Directed by Robert Zemeckis with funding from Steven Spielberg, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was loosely adapted from the 1981 book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf. Released in 1988 to box office success and critical acclaim, the film won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Editing (with nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound). Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a real revelation. It was the first movie to combine actors and animation in the same space, and make it look real.
Set in 1947 Los Angeles, Bob Hoskins stars as private detective Eddie Valiant. Lost in a bottle after the death of his brother, Eddie dislikes the denizens of Toontown who ply their wacky trade in Hollywood’s studio system. Nonetheless, he finds himself hired by studio head R. K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to find follow the vivacious Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner), the wife of bankable animated star Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer), and find out if she’s having an affair. Despite Eddie’s trepidation—a still on the loose toon is responsible for the death of his brother—he eventually agrees to take the job. In the process of following Jessica, he not only discovers she’s having an affair, but having an affair with Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), owner of the world-famous Acme Corporation. However, when Acme later turns up dead, Roger Rabbit is the prime suspect. At the same time, the diabolical Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) has no interest in justice. Instead, he is scheming to wipe Toontown off the map in the name of progress.
Utterly ridiculous and wonderful, Who Framed Roger Rabbit pulls viewers in within the first few minutes. Director Robert Zemeckis and a crew of animators—headed by Richard Williams and assisted by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic—crafted a fun, affectionate nod to film noir of the 1940’s. It’s all smoky streets, classy fedoras, and femme fatales. When Eddie Valiant enters his muddled office, he hangs his hat on a Maltese Falcon before meeting the sultry Jessica Rabbit. Holding it all together is the performance of Bob Hoskins. His Valiant has a gruff exterior, but underneath it all, he’s a big softy.
The number of walk-ons and cameos is pretty amazing: A-list stars such as Daffy and Bugs and Mickey, there’s Dumbo, Yosemite Sam, Tweety, Porky Pig, and more. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a wonderful cartoon for an adult that is as fresh today as it did when it was released in 1988.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is a rather grimy looking experience. Even so, I don’t think the movie could look any better than it does here. Some of the animation is beautifully rendered; the grimy look isn’t the fault of the transfer, but rather its 1988 release. Color is accurate, and detail is better than average. Black levels are fairly solid.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track serves the film well. Things aren’t particularly nuanced, but dialogue is audible throughout. Effects and atmospherics come through nicely, high and low ends work well together, and surrounds kick in when called upon.
A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included, as are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Along with a DVD copy of the film, the following special features are available:
- Audio Commentary: Director Robert Zemeckis, producer Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and co-writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman methodically inch their way through the film, discussing the development of the project, developing the story and script, the creation of the animated characters (animation and voicework), Speilberg’s personal wrangling of multiple studios and licensing departments, the innovative techniques used to blend Roger Rabbit‘s animation and live-action footage more seamlessly than had been seen on screen before, and everything from the film’s casting to its reception.
- The Roger Rabbit Shorts (HD) Three Maroon Cartoons from Roger’s past— “Tummy Trouble (8:08, 1989),” “Roller Coaster Rabbit (8:11, 1990)” and “Trail Mix-Up (9:09, 1993)”—digitally restored and presented in high definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.
- Who Made Roger Rabbit (SD, 10:55) Charles Fleischer, the voice of Roger Rabbit, hosts this brief behind-the-scenes featurette. Special guest appearance by the Rabbit himself.
- Behind the Ears (SD, 36:40) A fairly extensive behind-the-scenes documentary, complete with on-set footage and dailies, interviews with key members of the cast and crew, and a thorough overview of the production.
- Toontown Confidential (HD) Though difficult to find, the Blu-ray disc’s text-based “Toontown Confidential” fact-n-trivia track is located in the subtitles menu.
- Deleted Scene (SD, 5:30) The deleted “Pig Head Sequence,” with an introduction by the filmmakers.
- Before and After (SD, 3:10) Compare raw production footage with final live-action/animation shots.
- Toon Stand-Ins (SD, 3:10) Rubber models and voice actors stand in for the animated characters.
- On Set! (SD, 4:50) Zemeckis and crew on set.
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