Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

rabbit bd Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a dazzling blend of live action and animation that’s a four time Academy Award Winner (1988) for Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing and a Special Achievement in Animation Direction.  Bob Hoskins (Hook, Brazil) stars as Eddie Valiant, a toon hating detective is a cartoon rabbit’s only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.  Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future trilogy) is Judge Doom, Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead) appears as Dolores, and Charles Fleischer (Back to the Future Part II, A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays several roles including Roger Rabbit, Benny the Cab, Greasy & Psycho .


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There had been many instances of live action being blended with animation before in movies like Mary Poppins and Pete’s Dragon just to name a few, but none of them did it as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Using every cutting edge trick at the time, the movie seamlessly made it the interactions between cartoons and humans believable and entirely realistic. Of course, it took years for it to come together as Disney had bought the rights to  Gary K. Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? in 1981 and the film didn’t come out until 1988.  In between that time, director Robert Zemeckis offered to direct the film but was turned down, only to later be hired once he had gained more stature from successfully directing two hits – Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future.

When Steven Spielberg came onboard to produce the film, things started to come together.   Spielberg used his considerable clout to convince rival studios to allow their cartoon characters to appear in the movie even though Disney would reap all of the benefits.  How he was able to do that is beyond me, but it paid off as this joint cartoon world known as “Toontown” gave us the chance to see Mickey Mouse along with Bugs Bunny and other cool interactions that include a piano competition between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck.  With an entire world full of recognizable and well loved cartoon characters, the filmmakers added another wacky denizen to the mix – Roger Rabbit, who according to Animation director Richard Williams was “a combination of “Tex Avery’s cashew nut-shaped head, the swatch of red hair…like Droopy’s, Goofy’s overalls, Porky Pig’s bow tie, Mickey Mouse’s gloves and Bugs Bunny like cheeks and ears.”

This fanciful world is balanced in the movie by the film noir plot that involves murder, a set-up, a missing will, a scandal, and a conspiracy that might just eliminate Toontown for good.  When a the Maroon Cartoon owner hires a private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to discover if his star toon Roger Rabbit’s wife Jessica is cheating on him with a rival named Acme.  When Eddie learns that Jessica is involved in some way with Acme, it turns into a huge case when the man is killed and Roger Rabbit is framed for his murder.  With nowhere else to turn, Roger begs Eddie to help him not knowing that Eddie is no fan of toons since his brother and former partner was killed by a toon in Toontown.  Since then, Eddie has pretty much given up on life by drinking too much and allowing his girlfriend Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) to drift away.

Lucky for Roger, as much as Eddie doesn’t like toons, he dislikes what passes for law enforcement in Toontown even less. Led by the black suited Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), an evil pack of weasels starts combing the area to find Roger so they can drop him in “dip” which is the only way a toon can be killed.  Eddie decides to help Roger after a visit from Roger’s costar Baby Herman he learns that Acme had a will that stated that his ownership of Toontown would transfer to the toons themselves in the event of his death.  There’s a catch though as the will is missing and if it’s not found by midnight then Cloverleaf Industries (who has been buying up real estate all over) will buy it.  With more people turning up dead, Eddie’s main lead remains the vivacious Jessica who leads him back to the one place he never wanted to return to – Toontown.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is still astounding to see even twenty-five years after it was released.  The amount of work and craftsmanship on display is still very impressive and even more so considering that it was all done without any computers involved.  All of the animation is hand drawn and all of the effects were done with puppetry, robotic arms, and good ol’ ingenuity with a lot of help from Industrial Light and Magic who made the cartoons look 3D and real.  This was a huge effort for all involved as Zemeckis didn’t just keep the camera stationary to make it easier to animate later.  He filmed the movie like he would a live action one, with everyone just imagining that the characters would be there later.  

Of course, as good as all of the effects and animation work was to make you believe that they were alive, a good portion of the reason it all worked is because of Bob Hoskins’ work in the film.  Hoskins not only keeps the film grounded, but his impeccable spatial memory of where the characters would be and his talent for performing for both Roger and himself is amazing.  For every move Roger supposedly made, Hoskins would have to portray that and his own reaction to it and he nails it every time.  He also had role that really showed off his versatility as he was asked to be a bitter private eye who changes over the course of the film and he also had to do a lot of mime work and even some vaudeville, all of which he does without breaking a sweat.  And on top of all that, he’s got to do an American accent too!  

The rest of the cast are all great too, especially Christopher Lloyd as the villainous Judge Doom.  Lloyd is always fun to watch and it’s too bad that he didn’t get more bad guy roles like this and the one in Star Trek III- The Search for Spock, because he’s so good at them.  This is one of those films that only come around once in a blue moon as the logistics and time and money needed to pull off not only the movie but also to get the rights to include all of those characters, is just too hard to accomplish.  The only movie that I can think of that came close to this was another Disney movie – Wreck-It Ralph which took the concept and applied it to video-game characters.  After the massive success the film had, there’s been talk of a sequel for years that has picked up over the last couple of years.  I really hope that there will be a sequel, but in the meantime we can enjoy this film on Blu-ray!

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This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks very good but it’s not the pristine remaster that I’m sure most of you are hoping for. While this film has never looked better than it does on Blu-ray, it does have some issues like digital noise and other problems during darker scenes.  They aren’t terrible or distracting and they only pop up infrequently so I could overlook it for the most part.  The colors look fairly bright and there’s some nice detail present that allowed me to see things that I never noticed before, such as being able to read fine print about Eddie’s past cases which are a nice touch.  Fleshtones look natural and realistic throughout and overall I was pleased with this transfer even though it’s not perfect.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is better than expected for a movie this old.  Although it is a front channel heavy mix, there’s plenty of action and fun directional effects as well.  The film’s dialogue is clear and easy to understand for most of the movie, but there’s a few scenes with a lot of action where it’s tougher to hear it all.  The rear channels offer some accurate directional effects and some nice ambiance too.  Alan Silvestri’s score comes through very nicely and it sounds better than I’ve heard it before here.  Even though it’s an older film, this mix sounds pretty good for the most part.


There’s a decent amount of extras but I found myself wanting even more than what was provided.  For a movie this innovative, it really deserved a lot more love and attention in this department.

  • Audio Commentary – I really liked this commentary with director Robert Zemeckis, producer Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and co-writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman.  As someone who’s very interested in how this movie was made, I really enjoyed their discussion about how it all came together.  We also get to hear about the story changed from the book to various versions before what we see now.  Other bits include what Spielberg did to get all of the character, how they made the characters seem as if they were with the actors, and more.  It’s a great and informative commentary and I highly recommend it.  
  • The Roger Rabbit Shorts – The film opens with one of the Maroon Cartoons with Roger in it which I loved so I’m very happy to get an additional three Maroon Cartoons with Roger that played before Disney movies as “Tummy Trouble” played in front of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, “Roller Coaster Rabbit” was shown with Dick Tracy and “Trail Mix-Up” was included with A Far Off Place.  We get all three here and all of them are in high definition too!
  • Who Made Roger Rabbit – This is an eleven minute look at some behind the scenes footage hosted by the voice of Roger Rabbit, Charles Fleischer, who acts even sillier than the rabbit in this.
  • Behind the Ears – Now this is what I’m talking about!  If you want to learn as much about this movie and how it was made, then this almost forty minute behind the scenes look is for you.  We get to see a lot of on set footage showing the cast and crew prepare shots as well as a lot of clips of them talking about the movie.  We can see how hard it was for Hoskins to pull off his scenes with nothing there and how it can make you crazy after awhile.  Other than the cartoons, this is my favorite extra on here. 
  • Toontown Confidential – If you go into the subtitles section on the menu you can select this option which will give you a text based “Toontown Confidential”  track that will give you facts and trivia about the movie.
  • Deleted Scene – We get a deleted scene called the “Pig Head Sequence,” that’s introduced by the filmmakers but the scene itself isn’t very good.  All it does is explain why Eddie comes out of the bathroom without a shirt on when Jessica shows up to talk to him.
  • Before and After – A very short look at how the before and after comparison of some live action and animation shots. 
  • Toon Stand-Ins – We get to see the rubber models used to give the actors a frame of reference before filming the live action began.
  • On Set! – Another five minutes of onset goodness with the cast and crew preparing a scene.  I really wish there was a lot more of this footage! 


This is a fun and clever movie for both adults and kids that really set the bar higher.  It’s got a good script, great acting, fantastic animation, and Robert Zemeckis knocked this one out of the park.  This Blu-ray offers an upgrade over the previous DVD release with a sharper picture and some better sound as well.  All of the extras from the previous release have been ported over too.  This is an easy movie to recommend so get yours now!

Order your copy today!

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