When you see Bob Hoskins drive into Toon-Town and seamlessly enter a new world of crazed toons and never ending skyscrapers, your hairs will suddenly stand on end. It's a realisation that over 40,000 hand-drawn animation cells, hours and hours of endless acting to imaginary characters, and the back-up of real special effects props have been combined to create one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever, that would inevitably set the benchmark for other acting/technology hybrid films, such as Terminator 2 in 1992.
The basis of this film shouldn't be over-looked though; it's a classic case of 1940's detective work, hosted by a moody and slightly alcoholic Bob Hoskins who has never been a complete man since his brother was killed by a Toon... Thats right - Toons and Humans both live together in society. But further weight is put on Hoskins shoulders as he's put into a trap, and is left with having to protect an eccentric Toon called Roger Rabbit, who like all great toons, has an over-whelming sense of humour!
Once a mysterious murder is uncovered down at the ACME (The film is endorsed by Warner Brothers and Disney amazingly!) factory, it's up to Hoskins to discover why Roger is being put in the frame for the murder... And who the murderer 'really' is...
Prior to buying this DVD, I had a rather worn out TV-Copy of this film that simply needed replacing. Low and behold, the DVD is sitting their at my local Oxfam shop for a mere two quid! So I got it and was amazed at the picture quality. The colours have really been brought out, and although it hasn't been "stated" to have been remastered, the transfer to digital is crisp enough, with very few speckles/white spots.
Their are also some extras, though I was put off by the annoying and long menu system. Theirs a particularly short documentary on the making of this film, though I believe for a film of this stature, is really too short. But never the less, it's very interesting, and I was suprised to see Steven Speilberg was a Co-Producer! Though you realise when looking at the film, many of his trademark camera angles and shots are right there.
This is where a funny hybrid in the film exists.... Speilberg and Zemakis have created a totally original filming style combines tricky, and some how gravity defying camera angles in Toon Town (particularly the skyscraper scenes) yet in the real world, the actors and animation-equipment blend seamlessly - a feat which has yet to have been surpassed so seamlessly. To have the knowledge and perfection of knowing how to shoot a scene in just the right way that will leave the animation to come in precisely is often mesmerising; something which yes, a computer could do, but would it have the same impact knowing that a PC took over the jobs of hundreds of artists and technicians?
The documentary goes into detail on how the artwork was created, and how George Lucas rather generously (As we all know, his wallet is rather bulky these days after 6 Star Wars films...) completed the films animation by applying textures and shadowing through a special machine, where workers applied shadow effects to all the animation cells. This is one of the beauties of the film - it feels and looks 3-D, all thanks to this process.
But what about the input of the actors? To be fair, I've never seen Hoskins as a 'dynamic' actor by any means. After all, anyone who would even attempt to take on the role of a certain video games character called Mario must be crazy. However, his performance in this movie is undeniably strong, which proved me wrong that most actors do have their strengths/weaknesses. And for anyone to even try and imagine the co-actor being a hand drawn bunny rabbit... Well, that takes some beating. Yet it has to be said, he takes it off perfectly, with all his gestures, body language, and eye contact freakishly brilliant. Its as if he was almost made for the part!
I feel that for what this film has accomplished when combining acting, art-work, and animotronics, we will never see anything like it. It was filmed at the end of a special era; when the input of humans and the process surrounding it was appreciated, and companies didn't hesitate on spending the money to this effect. Now though, producers take the easy route; slap some CGI here and there, get the actors to work "tirelessly" in front of a Green Screen for a month, theirs quick few million.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an absolute classic that reminds me not just of my youth, but what film makers can achieve with effort and precision. It really has sent a bench-mark for the industry, but if only for a short period. This should be in your collection!