Toon Talk: Who Framed Roger Rabbit Vista Series DVD
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Vista Series DVD
Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and ground-breaking animated features of all time, Who Framed Roger Rabbit finally gets the deluxe DVD treatment it deserves in the recent Vista Series edition, now available.
Based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf, the film is set in a fantasy 1940s Hollywood where humans and cartoon characters (here dubbed toons, popularly for the first time) live side-by-side in the real (and reel) world. Impressively melding the genres of film noir and buddy comedy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a delightfully zany, madcap adventure farce that blended live action and animation together in ways that were never seen before and all without a single computer.
That CGI has since become something taken for granted in filmmaking (especially in animation), it is amazing that not only did this film get made at the time, but that it turned out so giddily enjoyable and hugely successful. And here we are, just fifteen years later, and it still has the ability to capture our fancy, even with all the Toy Storys and Shreks that have come since.
In addition to its technical breakthroughs, Roger Rabbit is also notable for its impressive all-star toon cast: for the first (and, most likely, only) time in movie history, such Disney stars as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck shared the screen with their Warner Brothers counterparts Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, as well as cameos by other such big names as Betty Boop, Koko the Clown and Woody Woodpecker.
With a script by the team of Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (who went on to pen the equally effects-heavy Wild Wild West and How the Grinch Stole Christmas), the convoluted storyline does get a bit bunched up with too much Chinatown-style plot, but director Robert Zemeckis (Oscar-winner for Forrest Gump), along with the enormous contributions from animation director Richard Williams (himself an Oscar-winner for this film), keeps the pace consistent throughout.
Adding immensely to the believability of such a fantastic scenario is the perfectly cast ensemble of actors, both seen and unseen. Christopher Lloyd balances the insidious menace and ultimate lunacy (loonacy?) of his diabolical Judge Doom, and Joanna Cassidy nails her role as typical 40s dame Delores with a tough-yet-cool edge (it doesnt hurt that she has some of the best one-liners in cinematic history). Charles Fleischers rubber-lipped Roger became an instant toon star, with his endearingly simple-minded yet inspired performance. But the whole enterprise would have been for naught if the audience didnt believe that the down-on-his-luck gumshoe Eddie Valiant wasnt actually verbally and physically sparring with this hyper-active hare, and Bob Hoskins pulls it off brilliantly, using his own physicality and commitment to the story to craft the space (literally and figuratively) needed to create his irascible co-star.