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HTF REVIEW: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

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#1 of 97 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 09 2003 - 06:27 AM

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Vista Series)

Studio: Touchstone
Year: 1988
Rated: PG
Film Length: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)and Full-screen (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English

"I'm not bad I'm just drawn that way."
- Jessica Rabbit

It's kind of funny that back in 1988 when Who
Framed Roger Rabbit
was released, I really had
no appreciation for the film whatsoever. I was a
young lad of 25 and I really had no interest in a
film like this. Now watching it again the first
time again in over 15 years, I find myself with
a totally brand-new perspective on the film. It's
plainly evident that Who Framed Roger Rabbit
is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece.

No kidding! I was in complete awe while watching
this movie that meticulously blends live action and
animation in a whole new level that exceeds all
previous cinematic attempts before it. One can't
help but appreciate not only the fact that this film
is an uproarious tribute to classic animation, but
how perfectly the live-action actors interact with
their animated co-stars. And my God, where else
can you see all of your favorite cartoon characters
together in one movie?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit would not have been
the film that it is if not for the creative talent
involved. This was a Spielberg-Disney joint effort
to film Gary K. Wolf's 1981 British fantasy-mystery
titled Who Censored Roger Rabbit. Director
Robert Zemeckis, an early apprentice and protege of
Steven Spielberg was brought aboard, giving his great
technical skill to the project. Then there are the
writers, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman who have
written a script that is a flat-out howl for anyone
who grew up worshipping the classic cartoons to which
this film pays homage. When released in 1988, the
film was nominated for art direction/set decoration,
cinematography, and sound. It ended up winning the
Academy Award for sound effects and visual effects.

The movie centers around Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins),
a private detective who's been binging on the drink
since his partner was killed by a "Toon." One
day he gets called in to see cartoon maker R.K Maroon
(Alan Tilvern), who's having a problem with one of his
employees, a wacky animated "Toon" rabbit named
Roger (voiced by Charles Fleischer). Roger's been
really depressed lately, and it's starting to get
in the way of his work. Maroon feels the rabbit's
depression is due to marital problems with his wife
Jessica (voiced by Katleen Turner).

Maroon sends Eddie to find out what's going on.
Soon after the detective snap shots some provocative
pictures of Toon Town owner Marvin Acme and Jessica
Rabbit, a murder takes place and Roger Rabbit is
the prime suspect as he tries to find refuge with
Eddie and Eddie's long-suffering girlfriend (Joanna
Cassidy), while hiding from the sinister and
sadistic Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).

How is the transfer?

Pure perfection! This is a superb-looking transfer
that gives razor-sharp detail to its live actors
and vivid color to its animated co-stars. Picture
is ultra-smooth with excellent color rendering and
absolutely no bleeding or smearing. Black levels
are extraordinarily deep, giving nice texture to
the film's 1940s styling. The only sense of grain
I saw in the transfer is during the film's opening
cartoon -- other than that, this is a top-shelf
transfer that fans of this film have been
begging for.

I wasn't overly impressed with the film's 5.1 DTS
sound scheme. While the film certainly boasts a
grand sense of dynamics across the front sound
stage (particularly in Alan Silvestri's score), the
rears just don't seem to do enough to support the
film. I would have expected that a cartoon romp
like this would have given ample opportunity for
some really cool directional effects. Take for
instance a scene at the beginning of the film where
Dumbo flies across the viewing area. One would
hope that such a flyby would produce a dramatic
"whoosh" effect from front to back. Instead, the
effect stays totally in the front, right to left.
Though the rears do provide a few effect sounds
(such as gunshots), the audio is mostly front-heavy.

Special Features

There is so much to talk about even before I dwell
into the supplemental material of this DVD. Let's
first talk about the packaging....

Who Framed Roger Rabbit arrives in a very
attractive and colorful slipcover case whose innards
slide out into a 3-pane gatefold that hold the
two DVD discs in plastic hub housing. The DVDs look
absolutely cool, with artwork that realistically makes
them look like tiny film reels. Disc One
is labeled as a "Family Friendly" presentation,
touting a full-frame transfer and extras that will
most likely appeal to younger family members. Disc
is labeled as a "Enthusiast" presentation
with a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and enough in-depth
supplements to please the hard core fan.

In the corner pocket sits your own personally
autographed pictures of Roger and Jessica, as well
as rather cool 8-page collector's booklet that
is presented in the form of a private detective's
little notebook. Flip up the pages to find some
in-depth text notes on the conception and making
of the film as well as DVD chapter stops.

I am going to start with Disc Two as this
is the disc I am certain that most people will
immediately pop into their DVD players.

Imagine my surprise of popping in this DVD and
being greeted by an absolutely outstanding live-
action/animated menu starring Benny the cab who
takes you inside the gates of Maroon Cartoons
as you guide your remote around the many special
features this disc has to offer.

Let's begin with the supplemental material that is
contained on Disc Two....

I first want to talk about this terrific commentary
track by Robert Zemeckis, Frank Marshall, Jeffrey Price,
Peter Seaman, Steve Starkey, and Ken Ralston. This
track reeks of pure fun simply because of all the
information it includes and the fact that everyone
involved with it is having the time of their lives
talking about it. Through this all, we learn about
the early drawn creations of Roger Rabbit, as well
as the many voice phases the character went through.
The film was shot in England at the Elstree film and
television studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.
Hoskins was an unknown English actor at the time who
was able to sport a convincing American accent. What
was Steven Spielberg's biggest contribution to this
film? He personally went to Warner Bros. and secured
permission for their cartoons to appear alongside
Disney cartoons. It is the first (and probably last)
time you will ever see such a pairing on screen.
One of the best parts of this commentary happens
early on at the Ink and Paint club, where we
hear how clever optics, puppeteers and cell animation
were all brought together to create one of the most
visually exciting moments in the film. It's also
mind-blowing to hear about how difficult it is to
create human animation, particularly the character
of Jessica Rabbit, who had to be drawn in an off-beat
manner in order to carefully walk the line between
human and toon. I would estimate this commentary to
be one of the finest I have heard on any DVD.

One option you certainly must race to enable is
ToonTown Confidential which provides constant
pop-up style trivia in a transparent box. Fans will
no doubt love reading all these little-known-facts
alongside the playback of the film. Way cool!

Director Robert Zemeckis, Visual Effects
Supervisor Ken Ralston and Supervising Animator
Simon Wells introduce the deleted scene
entitled The Pig Head Sequence, first showing
us original raw footage of how it was put together
and then following it with the finished product
shown in full-frame.
(length: approx. 5 minutes)

Valiant Files lets you use your remote to
snoop around the office of Valiant & Valiant.
Using your remote, you can click on various objects
around the office, giving you access to all sorts
of photo galleries on character development,
production, promotion and Roger Rabbit artwork.
I love the fact that there are just dozens upon
dozens of cool images to browse through, but not
overly enthusiastic that I had to first solve
puzzles to get to it all. Fortunately, a "cheat
sheet" lets you get through it without any hassles.

Before and After is an ultra-cool 3-minute
segment that shows you how live-action and animation
were brought together for the film's "Toon-Town"
sequence. You'll watch side-by-side windows that
show Hoskins in front of a blue screen as he acts he
interacts with yet undrawn animation while the final
product is shown above him. You'll see some
original storyboard artwork thrown in here as well.

Now this is neat! Toon Stand-Ins shows how
full-size rubber creations were used to interact
with live actors, mimicking the actions of the yet
undrawn animation. You'll thoroughly enjoy this
3-minute segment that is aided with commentary by
director Robert Zemeckis and Associate Producer
Steve Starkey.

Behind The Ears is a wonderful all-new
featurette that begins in March 1987 and takes us
through the entire production of the film. Along
the way it features all-new interviews from the
likes of Robert Zemeckis, Don Hahn, Richard Williams,
Arthur Shchmidt, Steve Starkey, Bob Hoskins, Charles
Fleischer, and so many others! You really watch and
appreciate the blood and sweat that went into this
production, particularly for the fact that the
filmmakers were really doing all of this blindly
as Zemeckis decided he wanted to shoot the film
with live actors, leaving it up to the animators
to fit everything else in later. Neither camps
knew if each other's work would be able to be
effortlessly combined. You'll see all sorts of
original test footage here as well as learning how
Zemeckis broke the rule that you can never move a
camera while doing animation. You'll have fun
watching actor Charles Fleischer rehearse in
costume alongside an actor, only to then move away
and have that actor act out the scenes alone (having
animation added later). This is an exciting
featurette that really throws you head-first into
the film's animation, production and scoring process
thanks to all the exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage.
(length: approx. 36 minutes)

On Set! is another sensational segment where
we get to watch Hoskins on a motor car of sorts that
stands in for the yet-to-be-drawn Benny the cab.
You'll watch Hoskins try to avoid an oncoming trolley
car, and later, dodging traffic as he races across
a bridge. One of the must-see portions of this DVD!
(length: approx. 5 minutes)

That does it for Disc Two.

Disc One contains the full-screen transfer
of the film. In addition, another creatively combined
live-action and animated menu sequence featuring
Benny the cab who takes us to several film locales
that house the following supplements....

Three original Roger Rabbit Shorts: "Tummy
Trouble", "Rollercoaster Rabbit", and "Trail Mix-Up."
These were produced following the success of the
feature film. I do not know, however, if these
shorts have been edited in any way because it is my
understanding that there were complaints regarding
its violence.

Who Made Roger Rabbit is a rather cute
11-minute "kid-friendly" featurette hosted by
Charles Fleischer that really puts the making of this
film in a perspective that can be easily understood
by all members of the family. It's nice to see
something like this included for the fact that it
may inspire children who may one day grow up to be
our animators of tomorrow.

Trouble in Toontown is an interactive game
that combines pie-throwing and multiple-choice
questions that are essential in saving Toon-Town
from the devious weasels.

There are trailers for SchoolHouse Rock and
Ultimate X, but strangely, there is no
original theatrical trailer included for this film.
What kind of Special Edition doesn't include an
original trailer?!

Final Thoughts

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was an achievement
in studio cooperation as much as it was in animation.
It is a homage to everything we have loved about
cartoons ever since we were introduced to them as
little kids.

This Vista Series DVD once again proves that Disney
can do some spectacular things with the format once
they set their mind to it. Most highly recommended
for kids of ALL ages!

Release Date: March 25, 2003

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 97 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted March 09 2003 - 06:35 AM

Looks great...

One interesting thing... most of the film was made in VistaVision 8 perf because of all the compositing.

This screenshot shows what the camera looked like:

Posted Image

Industrial Light + Magic constructed a bunch of VV cameras for the Star Wars films, which are still in use today.

March 25 can't come sooner!

(I'm against censorship for this title, but I DO realize that Disney could care less. Since they will likely never allow an uncut version on DVD, I might as well buy it. After all, they gave us the finger when it came to getting uncut editions of Fantasia, Saludas Amigos, Make Mine Music, and Melody Time on DVD. Not to mention the non-OAR titles, either. Here's to The Digital Bits' "Best Studio of 2002"! Posted Image )

#3 of 97 OFFLINE   Adam_WM



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Posted March 09 2003 - 06:37 AM

My most anticipated release so far this year!!!! CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!


#4 of 97 OFFLINE   JoeyPalmiotti



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Posted March 09 2003 - 06:38 AM

WONDERFUL review! I can't wait for it Posted Image

#5 of 97 OFFLINE   Lucho Cohaila

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Posted March 09 2003 - 06:50 AM

Ron, my question is: what kind of language track in Spanish have WFRR´DVD VISTA SERIES Edition, from Spain or Latin America? by the way..... EXCELENT REVIEW!!!!!! Thanks for your answers.....
Lucho Cohaila Guzman
Desde Tacna, Peru para el Mundo....

#6 of 97 OFFLINE   Lee Bombard

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Posted March 09 2003 - 07:19 AM

No trailer?

Perhaps you need to look a little harder...Posted Image

#7 of 97 OFFLINE   Rain



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Posted March 09 2003 - 07:21 AM

Thanks for the review, Ron. This does look like a nice set.

It's a shame I'm going to have to pass on it due to the censorship. It looks like it would be a spectacular release otherwise. Posted Image

[quote] It's plainly evident that Who Framed Roger Rabbit
is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece. [quote] I couldn't agree more. Great film.

...which I'm ready to buy on DVD as soon as it is released uncensored.


I hope it's ok that I have commented on the censorship issue in this thread. I realize there is another thread going on about this, but this one is more likely to actually be seen by the studio and I feel it is important that they know that some people will not be buying the DVD for this reason.

This is not to suggest that many people will not enjoy this disc in spite of the ommissions and that is obviously a matter of personal choice. I just don't see why both versions could not have been released in order to please everyone.

"Imagine all the people, living life in peace..." - Imagine by John Lennon

#8 of 97 OFFLINE   Damian James

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Posted March 09 2003 - 07:51 AM

Great review and I look forward to seeing this movie again, but there are no images showing up for your screencaps. Is it me or is something haywire?
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#9 of 97 OFFLINE   Rain



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Posted March 09 2003 - 07:52 AM

[quote] Is it me or is something haywire? [quote] I can see them fine. Posted Image
"Imagine all the people, living life in peace..." - Imagine by John Lennon

#10 of 97 OFFLINE   Steve_Knutzen



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Posted March 09 2003 - 07:56 AM

Great review Ron. Can't wait for this release.
And by the way
[quote] What kind of Special Edition doesn't include an original trailer!? [quote]
Signs and Unbreakable which are both Vista Series as well. That's staring to irk me.
"Oh I can hold my breath for a long, long time!"


#11 of 97 OFFLINE   Kenneth Cummings

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Posted March 09 2003 - 08:31 AM

I getting no matter what a few people say about a finger. I love the movie and nothing is stopping me from buying it.
I need a new signature.

#12 of 97 OFFLINE   Tony-B



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Posted March 09 2003 - 08:35 AM

Excellent review, Ron! I am going to be buying this one, censorship or no censorship. This is too good of a movie to pass up. I am upset about the trailer not being on there, but I suppose I can live without it. I really like how everything sounds, and I can't wait to pop disc 2 into my DVD player. Damian, I can't see the pictures either. Edit: Actually, just as I got done posting, they showed up.
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#13 of 97 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 09 2003 - 10:15 AM

No pictures here, either. I tried following the link on them too, but got a 404 not found error.

#14 of 97 OFFLINE   Tim RH

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Posted March 09 2003 - 10:30 AM

I can't see the pics either! Posted Image

[quote] ...which I'm ready to buy on DVD as soon as it is released uncensored. [quote] ...which won't be happening. EVER.

#15 of 97 OFFLINE   David Williams

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Posted March 09 2003 - 10:33 AM

Wonderful review! I am definitely picking this one up on the 25th. As for the reason the images don't work, they are linked to the wrong directory. Instead of /ronsreviews/image.jpg it should be /ronsreviews/covers/image.jpg.
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#16 of 97 ONLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted March 09 2003 - 10:51 AM

Thanks for the review Ron! I will be picking this one up for sure.

Oh, and I too cannot see the images in your review (tried on IE, Mozilla and Opera).

Posted Image

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#17 of 97 OFFLINE   Dominik Droscher

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Posted March 09 2003 - 11:15 AM

Images work for me. Great review!

#18 of 97 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 09 2003 - 11:18 AM

There was a temporary problem with the pictures.
Everyone should be on the same page now.

[quote] No trailer?

Perhaps you need to look a little harder..
Perhaps you can stop being a tease and tell us
what we should know. No trailer is listed on the
outside specs of the box, nor could I easily find
it through the menu structure.

If it is an EASTER EGG, then shame on Disney! They
shouldn't be hiding such stuff, and frankly, I don't
waste my valuable time looking for such eggs.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#19 of 97 OFFLINE   Bolivar G

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Posted March 09 2003 - 11:40 AM

Thanks for the review Ron, great as always.
Im buying this asson it comes out! Cant wait for it.
I cant believe ppl are getting all bent out of shape over a few frames of animation and not buying whats looke like a great DVD release. Oh well there loss I guess Posted Image

#20 of 97 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted March 09 2003 - 12:27 PM

Great review Ron, excellent movie. The only time you'll see cartoon legends Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse appear together, is in this movie. Joe Dante is directing a similar sort of film for release this year isn't he? Starring many of the Warner Bros cartoon characters, I'm sure I read it somewhere, hmmm maybe I dreamt it.

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