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Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Rating: PG
Release Date: March 25, 2003
Version: Vista Series
Running Time: approximately 104 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A cartoon rabbit and an unwilling human partner race to discover a killer before the cops arrest the 'toon for the crime.

  • Audio Commentary w/ director Robert Zemeckis, producer Frank Marshall, and more
  • "Toontown Confidential" - subtitled commentary
  • "Who Made Roger Rabbit" documentary hosted by Charles Fleischer
  • The Roger Rabbit shorts
  • Deleted Scene
  • "Behind The Ears" behind-the-scenes documentary
  • "Before and After" - split screen comparison with and without animation
  • "Toon Stand-ins"
  • "On Set! Benny the Cab"
  • "The Valiant Files" - set top gallery
  • "Trouble In Toontown" - set top game

    Choice Scene: Jessica Rabbit makes her stunning entrance. You'll believe a man can love ink and paint.

    Tech Specs: Widescreen, aspect ratio 1.85:1, English Dolby DTS 5.1 surround sound, THX Certified, French and Spanish language tracks
    Type of disc: Dual Layer Format

    While watching the "Toontown Confidential" option on this film, one little factoid among many pops up. In the months leading up to Who Framed Roger Rabbit's 1988 release, audiences applauded the trailer. Maybe in 2003 that seems quaint, but really, that trailer promised a film that took us into another world completely. For some of us, it was one we'd imagined since we were little kids.

    Luckily, Who Framed Roger Rabbit delivered completely. A ground-breaking mixture of wacky cartoon fantasy with gritty film noir, the movie has been imitated (Cool World) with no one else coming close.

    Based on a much darker novel by Gary K. Wolf (titled Who Censored Roger Rabbit?), the movie focuses on an embittered Hollywood detective, Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins). Hired by Maroon Studios to prove that their leading star Roger Rabbit's wife has been cheating on him, Eddie encounters just about everybody in animation up until 1947.

    In classic noir fashion, he discovers his hiring was a put-up job, and Eddie and Roger have to team to find a killer. Their path will take them through the colorful but dangerous streets of Toontown, not to mention into the baleful glare of Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd). And yet somehow, much of this film manages to be wildly slapstick without violating noir convention. In the end, of course the tone shifts, because this is still a kids' movie. Wait a few years before introducing them to existentialism.

    For the film's 15th Anniversary, Disney has pulled out all the stops, loading this DVD with tons of extras. (As has often been the case with Disney, an earlier, bare-bones edition was released, but this is the one you want.) And of course, they did a beautiful re-mastering job, bringing the film up to THX standards. Both sound and picture are lush, a necessity for this great film.

    Trying to make things easy for fans, the studio includes two separate discs: Family Friendly and Enthusiast. You might argue with the placement under these titles. I'm trying to prove to my four year old the superiority of letterboxing, hard to do when the Family Friendly disc features only a full-screen version along with the more playful interface.

    On this disc, Benny The Cab whizzes around the Maroon backlot, taking in all the extras that younger viewers might enjoy. Though definitely fun to look at, this menu is more obtuse, with you having to guess what might be in each location (except, of course, the screening room). One location guides viewers to the second disc, which seems to defeat the purpose.

    Eventually you'll find your way to the complete Roger Rabbit shorts, which some consider tragically cut down in their prime. Only three were produced, and though they're somewhat inventive, they all still slavishly imitate the pattern set out by the opening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. By the second one, you'll start watching just for the technical achievement, deadly for supposedly funny cartoons.

    Disney has recently been doing a better job of exploring the possibilities with their set top games, and this one, "Trouble In Toontown," is the best yet. Though still a little slow in response time, the game mixes trivia with rudimentary arcade action. I'm a sucker for "whack a weasel."

    Though there's no commentary on the full frame version of the film, Charles Fleischer hosts a documentary aimed at kids that explains all the work that went into the film. Aside from having grown sedate with age, Fleischer makes a great host, and this documentary is actually more engaging than the one provided on the "Enthusiast" disc.

    It's not that the Enthusiast version is dull; it's just that, as is often the case with grand treatments, the information tends to repeat itself, either in commentary, or in an array of little side featurettes. This disc has no shortage of those, which are worth watching once if only to impress the kids.

    The real fun extra is in the subtitled commentary. Whoever wrote that had the time to research some interesting free associations. Beyond the usual background on a given actor, the subtitles explain the toons' careers, too, going so far as to justify why the penguins from Mary Poppins could appear in this film, even though that movie wasn't made until 1965. What's the rationale? Watch and find out.

    And of course there are galleries of production sketches, even preliminary work on the Disneyland attraction that bears Roger's name. Disney has hidden it all in Eddie Valiant's office, though they offer an easy workaround. You can either solve a couple of puzzles for access, or take the coward's way. For dignity's sake, let's call it "the way for people without too much time on their hands." Either route, it's cool stuff.

    Taking a cue from Miramax' Pulp Fiction disc, Disney also does a great packaging job. Inside a slipcase with the regular cover art, the discs lie in a facsimile of Eddie's wallet. Just for you, Roger and Jessica have included autographed pictures of themselves.

    But it all still boils down to the movie itself. In the years since its theatrical release, technology has come leaps and bounds in making us believe in things that just aren't there. Yet somehow, Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains one of the most believable.

    Roger may not have the texture of Jar Jar Binks, but he has far more heart. And if you start to scoff at the technique used in the making of this film, know that it was all by hand. Both commentaries make a point of that: no computers were used - just good ol' human sweat.

    And of course, ink and paint. So grab this one for your collection, and if anybody gives you any guff about it, tell them Walt sent you.

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Vista Series)

    Derek McCaw


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