advice would you give to those trying to succeed in the literary world?
Gary: Believe in yourself, believe in your work, and never give up. My first Roger Rabbit novel was rejected by 110 publishers. If I had quit sending it out at 109, think what the world would have missed.
Do you still feel passionate about writing?
Gary: I would rather write than do anything else in the world.
Will we see Roger Rabbit again?
Gary: When I rediscovered my long ago novel "Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?," I also found another Roger novel that I started and almost finished. If "Wacked" does well, if my fans still adore the rabbit and want to see more of him, then yes, I’ve got another great rabbit story waiting.
I’d like to personally thank you Gary for your time in granting me this interview. It really is a real pleasure to meet you and I’d love some advice from you in the future.
Gary: This was a great interview, Danny. It’s rare that I’m asked questions that I haven’t been asked a hundred times before. But you came up with some new, interesting, and wonderful questions. Ones that made me think about what I do and why I do it. Thank you for brightening my day.
A very, very, very extremely special heartfelt thanks to Gary for being so generous with his time and infectious energy for this wonderful interview and being an inspiration to me as I continue to write. You're wonderful! And very special thanks to Celina Summers (Yes! You get a shoutout!) for your hard work and helping me with this interview. I'm thrilled to work with you. You're the best!
"Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?" Preorders begin on Tuesday, October 22 on the Musa Publishing website at www.musapublishing.com. The books' general release is November 29 on Musa and all major e-tailers.
Here's Gary's Mini-Bio:
"Gary K. Wolf ‘s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?--a literary vision of humans cohabitating with animated characters--became a reality in the $950 million blockbuster Disney/Spielberg film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film won four Academy Awards and the science fiction Hugo Award.
Wolf has published 10 highly acclaimed science fiction and adult fantasy novels."