Who Framed Roger Rabbit appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD disc. The restrictions of the source material held back the presentation, but it delivered an accurate representation.
Sharpness generally looked solid. Some slight softness appeared at times, but as with most of the image’s minor issues, this seemed related to concerns inherent in some of the visual effects.
Rabbit relied heavily on composite shots to meld live-action and animation, and those came across as a little fuzzy at times. However, the movie mostly appeared accurate and distinct, and the light softness became inevitable.
I noticed no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a logical layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any heavy-handed noise reduction, and source flaws were a non-factor, so the movie was consistently clean.
Colors looked positive across the board, as the tones appeared tight and bright. The hues especially worked well during the Toontown shots, which displayed vivid and bold colors. HDR gave the elements extra oomph and range.
Black levels also came across as dense and deep, and shadow detail looked appropriately opaque but not too thick and impenetrable. HDR contributed impact and power to whites and contrast. This was about as good as I could imagine this film would look.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundfield of Rabbit seemed positive but unspectacular, as the front speakers dominated. Music showed good stereo separation, and the forward soundstage came across as reasonably broad and engaging. Effects popped up in logical locations and blended together nicely.
Surround usage didn’t usually do much more than reinforce the front, though. Music dominated the track, as a fair amount score emanated from the rear.
Other material appeared in the rear speakers occasionally, but not a lot of unique audio cropped up in the surrounds, so mostly those channels just echoed the front ones. A few big action shots delivered pizzazz in the back, but those weren’t a common aspect of the mix.
Audio quality was positive given its age. Speech seemed crisp and intelligible, with reasonable warmth.
Music seemed bright and lively, while effects showed reasonable clarity and range; when required to demonstrate punch, these elements offered nice warmth. This was a good – but not great – mix for a film from 1988.
How did the Blu-ray compare to Blu-ray from 2013? The Atmos mix might’ve been a little more immersive than its 5.1 counterpart, but only marginally so, as this remained a relatively restricted soundscape.
As for visuals, the 4K UHD offered superior accuracy, colors and blacks. Due to the nature of the source, the 4K didn’t dazzle, but it became the most accurate version of the film on video to date.
On the 4K disc itself, we find only one extra: an audio commentary from director Robert Zemeckis, producer/2nd unit director Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, and screenwriters Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey Price.
All six were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. Originally taped for a 1998 laserdisc release, the commentary covers a lot of ground and provides a useful experience.
All facets of the production receive attention here. We get notes about the project’s origins and different script issues/changes that occurred along the way. Of course, lots of technical information crops up as well, as we learn of all Rabbit’s challenges and the solutions for these.
At times, the gang just watches the movie and laugh, and the occasional empty spot appears as well. However, overall the Rabbit commentary seems lively and informative.
The remaining extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, and we move to a modern 36-minute, 37-second documentary called Behind the Ears. This piece offers interviews with director Robert Zemeckis, producer/2nd unit director Frank Marshall, associate producer Don Hahn, director of animation Richard Williams, film editor Arthur Schmidt, screenwriter Peter S. Seaman, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, director of photography Dean Cundey, animator Dave Spafford, supervising animator Phil Nibbelink, supervising animator Andreas Deja, voice actor Lou Hirsch, animator Nik Ranieri, actor Bob Hoskins, supervising animator Simon Wells, voice actor Charles Fleischer, special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, chief puppeteer David Alan Barclay, chief executive and supervising animator Dale Baer, optical camera operator Jon Alexander, optical photography supervisor Ed Jones, and composer Alan Silvestri.
In addition, we find archival interview snippets from 1987 with Fleischer, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and mechanical effects supervisor George Gibbs.
Whew – that’s a long list of participants, but “Ears” packs them in neatly and offers a terrific look at the film. The program follows many facets of the production and nicely illustrates the different issues. Mostly these focus on technical concerns, and we see all of the methods used to meld toons and humans.
Of particular interest is the human/toon composite test, but we also find a great deal of interesting material from the set. For example, we check out the puppets used to help with actor eyelines.
The speakers all contribute depth to these pieces, as they go over all of the various issues they faced. “Ears” gives us a great examination of the creation of a difficult film.
After this we locate a deleted scene. Called the “Pig Head Sequence”, this area starts with a one-minute, 36-second introduction from Zemeckis, Ralston, and supervising animator Simon Wells. They discuss the creation of the sequence, where it would have occurred in the film, and why it got the boot.
We then watch the entire three-minute, 54-second clip. Though Zemeckis regrets its omission, I’m glad it was cut.
It’s entertaining, but I like it better when Eddie’s first visit to Toontown in the movie occurs toward the end. Given his history, that means the sequence has more punch. Anyway, it’s still very cool to see this unused footage.
Before and After provides glimpses of shots that include animation. This segment follows Eddie’s first few minutes in Toontown and lasts three minutes, seven seconds.
On the top part of the split screen, we see the completed scenes, while on the bottom, we watch the actors as they perform without the added animation. This offers a very cool look at the source material, and it further helps us appreciate all the work the actors – especially Hoskins – had to do to make us buy the existence of the toons.
We find similar materials via Toon Stand-Ins. After a quick introductory comment from Ken Ralston, this three-minute, 14-second piece shows more pre-animation footage. However, these shots include the stand-in puppets and dolls used for actor eyelines; we see a mix of clips from the final flick plus a few rehearsal bits.
In addition to Ralston’s remark, we also get a few notes from Steve Starkey, Richard Williams and Robert Zemeckis. I love this sort of raw footage, and these scenes offer a lot of fun.
A final batch of archival footage appears in On Set!. This four-minute, 51-second piece includes more material from the set. We see behind the scenes interactions, with an emphasis on shots of Zemeckis as he worked with the actors. This offers yet another great view of the production – I only wish we found more of this stuff here.
Next we get Who Made Roger Rabbit, a new featurette hosted by voice actor Charles Fleischer. During this 10-minute, 56-second program, Fleischer leads us through the film’s production and gives us the basics about its creation.
The piece seems cute but superficial. Some good behind the scenes materials appear, but the show won’t be very useful for folks who already understand the animation processes. However, since it seems meant for kids and neophytes, it provides a decent little introduction.
Three cartoons appear under The Roger Rabbit Shorts. These include Tummy Trouble (8:09), “Rollercoaster Rabbit” (8:12), and “Trail Mix-Up” (9:10).
Although all three use the same “Roger tries to keep Baby Herman out of trouble” theme, they seem quite amusing and entertaining. They definitely add a lot to this package.
If nothing else, Who Framed Roger Rabbit would go into the cinematic history books as a terrific technological achievement. Happily, the movie deserves attention as more than just a smooth marriage of live-action and animation. After more than 30 years and many screenings, I continue to enjoy Rabbit, as it provides a creative and amusing experience. The 4K UHD delivers very good picture and audio along with a strong collection of bonus materials. This turns into a solid release for a delightful film.
To rate this film visit the Vista Series review of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT