Saturday Matinee #116: "Tummy Trouble" (June 23, 1989)
Published March 23, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of Disney/Touchstone's most successful films of the 1980's. To celebrate, Disney recently released the film to Blu-Ray, and a special screening of the film will take place April 4 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. But in the meantime, we'll celebrate early by taking a look at the first of three "Roger Rabbit" theatrical shorts made after the film's huge success. "Tummy Trouble" was released to theatres in 1989, where it was attached to Disney's summer comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Roger Rabbit is once again tasked with babysitting young Baby Herman. In an effort to placate the crying tot, Roger pulls out a rattle for Herman. The baby decides instead to swallow it. Roger panics, and we are taken to St. Nowhere, a winking nod to the popular 1980's hospital show "St. Elsewhere." There, Roger melodramatically visits Baby Herman, before deciding it's feeding time. He gives Baby Herman the bottle, and in the process of burping him, procures the rattle. Roger accidentally swallows it, causing Baby Herman to cry once more. However, Roger realizes he can shake his derriere and produce the calming rattle sound which Baby Herman loves. The surgeon comes in, sees that Roger is now the one with a swallowed rattle, and proceeds to take him to the operating room.
There, they attempt to operate on Roger, who does his best to avoid getting the surgery. In the meantime, Baby Herman wants another bottle. Nurse Jessica prances on by with a cart full of them, although this cart isn't very sturdy as one bottle falls. As it rolls down the hallway, Baby Herman crawls after it, eventually getting to Roger's operating room. The whistle has blown for lunch, and all the doctors rush out. Roger is pleased to see Baby Herman, until the baby sees a large radioactive contraption, confusing it for a bigger bottle. As Baby Herman tries to get to that bottle, he ends up activating a laser, which converts into a rocket, sending him and Roger all about. After a madcap race around the hospital and quick trip skyward, Roger and Baby Herman land safely (all things considered), with the rattle safely out of Roger and a bottle for Baby Herman. All is well... until Roger gets the hospital bill.
In the wake of his feature film, Roger Rabbit's cinematic career was really taking off. "Tummy Trouble" came one year after the phenomenon that was Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and he would later be integrated into the Disney theme parks. 1990's "Disneyland Fun" prominently featured Roger rubbing elbows with Mickey and Minnie, even being present for the morning opening of the park. That same year, his second short, "Roller Coaster Rabbit" was attached to Touchstone's high-profile comic strip adaptation Dick Tracy. His last short to date, "Trail Mix Up," was released in 1993, and a fourth, "Hare in My Soup" was never produced. Likewise, the proposed prequel Who Discovered Roger Rabbit has remained in development hell for decades. In recent years, we've seen some progress on the prequel front, but as far as I know, it's still a long way away.
In the meantime, we have to make do with Roger's few-and-far-between shorts and feature film. The limited amount of Roger Rabbit material allows us to continually revisit the three shorts and film, finding all the nice little easter eggs that the filmmakers included. I had been watching "Tummy Trouble" for years (we had the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids VHS), and still wasn't aware of a lot of the fun in-jokes that the short contained until I acquired the DVD. One of the earliest Disney references is a portrait of the Three Little Wolves (from the 1936 Silly Symphony of the same name) that is on the wall at the house. Later on, Baby Herman's room includes an x-ray of Mickey Mouse, his shorts and shoes hanging about, and Dr. XXX (from 1933's "The Mad Doctor") emerging from his portrait. Later on, as the surgeon wheels Roger through various doors (and various -ologies), the final door is for Burbank, where Walt Disney Studios is located.
Aside from Mickey's shorts and shoes making a cameo, we also see Droopy resuming his elevator attendant job, now transferred to the hospital. Animation director Richard Williams provides the dog's deadpan delivery. Droopy, an MGM property, has a Disney connection beyond his Who Framed Roger Rabbit and "Tummy Trouble" cameos. His original voice actor was Bill Thompson, who not only voiced Droopy from 1943 to 1957, but also worked at Disney, voicing various roles in animated films and shorts. Some of my favorites from his varied characters include Alice in Wonderland's White Rabbit, Peter Pan's Mr. Smee, and everyone's favorite park ranger, J. Audobon Woodlore.
"Tummy Trouble" and Roger's other two shorts have been included as bonuses on both the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.