Movies Review

Blast from the past: Who Framed Roger Rabbit


Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Saturday morning cartoons were a staple fixture on TVs everywhere, entertaining kids of all ages for 30 minutes at a time while parents enjoyed their coffee and newspapers, sleeping in, or whatever else it was adults did, I am not really sure, I was watching cartoons.  It was the free babysitter that started the weekend in the best possible way for all involved. Kids were able to watch the hijinks of their favorite characters; Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, Inspector gadget, and Transformers, just to name a few, absorbing anything that could be used against a sibling or be part of an imaginary game later in the day (Remember! This was when kids would play outside).

Cartoons rock but they are (fake) and this fact as a kid was hard to swallow, the idea that a person and a cartoon could interact together on-screen never seemed possible, it was a shame! That was until the first viewing of the mind-blowing movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit! WHAT? Cartoons and people, people and cartoons… together on the big screen, talking to each other, singing, dancing, playing “patty cake” together… WOW. This movie quickly became one of few movies along with (Back to the Future) my siblings and I would agree to watch, and watch often.

If you have not watched this movie since your days as a mischievous youth I highly recommend you add it to your Netflix queue or just  simply buy it, as it is totally worth it.  As a kid you watch this movie amazed and jealous that those actors get to hang out with all the ‘Toons, as an adult you watch amazed and jealous that those actors get to hang with the ‘Toons, you pick up the instances of adult humor, and you recognize how incredibly well made and awesome the movie really is.

When you watch it again you will notice the seamless blending of the real world and the animated world. The characters interact as though they are all on the set at the same time, and after wrapping for the day they go get drinks together. Check out this clip of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), Roger Rabbit, Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) and Delores (Joanna Cassidy), as Eddie tries to get Roger to take a Drink.

If you actually watched the clip you will notice how realistic it was; with Judge Doom’s hand tightly wrapped around Roger’s neck, the interactions between Eddie and Roger when he’s pushing the drink in his face.  The eye contact and spotting is amazing between all the characters and Roger, especially considering Roger is not actually there. If you watch the behind the scenes or “making of” videos of this movie you will learn that in most scenes the actors are interacting with nothing and a voice actor off stage. In this clip you also see Roger take the drink from Eddie, remember Roger is not real, they had to create a rig that would imitate the movement of Roger taking the drink and slamming it back.

As the clip continues you see the physical acting in the bar fight scene, which is again choreographed beautifully; numerous actors interacting and reacting to Roger and the Weasels, it is really well done.

I had a great time when I re-watched this movie recently recognizing voice actors, most of which I had not picked up on as a kid (obviously): Kathleen Turner (unaccredited) as the talking voice of Jessica Rabbit, David Lander (AKA Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley) as the voice of Smart Ass (white and pink Weasel). I also learned they were able get the voice actors for Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Betty Boop to do cameo appearances in this movie, reprising their past roles, which really added to the authenticity of the characters.

One last thing to keep in mind when you re-watch this movie is it was made in 1988, computers were not used to merge the real world and cartoon world, this is not computer animation at work here! This movie was technically way ahead of its time and everyone involved in making it knew it. After watching the “making of” videos of this movie I was blown away by the challenges they encountered during production. First, there are over 85,000 hand-inked and painted (by a person) cells created and composited with the live-action backdrops. To achieve the roundness and 3D look of the cartoons they had to create tone mattes (or shading) and cast shadows using optical film printers. So basically, this means is at minimum each scene with a cartoon character in it was created using four different layers, all by hand, by a person.

Ink & Paint ClubThey also had to figure out how to shoot the live action parts in away that could accommodate the animated elements. To do this they basically went at it blind since they could not just quickly sketch up the animation to go with the live action and make tweaks as they went.  Normally to create a film like this they would shoot to accommodate the animation but, Director Robert Zemeckis was not having that, he was not going to sacrifice the quality of the live action for the animation, or vise-versa, both elements needed to be spot on. He was quoted as telling the animators that they are going to shoot the live action as they need to, and it will be their job to fit the animation in to it.  The scene at the Ink & Paint club is a great example of all the little details that go went into the live action (when you watch this movie again) pay attention to all the moving live action elements: the octopus bartender with the live action bar accessories, the penguin waiters with the live action drink trays, these live action elements were all added before the cartoons by use of puppeteer (octopus bartender)  or mechanical rigs (penguin waiters), and then the cartoon was created after.

Check out the début of Jessica Rabbit performing at the Ink & Paint Club, watch the little details and how the actors interact with this character it is pretty cool.

I hope I have convinced you to watch this movie again! Check out the trailer again if you need to and give it another try!  😉



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