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Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 145 Matt Hough

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Posted March 07 2013 - 11:35 AM

Walt Disney had been working on combining live action with animation since his “Alice” cartoons in the 1920s, and some of his most celebrated films using the technique like Song of the South, Mary Poppins, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks showed advances in technology over the course of decades. But nothing that had been done previously could compare to the company’s 1988 masterwork Who Framed Roger Rabbit, an entire feature film that not only combined live action and animation throughout but grandly hawked the ability to do it in a miracle film unlike anything that had been produced before or since. With three years of effort, $40 million, and the skill of hundreds of craftsmen (the credits run an astounding seven minutes), this hilarious, exciting, touching, and frankly mind-boggling effort remains one the studio’s crown jewels.







Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Studio: Touchstone
Year: 1988
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 104 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 26.50



Release Date: March 12, 2013

Review Date: March 7, 2013




The Film

5/5


The time is 1947, immediately after the war when a recession had made life miserable for many in the country. Enter beaten-down detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) who is begged by cartoon studio owner R. K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to get information on star Roger Rabbit’s (Charles Fleischer) wife Jessica's (Kathleen Turner, singing voice of Amy Irving) alleged affair with corporate mogul Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). Valiant’s surveillance pictures of the two in a compromising position (playing patty-cake) drives Roger to distraction, and when Acme turns up dead, Roger is sought for the murder by Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) and his band of weasels. Despite disliking toons, Valiant makes it his business to get to the truth of the murder.


The most impressive facet of this comic film noir is the sheer mammoth scale of the enterprise. There are very few frames of the film that don’t offer some combination of live action and animation, and when one is aware that it was done without the benefit of CGI and using only optical effects, the achievement is even more astonishing. And what brilliant animation it is guided by the sure hand of the Oscar-winning Richard Williams! Almost every famous cartoon creation from cinema’s golden era pops up somewhere in the film (Popeye and Felix being the notable exceptions), and the inventions of Roger and his charge Baby Herman (voiced by Lou Hirsch with the mouth of a longshoreman in real life) in their own cartoon which begins the movie (as brilliant as any cartoon short done in the frantic style of Tex Avery) goes beyond impressive. And for first timers, when the camera pulls back near the end of the cartoon and live humans step into the cartoon frame beginning the actual story part of the film (followed by all of them stepping out of the cartoon into the real world soundstage), it’s mind-blowing. Continually, the animators thrill and amaze us with their invention and skill: at one point Valiant speeds through Los Angeles traffic in an animated taxicab being pursued by the cartoon weasels in a real cab.


It’s this kind of juxtaposition combined with the taken-for-granted mixture of humans and toons in the same worlds that keep the crazy antics of the movie directed with superb finesse and a razor-sharp sense of timing by Robert Zemeckis continually fresh, funny, and fascinating. OK, the mystery plot by Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman derived from Gary Wolf’s book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? isn’t the most baffling in memory, and the fiendishly frantic climax with our heroes in continual jeopardy runs on a bit longer than it needed to with the close calls, but these are quibbles. The film’s unique spin on a time and place with the novel idea of toon characters existing in real life and the real world is an unparalleled genius set-up, and kudos for all the hands who made this once-in-a-lifetime combination of characters from many studios together in one movie happen.


As for the human actors, Bob Hoskins can’t be given enough credit for his sensational performance as the haunted Eddie Valiant. Having to act opposite nothing for great portions of the movie requires an actor uncommonly skillful at mime and with a powerful imagination. Hoskins meets every challenge and sports a terrific tough guy American accent that seems as natural to him as breathing. Joanna Cassidy is the faithful girl friend beloved of potboiler mystery writers, and film producer Joel Silver is a hoot as the harried director of the cartoon that opens the film. Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom is a one-note evil and threatening character, but that note becomes sharper and more exaggerated in Lloyd’s typical style as the movie runs. The animated voice work by especially Charles Fleischer and Kathleen Turner adds expert comic timing and wonderfully ingratiating performances into an already heady mix.



Video Quality

5/5


The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Picture quality is exceptional throughout, and the animated characters blend wonderfully with the live action footage as well or better than it did in theaters. Color is wonderfully rich, and flesh tones on the human characters are very believable. Black levels are excellent with superb shadow detail. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.



Audio Quality

4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t have the sophisticated split sound effects that one would find in a more recent action or animated film, and the majority of the film’s front and rear soundstage gets used primarily for Alan Silvestri’s bustling and atmospheric music score. Otherwise, the mix seems more attuned to the front channels with effective use of them and dialogue that has been wonderfully recorded and is never overshadowed by the sound effects or music. Dialogue has been placed in the center channel.



Special Features

4.5/5


The audio commentary gathers together important crew members director Robert Zemeckis, producers Frank Marshall and Steve Starkey, writers Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, and visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston. Even with so large a group, the comments never get out of control, and lots of vital facts and amusing anecdotes are discussed. A must listen.


The three Roger Rabbit shorts are presented in 1080p and high bitrate Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. “Tummy Trouble” and the best of the three “Roller Coaster Rabbit” run 8 ¼ minutes. “Trail Mix-Up” runs 9 ¼ minutes.


All of the production featurettes are presented in 480i.


“Who Made Roger Rabbitis an 11-minute featurette with voice actor Charles Fleischer describing how the tricks were accomplished during the production of the movie.


One deleted scene involving Eddie in a pig’s head is explained by director Robert Zemeckis and then shown lasting 5 ½ minutes.


“Before and After” spends 3 ¼ minutes showing the brilliance of Bob Hoskins’ mime work acting and reacting to nothing and then the same scene shown with the finished animation.


“Toon Stand-Ins” shows the rubber character models which were used in rehearsals to give the live actors an idea of the size of the animated characters they’d be sharing the frame with. This runs 3 ¼ minutes.


“Behind the Ears” is the primary production featurette running 36 ¾ minutes. In it, Steven Spielberg, director Robert  Zemeckis, producers Frank Marshall and Don Hahn, animator Richard Williams, film editor Arthur Schmidt, cinematographer Dean Cundey, and composer Alan Silvestri divide the production efforts into “The Test,” “The Production” (live action material), “The Animation,” “The Music,” and “The Finale.”


“On Set!” shows Robert staging and Bob Hoskins filming two sequences with Benny the Cab. This runs 4 ¾ minutes.


There are 1080p promo trailers for Planes and Monsters University.


The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.



In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)


Masterful, unique, unsurpassed, Who Framed Roger Rabbit still amazes on this its twenty-fifth anniversary year. A beautiful video and audio transfer brings the film’s charm, humor, and excitement to high definition in a highly recommended video package.




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC



#2 of 145 Edwin-S

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Posted March 07 2013 - 11:50 AM

Ok.This is a release day buy for me.
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#3 of 145 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 07 2013 - 12:15 PM

Thanks for the review. Hoping for another $7 coupon to come along. :-)
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#4 of 145 Kevin Martinez

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Posted March 07 2013 - 01:11 PM

Any updates on Baby Herman's middle finger? Did they airbrush it out?

#5 of 145 TonyD

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:01 PM

probably, that and a few other things were romoved for the dvd and the laser before.
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#6 of 145 Vincent_P

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:45 PM

Any updates on Baby Herman's middle finger? Did they airbrush it out?

probably, that and a few other things were romoved for the dvd and the laser before.

The middle-finger is present on the LaserDisc, at least the CAV LaserDisc that I have. Vincent

#7 of 145 TonyD

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:46 PM

The cav still had most or all of the things that were later removed. I have the cav and the other laser. I think something, maybe the phone number on the bathroom wall was removed on the cav.
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#8 of 145 Powell&Pressburger

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:52 PM

I have the CAV Laser catalog # 940CS is that the better untouched edition?


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#9 of 145 Jacinto

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Posted March 07 2013 - 02:58 PM

I've watched those scenes many times on the original CAV Laserdisc, and it's always looked to me like Herman's index finger, not his middle finger (especially since almost all Toons have only four fingers, so having a true middle finger is impossible). Anyway, regardless of any edits that have been made, this is a definite purchase for me, as that Laserdisc is the only version I've ever bought of the film. Jack, yes 940CS is the original CAV release.
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#10 of 145 Ethan Riley

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Posted March 07 2013 - 03:02 PM

I wish they wouldn't edit, 25 years after the fact. All those naughty things existed in the theatrical version, and I don't recall anyone really complaining (nobody probably even noticed Jessica's lack of scanties, until home video). I absolutely saw the "call Alice" graffiti while viewing it on the big screen. I don't know why everything has to be so kid-friendly when most of this stuff will fly right past them anyway.
 

 


#11 of 145 MatthewA

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Posted March 07 2013 - 04:39 PM

Originally Posted by Ethan Riley 

I wish they wouldn't edit, 25 years after the fact. All those naughty things existed in the theatrical version, and I don't recall anyone really complaining (nobody probably even noticed Jessica's lack of scanties, until home video). I absolutely saw the "call Alice" graffiti while viewing it on the big screen. I don't know why everything has to be so kid-friendly when most of this stuff will fly right past them anyway.


Nobody noticed until the press blabbed about it. People just love to see Disney fall off its high horse and see its squeaky-clean, sweetness-and-light façade (which is all it is; there's plenty of darkness in most Disney films if you look hard enough, even the 60s and 70s Shaggy Dog-style comedies that were basically the Disney cartoon aesthetic in live-action) get tarnished in any way. That and the topless woman in The Rescuers were the only times I resigned myself to the fact that those instances of censorship are probably here to stay, especially because the original release of Rabbit had Michael Eisner's phone number (which was removed before the video release). It's not like they took the movie out of circulation, cut whole scenes or ditched substantial extras. I still don't like it, but compared to how other titles have suffered, this is small potatoes.


And as for making everything "kid-friendly," they made this a Touchstone release because they didn't want to taint the "purity" of the Disney brand with all the violence and sexual innuendo in this film (and Jessica Rabbit looks more like Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood than a Disney character). But that ship had sailed in 1928. Just ask those animals who got turned into musical instruments in Steamboat Willie. Or Snow White's stepmom, who ended up being Vulture Chow. And need I remind you how Captain Hook became Captain Hook? His hand didn't just fall off, you know. And don't get me started on The Gogans from Pete's Dragon (coincidentally, it and Pinocchio both have characters named Lampie who exhibit so many anti-social behaviors, I really don't have the time and energy to list them all unless you ask). Maybe Bambi's mom would have an opinion on the subject if she hadn't wandered off where she oughtn't. If the Usual Gang of Whiners were consistent, they'd go after the entire Disney library. These movies may be responsible for about a third of my happy childhood memories, but let's be realistic about how "kid-friendly" they really are. Posted Image


Seriously, some of the executives got down on their knees and begged for God's forgiveness for making Splash (that warranted a prayer meeting and Superdad, aka "Beatniks Still Exist in 1973," didn't?). By the end of the year, Ron Miller was out, Eisner, Katzenberg and Wells were in, and two years later, they made Ruthless People. Enough said.


Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#12 of 145 JoHud

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Posted March 07 2013 - 06:09 PM

Out of all of the censored Disney movies, one would think this one would have a good chance of being released uncut and uncensored. I mean it's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? -- not something that people expect kiddie fare from, a movie with strong sexual innuendo and focusing on murder, not to mention featuring a man melting to death in a gruesome fashion. And the whole setting isn't exactly Mr. Roger's neighborhood. Is it because Mickey Mouse is in it? Because of the Roger Rabbit ride at Disneyland? Whatever.

#13 of 145 TravisR

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Posted March 08 2013 - 12:03 AM

I mean it's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? -- not something that people expect kiddie fare from...

"If there's animation then it's for kids."- millions of uninformed parents

#14 of 145 Powell&Pressburger

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Posted March 08 2013 - 12:37 AM

Originally Posted by Jacinto 

I've watched those scenes many times on the original CAV Laserdisc, and it's always looked to me like Herman's index finger, not his middle finger (especially since almost all Toons have only four fingers, so having a true middle finger is impossible). Anyway, regardless of any edits that have been made, this is a definite purchase for me, as that Laserdisc is the only version I've ever bought of the film.

Jack, yes 940CS is the original CAV release.

I agree it doesn't look like a "middle finger" at all IMO.


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#15 of 145 MatthewA

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Posted March 08 2013 - 06:13 AM

Originally Posted by TravisR 


"If there's animation then it's for kids."- millions of uninformed parents


Personally, I blame everyone who used VHS tapes as babysitters. When Image did a laserdisc of Turner-owned cartoons called "Cartoons for Big Kids," with Leonard Maltin hosting (I think Red Hot Riding Hood was among them).


But don't forget 30 years of Saturday morning cartoons aimed specifically at children with no interest in whether adults also liked them. That can't possibly have helped the perception that animation was not inherently a children's medium.

Maybe all films should be rated "R." Posted Image


Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#16 of 145 Brandon Conway

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Posted March 08 2013 - 06:17 AM

These changes don't bother me in the slightest, to be honest. I never noticed them being present and I've never cared that they are gone.


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#17 of 145 Dan_Shane

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Posted March 08 2013 - 06:43 AM

Originally Posted by Brandon Conway 

These changes don't bother me in the slightest, to be honest. I never noticed them being present and I've never cared that they are gone.

Bingo.


Not a single plot-point is hurt by this sort of editing.  Those scenes were in-jokes, meant perhaps to never be noticed let alone pointed out to the masses.


The real problem is when we start labeling the removal of hidden gags that were never formally approved as "censorship," thereby muddying the waters of the subject of real censorship.  Poor old SONG OF THE SOUTH languishes in the vault because there is no way Disney can trim out every single black character who might be perceived as a stereotype, including the Tar-Baby in one of the cartoon segments.  That is the sort of censorship I have a hard time accepting.


And how about Pecos Bill rolling up a cigarette in MAKE MINE MUSIC?  That is a whole scene gone from an animated film that never once made me long to try smoking.  I figured it was just what cowboys did back then, and my folks and I knew the difference between what I saw on the screen and the kind of activity I should imitate.


Disney and other studios can paint in all the undies and scrub all the phone numbers off the walls they want if they would just give me the movies I loved as a kid.



#18 of 145 Bryan Tuck

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Posted March 08 2013 - 07:17 AM

These changes don't bother me in the slightest, to be honest. I never noticed them being present and I've never cared that they are gone.

I tend to agree. I can't begin to count how many times I've seen this film in theaters, on VHS, TV, and DVD over the years. I'm normally against censorship of any kind, but I'm with Brandon; I don't think I would ever have noticed any of this had I not read about it over and over again. This, of course, begs the question, why bother changing it, but it really is so extremely subtle that it's just not that big a deal to me. Now, if they had replaced dialogue with some of those old TV edits ("son of a gun," "three-year-old body," "Nice goin', Jess," etc.), then I'd have a problem. Thanks for the review, Matt. This film is one of the primary reasons I wanted to go into filmmaking; good to hear it looks and sounds so good in HD. Also... I've always been intrigued by that deleted pig head scene. Of course, it was added to the network TV version, and I think I've heard some of the filmmakers have said they regretted cutting it, but I've always been glad they did. I think it slows down the pacing, it doesn't really add anything to the story, and it also reveals Toontown too early, taking away much of the impact of Eddie's slow drive down the tunnel later in the film. What does everyone else think?
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#19 of 145 JoHud

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Posted March 08 2013 - 07:39 AM

As far as censorship edits go, I agree that they're extremely minor and inconsequential. Especially as far as Disney edits go. I'm also glad to see they went through the trouble of presenting the three shorts in HD.

#20 of 145 Stephen_J_H

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Posted March 08 2013 - 07:40 AM

Not sure why they'd bother with a coupon, as this is streeting for well under $20.


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