Who Framed Roger Rabbit hasn’t been out of the vault in over ten years. The March 12 Blu-ray/DVD combo release by Buena Vista Home Entertainment marks the 25th Anniversary of the release of this classic film and it’s being missed by many fans. After the semi-disastrous Blu-ray release of The Rocketeer does the Blu-ray of Who Framed Roger Rabbit merit your attention?
In a word: yes!
The film is spectacular and received much critical acclaim during it’s initial release. Roger ended up winning four Academy Awards and is Rotten Tomatoes Certified with a score of 8.3/10. Most everyone agrees that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an amazing film that deserves a spectacular Blu-ray release.
A Little History
Disney acquired the rights to the book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf that was released in 1981 (and is available for the Kindle). Former President and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Ron Miller, purchased the rights to the book feeling that it had blockbuster appeal. There were some tests done in 1983 that included filming on the set of Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Jeff Kurtti related some interesting information about the photograph of Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant from the 1983 Annual Report. Eddie is played by Mike Gabriel, who has worked as an animator, character designer, story artist, writer and director for the Walt Disney Company on films such as The Great Mouse Detective, The Rescuers Down Under, Pocahontas, Bolt and The Princess and The Frog. Jeff also mentions that the shot was done on the backlot of Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Another interesting Roger Rabbit fact from Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records (by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar): Pete Renady, well known voice actor, also played Eddie Valiant during some of the test footage for the film during the early planning stages.
About the Blu-ray
The film is spectacular and makes the transition to Blu-ray very well. The effects and animation shine and don’t look dated at all in hi-definition. Even watching the film 25 years later, it’s amazing at how well the physical and animated effects really work compared to modern CGI-laden epics. The sound is crisp and there were no issues delineating the characters’ voices, especially with 30 or so on screen.
The film still captivates. One of my touchstones for a review is the reaction of my sons. The 14 and 9 year-olds have decidedly different tastes but tend to get sucked into a good film. Both boys loved Roger and the 9 year-old was ready to take the DVD copy to his room to watch it again. Roger holds up very well and is a great way to introduce the younger set (and the uninitiated) to classic animated characters.
I was really disappointed with the extras and it reminded me of the poor Rocketeer release from 2011, which suffered from no extras. Roger includes extras, but there’s nothing new or groundbreaking. The Roger shorts were all cleaned up digitally, but the other features were pretty dated in their style and quality. The Behind The Ears documentary was good, even though it’s more than ten years old. If you didn’t own the 2003 DVD release, then the extras make the Blu-ray worth picking up.
- The Roger Rabbit Shorts (Digitally Restored) – Tummy Trouble, Roller-Coaster Rabbit & Trail Mix-Up
- Who Made Roger Rabbit? – mini-documentary hosted by Charles Fleischer, the voice of Roger Rabbit
- Audio Commentary – with filmmakers Robert Zemeckis, Frank Marshall, Jeffrey Price, Peter Seaman, Steve Starkey and Ken Ralston
- “Toontown Confidential” – viewing option with intriguing and hilarious facts and trivia
- Deleted Scene: “The Pig Head Sequence” with filmmaker commentary
- “Before & After” – Split-Screen comparison with and without animation
- “Behind The Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit” – An exclusive, in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary
- “Toon Stand-Ins” Featurette – Rehearsing with stand-ins for the Toons
- On Set! Benny The Cab – The Making of a scene from the film
Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2
Brother Bear, released in 2003, is the 44th animated feature from Walt Disney Studios. It was the third and final film that was produced by the Florida Animation Unit. It was also released during the time when the public seemingly tired of the traditional Disney formula (more likely, the films lost their polish and spark). The film is enjoyable and looks great on Blu-ray. It’s a fun, family film that follows the themes of the Lion King and other walk in someone else’s shoes-type films.
I’ve owned the film for years on DVD but only watched it all the way through with this release. My boys have watched the film numerous times over the years and still enjoyed it as part of our regular family film night. After watching it, it’s obvious that the films strengths lie in the are of the animation and the music. Phil Collins did a great job with the songs for Tarzan and shows a similar knack for Brother Bear. The biggest issue with using Collins again is the obvious ties made between Tarzan and Brother Bear.
The backgrounds of the film are quite stunning and are done in the painterly style. This is a naturalistic art form that allows for some pretty sweeping and organic vistas. The voice acting is well done but no one outside of Rutt and Tuke stand out. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas reinvent their Bob and Doug Mckenzie routine from Second City Television and provide the much needed comic relief for the film.
Brother Bear 2, a direct-to-video sequel, follows the story of Kinai and Koda after Brother Bear. There’s nothing to write home about in this sequel, although I was surprised at the charm of the film in rare instances. It’s the same quality as other Eisner-inspired money makers and is really just to sate fans of the first film. Though, the real reason for the film was to help fill the Disney coffers. I would have rather had Disney devote more time and space on the Blu-ray for Brother Bear information, but it seems like an easy sell to add the sequel.
What do you think folks? Do these films hop or flop?
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By George Taylor
The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor
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