DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

Roger Zemeckis
Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Alan Tilvern, Richard LeParmentier
Writing Credits:
Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman, based on the novel by Gary K. Wolf

It's the story of a man, a woman, and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.

Rated PG.

Academy Awards: Won for Special Achievement Award-Richard Williams, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects.
Nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Sound.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1 (Widescreen version only)
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/25/2013

DVD One:
• Three Roger Rabbit Shorts (Tummy Trouble, Rollercoaster Rabbit and Trail Mix-Up)
• “Who Made Roger Rabbit” Mini-Documentary
• “Trouble In Toontown” Set-Top DVD Game
• THX Optimizer
• Sneak Peeks

DVD Two:
• Audio Commentary With Director Robert Zemeckis, Frank Marshall, Jeffrey Price, Peter Seaman, Steve Starkey and Ken Ralston
• “Toontown Confidential” Trivia Track
• Deleted Scene
• “Before and After” Split-Screen Animation Comparison
• “Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit” Documentary
• “Toon Stand-Ins” Featurette
• “On Set! Benny the Cab” Featurette
• “The Valiant Files” Interactive Set-Top Gallery
• THX Optimizer
• Companion Booklet
• 2 Collectible Glossies


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 5, 2013)

While I'll never claim that 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the all-time great movies, it is a very good one, and more than that, it stands as one of the finest technical achievements in motion picture history. Plus, Rabbit started the revitalization of Disney's animation studio, an area of the business that had almost been left for dead. Not bad for a movie about a cartoon bunny, huh?

Previous films attempted to integrate live action and animation, probably most notably in Disney's own Mary Poppins and Gene Kelly's Anchors Aweigh. These films used the cartoons more as a brief novelty, though; no one really tried to mix animation with real-life action until Rabbit, in which the filmmakers attempted to make us believe that Toons and humans actually coexisted on a day-to-day basis.

Overall, director Robert Zemeckis and his crew succeed at this, though I can never really suspend my disbelief; I often remain too conscious of the trickery that occurs to allow the Toons to "interact" with the live action environment. Nonetheless, many of us have become so accustomed to caring about animated characters that the differentiation between cartoon and real seems virtually insignificant. It's the quality of the characters that matters, not whether or not we see a real person on screen. Just because we know that the image displays drawn matter instead of photographed humans makes the content no less exciting or emotional to me.

As such, I don't care less or more about Roger and his cohorts because of the fact that they don't actually exist. The characters work because they're well written, neatly animated, and nicely acted by the voice talent.

Though the scariest and saddest moment lacks speech, as it occurs when Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) "dips" a cute little Toon shoe. Man, that scene's almost shocking. It's amusing just to see that we react so emotionally to what we know is a cartoon, but it's also a little scarier to see a Toon "die" in a real-life setting, especially since Toons don’t perish in most animated fare.

While the technical wizardry in Rabbit remains solid, none of that matters if the content and the performances don't work. Happily, they do. While I admit that I've never loved the film to the degree I always felt I should, I still see that it functions well on virtually all levels.

The plot doesn’t seem special, but it’s functional and the writers add a high degree of cleverness and wit. It's a spoof, but not one of the broad Naked Gun variety; the filmmakers toss in a great deal of material but they do so with a subtle touch. We're never hammered over the head with self-consciously clever bits.

Instead, the viewer has to seek out many of them. For example, when Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) snaps out of his alcohol-induced funk and gets out his gun before he ventures into Toontown, we see an inscription from Yosemite Sam on the inside of the case. Many - if not most - filmmakers would zoom in to highlight the note, but Zemeckis demonstrates restraint. If the viewer sees it, great, but he doesn't belabor the gag. I find that makes the bits that much more entertaining, since they aren't telegraphed.

Rabbit also contains an incredible roster of vintage animated characters. Even if you've heard of all of them, it'll probably take you many viewings to identify them. I certainly haven't tried, but if you're game, you may want to check out the terrific book Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters by John Grant; it provides what seems to be a comprehensive listing of all the Disney Toons who show up in the movie.

While the Toons lend Rabbit its novelty and its uniqueness, it's up to the human actors to ground the project, and they do so admirably. To a one, the humans performed their roles without irony. This becomes crucial to the success of the film, since if they added some of that "wink wink, nudge nudge" quality to their work, it would seem less "real" to the audience. If we will believe that Toons actually interact with real people, we have to feel that the humans onscreen believe it as well.

The actors don't play it completely straight, of course; there's a slight tone of hamminess to the performances that one expects in a period spoof. Actually, "hamminess" may not be the correct description; the actors portray their roles with a degree of almost over-seriousness that seemed to match the detective films of the era.

It works. Bob Hoskins is absolutely splendid as Valiant. He's onscreen for virtually the entire film and he offers the viewer a nice entry into the world of the Toons. Hey, if this gruff badass believes that Toons are real, who am I to argue? Hoskins maintains that high degree of believability from start to finish through what must have been a difficult part. Hoskins spends much of his time interacting with characters who don't actually exist, and he does so virtually flawlessly.

In a crucial supporting role, Christopher Lloyd has a less challenging time of it, but that shouldn't diminish how terrific he is here. Even though I've seen this movie upwards of ten times now, I still delight in the nuances of Lloyd's acting. One of the most subtly amusing parts of the film comes when Doom searches for Roger in the bar. The quietly rude way in which he intimidates the barflies - using an armless vet's empty sleeve to erase a chalkboard, for example – seems wonderful.

Joanna Cassidy fills out the roster of main actors as Valiant's somewhat-estranged honey Dolores. Cassidy seems fine in the role, but the more I watch the movie, the more I realize that she exists mainly as a symbol for Eddie. She's there to remind him - and us - of the happy world he left behind when he became a bitter drunk. She also lets the audience know that no matter how much of a bastard he may appear to be, Eddie's really a good guy and she still has faith that he'll come through in the end.

Interestingly, I think the filmmakers used color in conjunction with Dolores' scripted part to convey this impression. Much of the time, Rabbit offers a fairly monotone film; other than the scenes in Toontown, the image displays an almost sepia-tone cast to much of the movie. Almost to a one, the human participants and the locations show little color.

I understand the logic to this; it makes the Technicolor extravagance of Toontown standout that much more when Eddie heads over there during the film's third act. What I also find notable is that we get an exception to this "colorless human" rule: Dolores. No, she doesn't wear fantastically hued outfits or makeup, but there’s enough there to communicate to us that something seems different about her. I think that this influences the symbolism of her role; we connect her colorfulness with the Toons, which again reminds us of the happier times that Eddie abandoned but can still recapture.

Or something like that. Enough pseudo-film school blather - suffice it to say that Who Framed Roger Rabbit offers a fun and entertaining film, one that audiences will continue to watch for years to come. A terrific technological achievement as well as an amusing and likable piece, Rabbit works well overall.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus A

Who Framed Roger Rabbit appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The restrictions of the source material held back the presentation, but it delivered an accurate representation.

Sharpness generally looked solid. Some slight softness appeared at times, but as with most of the image’s minor issues, this seemed related to concerns inherent in some of the visual effects. Rabbit relied heavily on composite shots to meld live-action and animation, and those came across as a little fuzzy at times. However, the movie mostly appeared accurate and distinct, and the light softness became inevitable.

I noticed no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a logical layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any heavy-handed noise reduction, and source flaws were a non-factor; the movie was consistently clean.

Colors looked positive across the board, as the tones appeared tight and bright. The hues especially worked well during the Toontown shots, which displayed vivid and bold colors. Black levels also came across as dense and deep, and shadow detail looked appropriately opaque but not too thick and impenetrable. This was about as good as I could imagine this film would look.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield of Rabbit seemed positive but unspectacular, as the front speakers dominated. Music showed good stereo separation, and the forward soundstage came across as reasonably broad and engaging. Effects popped up in logical locations and usually blended together nicely.

Surround usage didn’t usually do much more than reinforce the front, though. Music dominated the track, as a fair amount score emanated from the rear. Other material appeared in the rear speakers occasionally, but little unique audio cropped up in the surrounds; mostly those channels just echoed the front ones. A few big action shots delivered pizzazz in the back, but those weren’t a common aspect of the mix.

Audio quality was positive given its age. Speech seemed crisp and intelligible, with reasonable warmth. Music seemed bright and lively, while effects showed reasonable clarity and range; when required to demonstrate punch, these elements offered nice warmth. This was a good – but not great – mix for a film from 1988.

How did the Blu-ray compare to ”VISTA” DVD from 2003? Audio was warmer and a bit better balanced than the DVD’s track; I thought it melded together in a more satisfying way. Visuals also demonstrated improved accuracy and vivacity. This was a stronger presentation than the DVD.

The Blu-ray replicates most of the DVD’s extras. These start with an audio commentary from director Robert Zemeckis, producer/2nd unit director Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, and screenwriters Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey Price. All six were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. Originally taped for a 1998 laserdisc release, the commentary covers a lot of ground and provides a useful experience.

All facets of the production receive attention here. We get notes about the project’s origins and different script issues/changes that occurred along the way. Of course, lots of technical information crops up as well, as we learn of all Rabbit’s challenges and the solutions for these. At times, the gang just watch the movie and laugh, and the occasional empty spot appears as well. However, overall the Rabbit commentary seems lively and informative.

In addition, we get a text commentary called Toontown Confidential. This piece spans the whole movie and offers a pretty good little addition. It covers a variety of topics. We get biographical notes about many participants and technical details about the production.

A great deal of movie-related trivia appears as well, and some of these bits seem very interesting; for example, we learn about a number of actors considered for the role of Eddie. Confidential” offers a lot of useful information.

Next we move to a modern 36-minute and 37-second documentary called Behind the Ears. This piece combines movie clips, behind the scenes material and new interviews with director Robert Zemeckis, producer/2nd unit director Frank Marshall, associate producer Don Hahn, director of animation Richard Williams, film editor Arthur Schmidt, screenwriter Peter S. Seaman, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, director of photography Dean Cundey, animator Dave Spafford, supervising animator Phil Nibbelink, supervising animator Andreas Deja, voice actor Lou Hirsch, animator Nik Ranieri, actor Bob Hoskins, supervising animator Simon Wells, voice actor Charles Fleischer, special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, chief puppeteer David Alan Barclay, chief executive and supervising animator Dale Baer, optical camera operator Jon Alexander, optical photography supervisor Ed Jones, and composer Alan Silvestri. In addition, we find archival interview snippets from 1987 with Fleischer, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and mechanical effects supervisor George Gibbs.

Whew – that’s a long list of participants, but “Ears” packs them in neatly and offers a terrific look at the film. The program follows many facets of the production and nicely illustrates the different issues. Mostly these focus on technical concerns, and we see all of the methods used to meld toons and humans.

Of particular interest is the human/toon composite test, but we also find a great deal of interesting material from the set; for example, we check out the puppets used to help with actor eyelines. The speakers all contribute depth to these pieces, as they go over all of the various issues they faced. “Ears” gives us a great examination of the creation of a difficult film.

After this we locate a deleted scene. Called the “Pig Head Sequence”, this area starts with a one-minute, 36-second introduction from Zemeckis, Ralston, and supervising animator Simon Wells. They discuss the creation of the sequence, where it would have occurred in the film, and why it got the boot.

We then watch the entire three-minute and 54-second clip. Though Zemeckis regrets its omission, I’m glad it was cut. It’s entertaining, but I like it better when Eddie’s first visit to Toontown in the movie occurs toward the end. Given his history, that means the sequence has more punch. Anyway, it’s still very cool to see this unused footage.

Before and After provides glimpses of shots that include animation. This segment follows Eddie’s first few minutes in Toontown and lasts three minutes and seven seconds. On the top part of the split screen, we see the completed scenes. On the bottom, we watch the actors as they perform without the added animation. This offers a very cool look at the source material, and it further helps us appreciate all the work the actors – especially Hoskins – had to do to make us buy the existence of the toons.

We find similar materials via Toon Stand-Ins. After a quick introductory comment from Ken Ralston, this three-minute and 14-second piece shows more pre-animation footage. However, these shots include the stand-in puppets and dolls used for actor eyelines; we see a mix of clips from the final flick plus a few rehearsal bits. In addition to Ralston’s remark, we also get a few notes from Steve Starkey, Richard Williams and Robert Zemeckis. I love this sort of raw footage, and these scenes offer a lot of fun.

A final batch of archival footage appears in On Set!. This four-minute and 50-second piece includes more material from the set. We see behind the scenes interactions, with an emphasis on shots of Zemeckis as he worked with the actors. This offers yet another great view of the production – I only wish we found more of this stuff here.

Next we get Who Made Roger Rabbit, a new featurette hosted by voice actor Charles Fleischer. During this 10-minute and 55-second program, Fleischer leads us through the film’s production and gives us the basics about its creation. The piece seems cute but superficial. Some good behind the scenes materials appear, but the show won’t be very useful for folks who already understand the animation processes. However, since it seems meant for kids and neophytes, it provides a decent little introduction.

Three cartoons appear under The Roger Rabbit Shorts. These include Tummy Trouble (eight minutes, eight seconds), “Rollercoaster Rabbit” (8:11), and “Trail Mix-Up” (9:09). Although all three use the same “Roger tries to keep Baby Herman out of trouble” theme, they seem quite amusing and entertaining. They definitely add a lot to this package.

The disc opens with ads for Monsters University and Planes. Sneak Peeks also delivers promos for Gravity Falls, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, and Return to Neverland.

A second disc delivers a DVD copy of Rabbit. This duplicates the second platter in the VISTA release from 2003, so it comes with many extras. This means we find a bunch of still galleries absent from the Blu-ray.

If nothing else, Who Framed Roger Rabbit would go into the cinematic history books as a terrific technological achievement. Happily, the movie deserves attention as more than just a smooth marriage of live-action and animation. After 25 years and many screenings, I continue to enjoy Rabbit, as it provides a creative and amusing experience. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and audio along with a strong collection of bonus materials. This turns into a solid Blu-ray for a delightful film.

To rate this film visit the Vista Series review of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main