Thursday, March 20, 2003

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Vista Series Review

Find out what's included in this fantastic NEW DVD set.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Vista Series Reviewed by John J. Puccio - 03/2003

The first time out Buena Vista provided little beyond the film on their DVD. With this Vista Series special edition spread over two discs, matters change considerably. BV call disc one "Family Friendly," meaning, I suppose, that most families with children will want to watch its full-screen format because it fills up the whole TV screen, plus it includes several cartoon supplements. I'm not convinced of the logic of calling anything resembling pan-and-
scan "family friendly" and find the phrase "family friendly" rather condescending toward children, but it seems to be the mind set of many of the studios these days.

Anyway, disc one contains the film in its full-screen format, with the addition of three cartoon shorts-- "Tummy Trouble," "Rollercoaster Rabbit," and "Trail Mix-Up"--which were made following the success of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and were shown theatrically with select BV films. Also, there's a ten-minute featurette, "Who Made Roger Rabbit?" wherein the actor voicing the rabbit, Charles Fleischer, takes us behind the scenes of the filmmaking; and a set-top game, "Trouble In Toontown." Finally, the disc includes eighteen scene selections; English and French spoken languages; English captions for the hearing impaired; and a THX Optimizer set of audiovisual tests. The only thing I found difficult about it was the new menu system, which is not exactly easy to figure out because nothing is clearly identified. It's more of a game for children than a navigational menu, actually, with something like "The Ink & Paint Club" taking you to Sneak Peeks at other Buena Vista films. Seemed kind of plain sneaky to me.

Disc two is labeled for the "Enthusiast." I'm assuming this means its contents are aimed more at adults, and its menu is more straightforward. Of course, it contains the film's widescreen format. It also contains an audio commentary with director Robert Zemeckis and filmmakers Frank Marshall, Jeffrey Price, Peter Seaman, Steve Starkey, and Ken Ralston. Then, there's a thirty-six-minute documentary, "Behind The Ears: The True Story Of Roger Rabbit," that provides an inside look at the filmmaking. Following that is a deleted scene, "The Pig Head" sequence, introduced by director Robert Zemeckis and others. "Toontown Confidential" may be of interest once you've seen the film a few times; it's a set of text annotations and trivia that appear on screen throughout the movie. "The Valiant Files" is an interactive gallery of original character sketches, background paintings, promotional posters, and such. A "Before-and-After" split-screen comparison gives us a look behind the blue screen, before the animation was inserted. Then, there's a four-minute featurette, "Toon Stand-Ins" that shows us the rubber sculptures that were used in place of animated characters during filming. Finally, "On Set! Benny the Cab" shows us the making of an action scene in the film. Again there's a THX Optimizer, eighteen scene selections, English and French spoken languages, and English captions for the hearing impaired.

In addition, this new Vista Series edition contains an informational booklet insert and several, small, glossy, autographed pictures of Roger and Jessica Rabbit. The whole shebang comes in a foldout case that resembles a detective's notebook, which itself comes in an attractive slipcase.

Parting Thoughts:
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is amazing enough all by itself, but its new bundle of extras make for the icing on the cake. The movie is a treat for the eyes, the imagination, and one's sense of humor. A similar effort was made several years later with "Space Jam," but it didn't capture the same magic. I'm sure "Roger Rabbit" will stand as the yardstick for this kind of entertainment for a very long time, and its Vista Series packaging makes it all the more attractive.