Roger or Ralph? Stacking them up against the test of time @ 13 March 2013 05:24 PM
Disney's big animated feature of last year, the Oscar-nominated Wreck-It Ralph, was just released on Blu-ray and DVD in the same month as Disney/Amblin/Touchstone's Who Framed Roger Rabbit was also reissued on Blu-ray.

Wreck-It Ralph is considered by many to be the Toy Story of today, since the two films personify the beloved playthings of kids and contain almost endless references to all-time favorites.

But the film's release the same month as Roger draws attention to the fact that Ralph and Roger have a lot in common, too.



When I first saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, it was like an epiphany. While the combination of live action and animation was and still is remarkable (and astonishingly great considering that the effects were all optical and pre-digital), what resounded with me was the cartoon characters cameos and the grand assemblage of them all together (I won't spoil it for those who have not seen it).

I and many fellow animation enthusiasts felt vindicated for all those years of what some termed "baby stuff." Animation was hip, cartoons were now cool and Steven Spielberg was buying cels. Roger Rabbit the film became a benchmark for animation for every age, especially adults who grew up with it and wanted to see it aimed at them.

Thus came The Simpsons and copycats that imitated both Roger and Homer. There were cartoons for kids, cartoons for grownups and a new "golden age" at Disney, where now-classics like Beauty and the Beast delighted everyone. Many of the artists -- and there were TONS of them -- cut their teeth on the huge international effort that went into producing Who Framed Roger Rabbit and went on to greater successes on their own.

So how does it look now? Gorgeous on Blu-ray, particularly the Toontown sequence, but also even the darker scenes take on a luster and sheen because every detail is defined. It holds up quite well, not as shockingly adult as it seemed to parents back in 1988, as compared to today, with far more racy scenes and strong language more prevalent in mainstream media, even "family" films and TV.

It seems likely that many of the cartoon characters who pop up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit may become more and more obscure, sadly, except to animation and Disney buffs. Several generations have missed out on regular TV viewings of classic cartoons, so the character cameos do not all have the impact they had back in '88. It's like watching Around the World in 80 Days today with people who are only familiar with the here and now. They may not know David Niven, much less Cantinflas, and the star-studded parade they encountered in what was a sensation in its day.

Being able to recognize the myriad of video game characters that younger viewappear in Wreck-It Ralph is less critical to the story. It's a blast for fans of video games to spot the cameos, but the film's story and original characters are strong enough so that you really don't need to be a gamer to appreciate it.



Wreck It Ralph
is, at its core, a story about middle age crisis: a big lug who has been doing the same job for years with little or no positive recognition starts to question his life and future. He has anger issues. He goes into therapy with other video villains, including Satan ("That's pronounced '"Sa-teen,'" he says). All that's missing from his journey is a trip to Human Resources.

In Toy Story, Woody worried about being replaced. Wreck It Ralph asks, with apologies to Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?" His character arc is very believable and touching, but never sentimental.

Most of the film takes place in a blindingly colorful game called Sugar Rush, shown off to good advantage in Blu-ray. Clever gags abound: castle Oreo cookie soldiers who sing "Or-ee-O, Yo-oh;" a pit of Nestle's Quik sand; attacks by barking Devil Dogs...it goes on and on. I like the brightness, after decades of bleak, realistic fantasies.

The Blu-ray disc contains all the bonus features, which, considering what a rich film this is, are not as generous as one might wish (no feature length commentary). The DVD disc, though, does include the Oscar-winning short, Paperman.



WRECK IT RALPH BLU-RAY/DVD FEATURES
(also available with 3-D Blu-ray & Digital Copy)

Blu-ray Bonus Features:
Paperman theatrical short
Bit By Bit: Creating the World of Wreck-It Ralph
Disney Intermission: The Gamer's Guide to Wreck-It Ralph
Deleted and Alternate Scenes
Video Game "Commercials" for Fix-It Felix, Jr., Hero's Duty and Sugar Rush

DVD Bonus Feature:
Paperman theatrical short



WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT BONUS COMPARISONS

The new Who Framed Roger Rabbit package includes bonus features from the 2003 Vista Series release, but mostly on the Blu Blu-ray disc. The DVD contains the "family friendly" features from "disc one" of the earlier release (it's pretty much the same disc).
2003 Vista Series Components
Disc 1: Fullscreen Feature Plus Family Friendly Bonus Feature
The Roger Rabbit Shorts: Tummy Trouble / Rollercoaster Rabbit / Trail Mix-Up
Who Made Roger Rabbit - Hosted by Charles Fleischer
Trouble in Toontown Game
Easter Egg (dashboard button) - Movie Trailer

Disc 2: Widescreen Feature Plus Enthusiast Features
Audio Commentary: Robert Zemeckis, Jeffrey Price, Roger Seamans, Frank Marshall, Steve Starkey & Ken Ralston
Deleted "Pig Head Sequence"
"The Valiant Files" Galleries: Character Development, Art of Roger Rabbit, Production, Promotional, Theme Parks
Before and After Footage
Toon Stand-Ins
Behind the Ears: The True Story of Roger Rabbit
On Set! Benny the Cab Pre-Animation Production Footage
Toontown Confidential: Pop Up Trivia for the Film

The 2103 Blu-ray disc contains all of the above, plus the features below without the fullscreen version.

The 2013 DVD Reissue disc contains:
Fullscreen Feature
The Roger Rabbit Shorts: Tummy Trouble / Rollercoaster Rabbit / Trail Mix-Up
Who Made Roger Rabbit - Hosted by Charles Fleischer
Trouble in Toontown Game
Easter Egg (dashboard button) - Movie Trailer

So, will time be kinder to Roger or Ralph? Roger the movie is already considered a landmark of its kind, while Ralph is not a landmark, it's a fine example of current CG animated features. But as a character, Roger has not transcended the film and become a beloved icon himself (though he still ought to be). Time will tell for Ralph.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a detective story with a fantastic twist, still a rather mature film but definitely enjoyable thanks to its ingenuity and the performances. Wreck It Ralph rises above being "just about video games" and examines the issues each character faces -- issues that will always be relevant, long after video games go out of fashion. It also has superb voice work.

But P-P-P-P-Pleeeeeze! See them if you haven't already. See them again if it's been awhile. Both are clever, rich in detail and highly recommended.

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