In the last several years, there have been movies made that have combined live action with an animated character. Many of those movies, like Garfield and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, had only one animated character, while others, like Looney Tunes: Back in Action, had several animated characters. Who Framed Roger Rabbit - there isn't a ? in the title even though it is a question - was the first movie to make the interaction between the real people and animated characters look truly believable.
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Eddie Valiant was a private investigator hired by R.K. Maroon to follow Jessica Rabbit, wife of cartoon star Roger Rabbit. Maroon believed that there were problems in the marriage that were impacting Roger’s work. Eddie didn’t want the job at first because he didn’t deal with toons anymore but he took the job because he needed the money. Eddie managed to get pictures of Jessica with Marvin Acme, the owner of Toontown.
Roger flipped out when Eddie and Maroon showed him the pictures. Marvin was murdered and Roger was the prime suspect. Judge Doom was investigating the crime with the help of his weasel squad. Doom had developed something he called dip that could kill toons. Roger turned up at Eddie’s place, insisting he was innocent and wanting Eddie’s help to clear his name. Eddie ended up working on the case and even went to Toontown for the first time in years.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was based on the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf. I don’t remember knowing that the movie was based on a book before I watched the movie again this last time. Since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know what was changed for the movie. I did learn that Judge Doom and a subplot were added to the movie. The movie won four Oscars including a special achievement award to Richard Williams for directing the animated portions of the movie.
The live action and animation blended together seamlessly in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The movie started off with a cartoon that Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman were in before jumping into the real world. Later in the movie, Eddie went to Toontown. Both transitions were well done. The animated characters frequently interacted with the real characters or real objects which helped to make what was going on more believable. In the world the movie was set in, toons were real and not just characters in cartoons. I loved the idea of cartoon characters being real when I saw the movie as a child and I still think it made the plot very interesting.
Even though the majority of the movie was set in the real world, there was still a lot of animation included in the movie. All together, there were fifty-five minutes of animation used in the movie. Roger and Jessica especially were in several scenes set in the real world. Other animated characters like the weasels were also around in the live action part of the movie. During one scene when Eddie was at the studio, several animated characters were walking around. Later part of the movie took place in Toontown, a completely animated town populated by the toons. All of the animation for the movie was hand drawn without anything being created with computer animation. I thought that the animation was very well done throughout the movie. It is easy to see why the movie won the awards it did.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a very funny movie that had me laughing right after it started. I did really enjoy the partial cartoon the movie started with and found several things in it very funny. The humor continued throughout the movie. Roger said and did several things I thought were funny. Some of the humor was a bit silly but I thought that went well for this movie. Some other viewers might find the movie too silly. A few gags that were used had been used in several older cartoons. Slapstick type humor turned up more than once and worked very well. Eddie also said and did things that I found funny.
There was a little bit of action included in the movie as well. There was a very entertaining car chase with Eddie and Roger in a toon cab being chased by the police at one point. Eddie did end up in a few confrontations with other characters, including a few animated ones. Those parts did add a small amount of violence to the movie. Judge Doom wasn’t a nice person and he enjoyed killing toons by dunking them in dip. That aspect of the movie could be upsetting to younger children. There was mystery added to the plot in connection with who had killed Acme and framed Roger. I thought that was interesting even though it wasn’t that complex. The movie was set in 1947 and used elements of film noir very successfully.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit contained several sexual innuendos. Baby Herman was actually an adult in the body of a baby and he was very interested in sexual things. He leered at women, walked under their skirts if he had the chance, and made comments at every chance. Most of the sexual innuendos were connected to Jessica Rabbit. She was a very sexy looking woman, wearing a red dress that showed off her cleavage and her long legs. Even human men found her attractive and drooled over her, especially when she was performing at the club she sang at. Jessica used her sex appeal more than once. The few sexual situations weren’t that graphic and didn’t go anywhere. I don’t remember hearing any swearing. The movie was rated PG, so there really wasn’t anything too objectionable in the movie. Parents may not want younger children seeing a few things though.
This movie featured animated characters from Disney, MGM, and Warner Brothers together for the only time. Several well-known characters were shown throughout the movie. It was hard to spot some of the characters because of how briefly they were shown. I think people would really need to pause the movie and look really close to find them. Many different animated characters were in a crowd at the end of the movie. It was easier to spot some of the characters then, but the crowd wasn’t shown long enough to identify all of them. I really enjoyed seeing all the different cartoon characters together. I loved the scene that had Daffy Duck and Donald Duck playing dueling pianos.
Eddie had been a detective for many years. He had worked with toons in the past before something happened that made him decide to not have anything to do with them again. He had also started drinking a lot and had messed up his relationship with Dolores. Bob Hoskins was perfect in the part. He made it seem perfectly believable that he was interacting with an animated rabbit. I recently found out that several other actors, including Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford, Ed Harris and Jack Nicholson were all considered for the part of Eddie. I really can’t see any of them in the part, especially Stallone or Nicholson. I don’t think the movie would have turned out as well with either of them in the part. Harris might have been all right in the part. I do like Ford and Redford. I just don’t think this is their type of movie and I really can’t see either of them interacting with a wisecracking animated rabbit or riding around in an animated cab.
R.K. Maroon and Marvin Acme were both only briefly shown in the movie, so neither of them had much to do. Dolores was around in several scenes since she ended up helping Eddie even though they were having trouble with their relationship. Judge Doom was important to the plot even though he wasn’t in as much of the movie as some of the other characters. He was determined to bring order to Toontown which was why he’d developed dip. He was not a nice guy and he seemed to enjoy killing toons. Christopher Lloyd was really good in the part.
Roger and Jessica were really the only other main characters in the movie. They were an unlikely couple, but they loved each other. Roger was goofy and starred in cartoons though he’d been having some trouble with his lines. Jessica sang at a club. Not as much was shared about her, though it was clear she would use her sex appeal to get what she wanted. Kathleen Turner’s voice fit the character perfectly. She wanted to be uncredited for the performance, but it didn’t take long before people figured out who did the voice. Amy Irving provided Jessica’s sultry singing voice. I thought that the voice that Charles Fleischer did for Roger was perfect for him. During the filming of the movie, he actually dressed up like Roger, complete with rabbit ears, to deliver his lines off camera Fleischer also did a very different sounding voice for Benny the cab.
Main Cast/Voice Actors
Joe Alaskey - Voice of Yosemite Sam
Wayne Allwine - Voice of Mickey Mouse
Tony Anselmo - Voice of Donald Duck
Mel Blanc - Voice of Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Tweety Bird/Sylvester/Porky Pig
Joanna Cassidy - Delores
Cherry Davis - Voice of Woody Woodpecker
Charles Fleischer - Voice of Roger Rabbit/Benny the Cab
Lou Hirsch - Voice of Baby Herman
Bob Hoskins - Eddie Valiant
Amy Irving - Singing Voice of Jessica Rabbit
Stubby Kaye - Marvin Acme
Christopher Lloyd - Jude Doom
Tony Pope - Voice of Goofy/Wolf
Mae Questel - Voice of Betty Boop
Joel Silver - Raoul the director
Frank Sinatra - Voice of Singing Sword
Russi Taylor - Voice of Birds/Minnie Mouse
Alan Tilvern - R.K. Maroon
Kathleen Turner - Voice of Jessica Rabbit
Frank Welker - Voice of Dumbo
Peter Westy - Voice of Pinocchio
Richard Williams - Voice of Droopy
April Winchell - Voice of Mrs. Herman
Robert Zemeckis - Director
Richard Williams - Animation Director
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released as a two disc DVD set a few years ago. I can’t remember if there was a version made with only one disc or not. The first disc, the Family Friendly disc, has three Roger Rabbit cartoons. After the success of the movie, Tummy Trouble, Rollercoaster Rabbit, and Trail Mix-Up were made and released with different Disney movies. I enjoy watching the cartoons and think they are cute. They have the same look as the partial cartoon that played at the beginning of the movie. There is a game and a mini-documentary, Who Made Roger Rabbit, hosted by Charles Fleischer. The first disc also includes the full screen version of the movie.
The second disc has what are called the enthusiast special features and the widescreen version of the movie. There is an audio commentary with the filmmakers that I haven’t listened too yet. I have watched the Toontown Confidential version of the movie. When the movie is watched with that on, information related to the movie is shared across the bottom of the screen in subtitle form while the widescreen version plays. I thought that the information shared was very interesting. I’m thinking that at least some of what was shared would have come up during the commentary. One deleted scene that involved Eddie having an animated pig head was included with filmmaker commentary.
Before and After showed a split screen comparison of a scene with and without the animation. Hoskins was shown performing in front of a blue screen in the part without the animation. For that part, some sketches were also included for shots that were entirely created with animation. The scene shown was when Eddie was in Toontown, so there was a big difference without the animation. Something called Toon Stand-Ins showed the cast working with full size rubber models of the animated characters so they would know where those characters would be. On the Set: Benny the Cab shared the making of a scene from the movie.
Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit was a documentary about the making of the movie. Different people involved in making the movie, including Steven Spielberg, talked about the making of the movie. It was explained and shown how they made real items look like they were being moved by the animated characters. Fleischer was shown in his Roger costume. I really enjoyed this special feature and learning more about how the movie was created.
The Valiant Files had a few ways to view original character sketches, background paintings, and promotional posters. When this option is picked, Eddie’s office loads up with three icons at the bottom. If the magnifying glass is selected, it can be used to look around Eddie’s office to find the things. If the second icon is clicked, it loads up a list of the things hidden around the office. Benny the Cab needs to be clicked on to get back to the main menu. The case was made to look like a leather folder or briefcase. The short booklet was made to look like a notepad with a leather cover. The first page does list what is on each of the discs. The rest of the pages briefly tell a little bit about a few of the special features. There were also two small pictures, one of Roger and one of Jessica. They were in black and white and were made to look like they were official studio photographs complete with autographs.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a very entertaining movie that is worth seeing at least once. I still love it now as much as I did when I first saw it as a child. The movie isn’t for everyone though. People that like animated movies and don’t mind it when they get a bit silly may like this one.
This review is part of CaptainD's Good Movies Write Off.
Viewing Format: DVD