Photo : Amber Conley

Photo : Amber Conley

I love the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, everything about it, the animation, the mystery, the characters …. All of it! I grew up with Roger Rabbit, I remember seeing it in the movie theater. I was five years old and I ate, slept and breathed cartoons. So naturally I was entranced by this film that depicted cartoon stars existing in our world. I even still own my VHS copy of the film which was viewed many a Saturday morning growing up. I still love cartoons, specifically the theatrical shorts of the 1940’s & 50’s, so as an adult I can truly appreciate how “Roger Rabbit” is a glorified love letter to those cartoons.

I’ve always wanted to show my love (and obsession) for the film by cosplaying from it, so it’s always been in the back of mind. While my personality is more in tune with Roger, I couldn’t resist the idea of cosplaying Judge Doom, the film’s villain, who I feel leaves the most emotional impact with the viewer. One emotionally scaring scene in particular depicts the Judge murdering an innocent and adorable cartoon shoe by slowly submerging the poor thing into a deadly chemical dip, leaving nothing more than paint on Doom’s stained glove.

Judge Doom started out as a costume for Halloween but when it came time to take it to a convention, I knew I wanted to make it a couple's cosplay with my wife, that’s when we decided to make her Eddie Valiant, the film’s hero. Both costumes are mostly finds from thrift stores and costume shops. While the hats, glasses and bow tie were easy to find, the coats were the most challenging. My wife got lucky and found a fitting trench coat and ugly enough tie while searching several Goodwill stores. Doom’s coat was a little tougher to find but we eventually found a woman’s long black coat that looked similar and fit me well enough. My wife had to extend the sleeve length and she sewed on Doom’s shoulder cape.

Next was adding props and I love props! I love thinking of what kinds of things I can find or make to add an extra level to the cosplay and, like a cartoon character, I tend to go way over the top. I wanted most of all to showcase Doom’s most disturbing scene (the one with that squeaky toon shoe) so I knew immediately I was going to make a mobile barrel of D.I.P. To find a light weight barrel I started looking for plastic shipping drums online. One day, to my luck, I took a wrong turn into an unfamiliar neighborhood and saw what I needed at the end of a driveway filled with yard debris. The home owner was right there working in his yard when I screeched to a stop, rolled down my window and enquired where he got the barrel. With a puzzled look he replied “not sure, but I’m hoping the trash man takes it because I don’t want it”. And that was that, it was in the back of my truck, yard debris and all. A good cleaning out and a paint job later I had a D.I.P. barrel. I added wheels to make it mobile and green led lights to the inside with aluminum siding to reflect the light and dyed cheese cloth to imitate the liquid chemicals.

Now that I had the D.I.P. I needed the toon shoe. I started with a novelty clown shoe and used white plsti-dip to get him the colors from the movie. Using a still frame as reference I drew on those sad soulful eyes and finally I added a squeaker from a dog toy to the inside, because it just had to squeak.

The first time wearing Judge Doom & Eddie Valiant at a convention I had two concerns, 1) will people recognize our cosplay from a movie over 25 years old? 2) Will I be able to push this massive barrel around a crowded convention? Well, I was pleasantly surprised by both answers. 

Some people would announce “You two are my childhood” while others would share stories about how the film effected them or how they’ve shared the movie with their children. Some people would share their detest for Judge Doom, how the character scared them as child. There were even a very few people who became visibly upset at the sight of the toon shoe, becoming wide eyed and covering their mouths or gasping “Not the shoe!”

Being able to recreate that bit of nostalgia for people was amazing, to be able to bring a movie (that I love dearly) to life and connect with others that also share an emotional impact with the film is simply incredible. That’s what I love about cosplay, you advertise a fandom you’re passionate about to the world and you get some of the most amazing feedback from likeminded individuals. The barrel, by the way, is one of my favorite props to carry. It conveniently holds all our stuff, hides our belongings out of view, and people clear a path when they see me coming. It’s fun to pose with, people love looking inside and even a few parents have attempted to D.I.P. their youngsters for a photo.

- Donovan & Sarah (Louisville, IN)