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Dirty Disney and Jessica Rabbit Tales

Dirty Disney and Jessica Rabbit Tales

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Jim Hill's mention of the "Disney Memorial Orgy" drawing done by Wally Wood for the centerfold of THE REALIST (issue #74) in 1967 and later turned into a popular blacklight poster brought back some memories because I used to have a copy of that poster framed in the hallway leading to my bathroom in my old apartment in Glendale. It was interesting the reactions that poster could generate because on first glance it looked like a typical Disney poster and only on closer inspection did you see that Jiminy Cricket was dropping his pants near a stripping Tinker Bell and Dumbo was proving a greater menace than pigeons.

What Jim didn't have space to mention is that Krassner picked Wally Wood to illustrate that drawing because Wood had been doing the Disney comics parodies in MAD magazines for many years in a clean style very reminiscent of standard Disney comic art. Also, Wood had no objections to erotic topics and in fact in his later years earned much of his income from parodies of popular comic characters doing sexual things. (If you are a Disney fan or a Wally Wood fan, you should immediately go order a copy of MAD ABOUT THE FIFTIES where there is a wonderful six page satire of the DISNEYLAND television series drawn by Wally Wood.)

Disney with its emphasis on family entertainment and cleanliness has always been an easy target.

Most people are familiar with the infamous "Tijuana Bibles," also referred to as "eight pagers." These pornographic pamphlets gained popularity because they featured thinly disguised caricatures of famous actors or cartoon characters engaged in frantic sexual escapades. Even the Disney characters couldn't escape such dubious fame. Somewhere in my archives I have an early example from 1937 entitled "Of Mice and Women by Salt Pisney" which featured the sexual antics of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Clarabelle Cow and a very obliging human girl. (It is amazing what they were offering for sale at the early Disney collector conventions in California in the late Seventies. That was also where I got my Disney Orgy poster.)

In 1967, the same year the Disney Orgy poster appeared, Joel Beck drew a poster issued by the Print Mint called "Odalisque." An odalisque is a female slave or concubine in a harem. In this particular case, the nude female was Daisy Duck. Disney sued unsuccessfully because the court determined that since this Daisy had a pair of teats it was sufficiently different from the Disney duck.

Beck had a fascination for the Disney characters. In "Marching Marvin," one of the earliest underground comix, written and drawn by Beck a mercenary "Meakey Moose" beguiles the crowd while "Vault Dizzy" is revealed as a child molester! The Print Mint also printed a tabloid called YELLOW DOG and it featured Beck's "Mickey Mouse Today" series. One episode had Donald Duck waiting patiently at the bedside of Daisy Duck who is just about to give birth. When the egg cracks open, a small Mickey Mouse pops out. Donald goes crazy and Daisy cries that Mickey promised her a part on the tv show and that was why she was unfaithful.

And let's not forget that the September 1970 issue of NATIONAL LAMPOON featured a cover of a classic Thirties Minnie Mouse flashing her top and revealing her small breasts covered with flower pasties. The editors hoped that this would stir the ire of the Disney organization and bring some publicity to this new magazine. Disney never rose to the bait.

Jim Hill also recommended Bob Levin's great new book: THE PIRATES AND THE MOUSE: Disney's War Against the Counterculture (Fantagraphics Books, June 2003) and I echo that recommendation just based on reading the two part excerpt that appeared last year in THE COMICS JOURNAL. The story of the Air Pirates is fascinating.

Dan O'Neill is perhaps the most infamous of the underground comix artists to use the Disney characters. He did so in his daily ODD BODKINS syndicated newspaper strip without arousing the attention of the Disney organization. However, when O'Neill brought together a group of talented underground artists and produced the first issue of AIR PIRATES FUNNIES in July 1971, things started happening quickly.

Disney characters were featured in activities displaying their sexuality very blatantly. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald were featured in this underground comix which was purposely designed to evoke a remembrance of the DELL comic books that featured Disney characters in the 1940s. (O'Neill dubbed his version "HELL Comics".) Two issues of AIR PIRATES FUNNIES and one issue of TORTOISE AND HARE (featuring some of the same underground versions of Disney characters) were produced before Disney finally managed to stop the young artists.

It was O'Neill's first contention that the Disney characters in these "earlier designed versions" from the 1930s were in public domain since they had been unused for years and did not reflect the current Disney versions of the characters. Disney probably found that contention even more offensive that the off color antics of their characters in these comix. Later, O'Neill shifted his defense to claim he was only doing parody and parody needed to be protected.

The US District Court of Northern California granted an injunction against the Air Pirates in June 1972 and three years later in August 1975 found that "AIR PIRATES FUNNIES constituted copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition and trade disparagement." The matter was appealed to the Ninth District Court of Appeal which in September 1978 reversed the lower court ruling on trademark, competition and trade disparagement but upheld the ruling that AIR PIRATES FUNNIES infringed Disney's copyright. The attorneys appealed to the US Supreme Court which on January 1979 decided to let stand the lower court rulings, including the $190,000 in damages for copyright infringement that had been assessed by Judge Albert Wollenberg.

Obviously, the Air Pirates (as the artists themselves were now called) didn't have that kind of money and the legal action had taken years which seriously depleted any funds they did have. So, Dan O'Neill fought back. The Spring 1979 issue of THE CO-EVOLUTION QUARTERLY (#21) featured a four page comic book style story by O'Neill starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse and entitled "Communique#1 from MLF" (Mouse Liberation Front). In fact several MLF communiques had been circulated at various comic book conventions. Artists were assigned numbers so that their names did not have to appear in print. This action was clearly in contempt of court and the Disney legal staff again took action. By now, more a nuisance than a threat, especially since the court's decision could be used on future offenders of the Disney sanctity, an out of court settlement was arranged in 1980 which included the proviso that none of the participants could reveal the terms. (This is a very common condition in Disney lawsuits.)

There is so much more to the story and the personalities involved (especially O'Neill) are so colorful that I recommend getting a copy of Levin's very well-researched book.

Today, the Disney character that seems to attract the most hormonal attention is Jessica Rabbit who in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT claims that: "I'm not bad; I'm just drawn that way." However, that may not be the complete truth.

In the original 1981 novel WHO CENSORED ROGER RABBIT?, Jessica is a much harder character and not above using her sexual favors to get what she wants. She had "a body straight out of one of the magazines adolescent boys pore over in locked bathrooms" wrote author Gary Wolf.

Later in the book, detective Eddie Valiant pays two hundred dollars for a rare Tijuana Bible "titled LEWD, CRUDE, AND IN THE MOOD, and it portrayed in graphic detail the antics of a randy, female nurse. The nurse was played by a younger, slimmer, blonder, but definitely recognizable Jessica Rabbit." When confronted with a copy of the book, Jessica claims she was only eighteen at the time and Sid Sleaze drugged her and took the pictures.

That harder description influenced director Darrell Van Citters and designer Mike Giaimo when they first tackled an animated version of the character for the Disney Company back in the early Eighties and made her more of a femme fatale who looked like a young Lauren Bacall, very slender and with high cheekbones. The final more endowed version in the Robert Zemeckis film owes a debt to the work of Tex Avery and Preston Blair and their creation of "Red Hot Riding Hood" for the MGM cartoons.

When the laserdisc version of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was released, there was a lot of media controversy about a scene where supposedly Jessica Rabbit does her imitation of Sharon Stone in BASIC INSTINCT by flashing her private area to the camera.

The scene is where Jessica and Eddie are both thrown from a taxi. Jessica spins out of the car which causes her red dress to start hiking up her body and her legs spread apart briefly. For a few frames of Jessica's second spin her underwear supposedly disappears, revealing Jessica's nether regions.

The frames in question are frames 2170-2172 on side 4 of the laserdisc version. During these three frames Jessica's pubic region is darker than the surrounding flesh-colored areas of her legs and certainly not a dark red like the color of her underwear. Animator and Disney historian Mark Kausler studied those frames carefully and it is his expert opinion that it is just a paint error where the underwear wasn't painted in for those few frames and the dark background of her dress showed through the unpainted cel.

The cover of the November 1988 issue of PLAYBOY featured an airbrushed photo of September Playmate Laura Richmond portraying Jessica Rabbit. The cover appeared at a time when Disney was having difficulty handling the success of its sexy star and was toning down her cleavage and slit skirt for her appearances in storybooks, coloring books and related items.

The PLAYBOY cover was apparently a spontaneous inspiration occurring within a twenty-four hour period. Photographer Stephen Wayds and art director Tom Staebler photographed model Richmond with Jessica-style hair, gown and pose and then subjected the work to a dye transfer process which resulted in an animated look. Some airbrushing was necessary to pull in the waist to the more cartoon proportions of the animated Jessica.

PLAYBOY figured that Disney would have a sense of humor about the whole thing, but officially, Tom Deegan, who was then director of corporate communications for Disney, went on record by saying, "We don't have any reaction (to the PLAYBOY cover). We don't think anything about it at all. Anyway, that's not really Jessica on the cover. It's PLAYBOY's interpretation of her."

Disney was less cavalier when the French edition of the July 1989 issue of PENTHOUSE was released. Supposedly at that time, Disney had not yet copyrighted the character internationally. An oversight quickly corrected when they saw the issue featuring a cel-like drawing of a topless Jessica with long purple gloves, purple garter belt and purple bikini panties.

The interior ten page spread mixed artwork from the Disney animated feature with new color artwork of a topless Jessica posing seductively. The article was an interview with "Zita Hayworth" (a fictional actress who supposedly played the part of Jessica). No mention was made that the real voice of Jessica was supplied by the breathy delivery of actress Kathleen Turner with Steven Spielberg's ex-wife Amy Irving doing the singing voice.

(A very little known fact was that Jessica's "body performance model" was actress Betsy Brantley. Brantley was in her early Thirties when she went through the movement for the character like walking down the stage in the INK AND PAINT CLUB, much like the body movement actress/writer Sherri Stoner did for the character of Ariel in LITTLE MERMAID. Betsy played the role of the mother in PRINCESS BRIDE around the same time period if you'd like an indication of how she looked at the time but some may best remember her as "Jan Armstrong" in the tv mini-series FROM EARTH TO MOON.)

Victoria's Secret supermodel Heidi Klum helped GQ magazine (Gentleman's Quarterly) celebrate its 45th birthday in the September 2002 issue by posing in a photo layout where she was done up to mimic great sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. According to an interview at the time, her favorite photo was the one where she portrayed Jessica Rabbit.

There is just something about Jessica that seems to stir the hormones of people. The July 31, 1989 issue of SCREW featured a three page comic strip entitled "The Tramp of Toonturf" featured a character who looked suspiciously like Jessica doing an awful lot of off-color naughtiness in only twenty-four panels. And you don't have to look very long on the internet to find even more extreme examples of poor Jessica being abused by amateur artists.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the examples of how Disney icons were corrupted. The purity of the Disney image will continue to be assailed by satirists and pornographers for quite some time to come. That's just one of the hazards of being the stuff that dreams are made of I guess.

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