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