Every Hidden Reference in Roger Rabbit’s “Tummy Trouble”

Roger Rabbit’s first ever theatrical short is packed with hidden gags you could never see with the naked eye. If you saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, you might remember all to well…

Forgive me if I skirt a proper explanation in the introduction here. Check out the description of “In the Margins” gags in our piece highlighting all the hidden references in Roger’s “Trail Mix-Up,” or better yet, listen to our interview with Roger Rabbit creator Gary K. Wolf for a ton of amazing insights and anecdotes.

I’d rather spend the time talking about the glory that is 1989’s “Tummy Trouble,” Disney’s first hand drawn theatrical short since 1965. (There were some 30 minute stuff like Winnie the Pooh, space propaganda, educational stuff, other dope shit, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but 7 minute comedy cartoons were over.)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was such an astounding success, the character that was supposed to be a new creation, an amalgam of several characters representative of the golden age of short-form theatrical animation, ironically, ended up becoming the last character of the golden age of short-form theatrical animation, decades removed from his closest brethren, with three cartoons that the preceded a handful of Disney movies between 1989 and 1993. And “Tummy Trouble” is without a doubt the most notable.

Just another obligatory shot of Jessica. You might not see here again, pervs

For one, it was the first Roger short, capitalizing of the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit just one year later. More to the point, waaaaaaaay more people saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the film it played in front of, than other movies accompanying Roger shorts, such as morbid curiosities like Dick Tracy or A Far Off Place. Yes, it’s a much better movie, but you didn’t know that in June of 1989! And neither did Disney. The Rick Moranis shrinky-dink adventure was far from a sure thing, let alone a future franchise. Which is why they leaned so heavily on Roger to market the film. “Tummy Trouble” is only seven minutes and change, yet as you can see, Roger took up a disproportionate amount of real estate on the poster/cover.

Not only is the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids poster/VHS box forever emblazoned with a Roger Rabbit cartoon, unlike “Roller Coaster Rabbit” and “Trail Mix-Up,” “Tummy Trouble” was included on the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids VHS, meaning kids like me saw it a billion and a half more times than Roger’s other shorts. It’s been said Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ success can be directly attributed to having a new Roger Rabbit short in front of it, and while that could absolutely be debated, you can see why the marketing team would be popping champagne over the decision: They devoted almost a third of the untested Honey’s TV trailer to a cartoon 1/10th its run time, and Honey went on to become Disney’s most successful live-action film… after Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Conventional wisdom was, apparently, Roger put butts in the seats back then. I was there and I agree. But that’s not what we’re doing here today. I’m being self indulgent because I only intended on doing one of these for “Trail Mix-Up,” and I don’t relish the idea of having to explain how animators could hide imperceptible shit from the naked eye of viewers in a few frames of animation for each Roger cartoon, and that Roger Rabbit took advantage of that more than any other cartoon in history. Seriously: WATCH “TUMMY TROUBLE” AND COMPLAIN IN THE COMMENTS LATER! I swear, you’ll get more out of this.

Good? Now enjoy all the god damn animation Easter Eggs!

1. The roman numerals display the title card date as MCMXLVII, or 1947, the chronological setting of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

2. A Raggedy Andy (esque) doll resides in Baby Herman’s room. Coincidentally, The Raggedy Ann and Andy movie was directed by Richard Williams, Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s animation director.

3. It’s said Roger is flipping off the camera in this scene. This could very well be the case, but it could also be an optical illusion brought upon by a character with three finger pointing upwards at a certain angle. I can’t really say, since I got this shot from the Roger Rabbit Blu-ray, and naughty stuff has been omitted with ever home video release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Seriously, you can see several bird flips in Roger Rabbit here.

4. The picture on the wall above Baby Herman’s crib is from the 1936’s “Three Little Wolves…

The mostly-forgotten sequel to Disney’s semi-forgotten 1933 “Three Little Pigs” Silly Symphonies short. 

5. After swallowing the rattle, Baby Herman and Roger pull up to “St. Nowhere” a reference to St. Elsewhere (listen to Thirty Twenty Ten.)

There’s a lot to take in this pan…

6. On the wall in Baby Herman’s hospital room, an X-ray of Mickey Mouse’s head appears on the wall…

7. In fact, judging by the clothing, this IS Mickey’s room. The giant sack of money on the scale is your giveaway.

8. A painting of The Mad Doctor, from the 1933 short of the same name, appears in the opening.

9. As well as a photo of Baby Herman’s mother, which falls off the hospital wall upon Roger’s arrival…

10. And if that weren’t enough hidden in a single shot, you can also see a toe-tagged dead dude in the hallway as Roger bursts into the room. Good Times!

11. If all that weren’t enough, several times during the short, items in the background change entirely and inexplicably. The money bag is now replaced by a fish. And a lady’s bra replaces Mickey’s kicks

12. And Mickey’s X-ray has been replaced by Roger’s. SIC BURN!

13. In keeping with the rattle theme, we can glimpse of the lower half of a Disney duck playing the maracas. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess this is a reference to 1994’s The Three Caballeros. Hell, it could be Daisy.

14. During the start of the gurney sequence…

Blink and you’ll miss the doctors punching Roger in the face. After he’s already tied down!

15. Enjoy, kids! As Roger zooms down the hall, kids my age were introduced to the word “Proctology.” And that’s just the beginning of the scientific fields

Buckle up! Because there’s a lot to take in during this sequence… and none of it is in any way important.

16. Roger is brought through over a dozen wings of the hospital. In this order: Pathology, Urology, Proctology, Gynecology, Biology, Radiology, Geology, Theology, Archeology, Zoology, Egyptology, Astrology, Musicology, Physiology, Pharmacology, and Phraseology. The final door being “Burbank.” I don’t get it either…

17. The reoccurring motif of static fish makes yet another appearance..

18. I can’t prove this, but I’m gonna start the rumor that all the broad-shouldered doctors are inspired by Crusher the wrestler from Bugs Bunny’s 1951 short “Bunny Hugged

19. Note the murderous implements in the operating room, including a cleaver and a box full of human bones. This isn’t exactly “hidden,” but you definitely couldn’t see it on the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 4:3 VHS. 

20. The Atomic Hare-Splitter laser is (possibly) a reference to the 1948 Bugs Bunny short “Hare Splitter.”

20. Perhaps a broader pop culture reference nowadays, when Roger is strapped to a table as a laser is fired at him…

It’s pretty clearly a reference to James Bond in 1964’s Goldfinger.

21. Viewable only in a frame or two as the laser device is flying at Roger…

Are the words “Made in Glendale” on the bottom of the Hare-Splitter laser. Once again, I don’t get it either…

22. When Roger crashes into an old man in a wheelchair, a few frames reveal Roger being strangled by said old man.

23. Droopy makes his first cameo in a Roger Rabbit short, as an elevator operator, just like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That’s not a “hidden” reference, since Droopy appears in every Roger short… HOWEVER, this is the last time he’s voiced by Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘s animation director Richard Williams.

24. Note that the hospital mouse hole on the right has Mickey Mouse ears.

25. And among the explosives Roger crashes into, we see dynamite, ammonia, toxic waste, a diaper pail, “PU” and “Human Waist.”

26. After the explosion, Roger Rabbit’s location is revealed to be southern California. Maybe that’s what those Burbank and Glendale references were foreshadowing?

SO! As Roger falls back to, uh… Earth, he careens through multiple floors. Look closely, now…’

27. Roger falls through some floors with an Egyptian pattern…

28. And, yes, once again, we have a family-friendly Proctology joke. That finger on the right? Goin’ up somebody’s ass. (I do not wish to overshadow the existence of the lava lamp and PNLs, but our time together is limited.)

29. On other floors, Roger’s silhouette takes of the form of something oh-so 1920s naughty…

30. NAH-NA! But the best of it is…

MICKEY TAKING A SHIT! Dude, we know from earlier he’s in the building, and that he’s gathered his clothes.

30a. I could be wrong about this, but I could swear that the sign at the St. Nowhere hospital front desk “Admission” sign is the same as those in Caliornia’s Disney Studio. Correct me/Clarify in the comments below!

31. Allegedly, the pirate motif on the adjacent set during the closing Frank Marshall-directed, live-action shot is a Pirates of the Caribbean reference? Whatever, love those bottles!

32. Most importantly, Kathleen Turner gets her first onscreen credit, IN HISTORY, for playing Jessica Rabbit. Learn more about that in our interview with Roger Rabbit creator, Gary Wolf!

And that’s it!


[CLICK HERE to see why we would ever bother referencing Space Jam during the all-important Roger Rabbit anniversary.]


To see similar exhaustive treatment of Roger Rabbit’s “Trail Mix-up” CLICK HERE
Be sure to listen to Laser Time’s interview with Roger Rabbit creator, Gary Wolf
To see more of the naughty stuff hidden in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, CLICK HERE!
To see more of Roger Rabbit’s original animated design, CLICK HERE
To see more of The Stooge, Roger and Mickey’s ill-fated modern resurrection, CLICK HERE!
To get Laser Time’s full-length commentary for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, CLICK HERE! (Or just become a Laser Time Patron

Let us know what we missed, and please check out our interview with Roger Rabbit creator Gary K. Wolf, as well as our previous features like 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Roger Rabbit. And for chrissake, watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Buy it on Amazon if you have to!

Buy the DVD/Blu-ray on Amazon

By our full-length commentary on Bandcamp


3 thoughts on “Every Hidden Reference in Roger Rabbit’s “Tummy Trouble”

  1. Burbank was where Disney Animation started, and later moved to Glendale. And I guess the gag with the doors is that Burbank is (or was) way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, so of course after you’ve gone a very long way you’ll end up in Burbank. (No idea why the bottom of the gas tank references Glendale

  2. Glendale is where the film was actually made. Burbank is where the Disney studio is located, but after Eisner moved in with his people, they took over the animation building where the animators worked, and then the animators were unceremoniously shipped off the main lot into warehouses in Glendale. That’s the Glendale/ Burbank reference. No other meaning other than residue anger over losing the animation building on the main lot to executives.

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