Who Framed Roger Rabbit (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)


WhoFramedRogerRabbitPosterI can’t quite remember how I found out about 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Growing up, most of my movie news came from four major sources – Entertainment Tonight, Siskel & Ebert, the occasional movie poster you’d see at a bus stop or cinema. If you were really lucky, the production company would sometimes create a “Behind the Scenes”/”Making of” showcase a little after the movie premiered. If possible, I would read the billing block of a poster to see if I could recognize anyone familiar, Just seeing Amblin Entertainment meant you’d have Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall involved. Nothing new there. I knew Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri from Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Movies have had mixes of animation and live action – Bedrooms & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, etc., but the big buzz here was the film planned to somehow involve both the Disney and Warner Bros. animation studios. It was an alien concept for me, because they couldn’t be more different from each other. Historically, animation on the WB side of things were edgy and almost dared to be even raunchy if they could get away with it. Disney, on the other hand, was pristine and extremely  kid friendly. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck, all on the same screen? It was the 1980’s equivalent of asking Marvel (which ironically, is owned by Disney now) and DC (which the WB has owned for decades) to write a single Justice League / Avengers crossover story.

At the time, Steven Spielberg was already well known for blockbusters like the Indiana Jones films and E.T., but did he really have enough clout to bring two major companies together like that? It blew my 13 year old mind and I became completely obsessed.

Around the time Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out, I picked up anything I could find about it. I had Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack, a poster, a stuffed Roger doll, and the video game when it came out. I even read Gary Wolf’s novel. I begged my parents to let me see it, and it was one of the rare times where my Mom took my sis and I to the movies instead of my dad (the major movie buff, who took us to see Robocop twice the year before). I think she went in part to shut me up, and to give herself a break from my nearly 2 year old brother. It remains one of the two best movie related memories I have of her.

In the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, humans and cartoons share the same space in Los Angeles. Cartoons live in Toontown, owned by Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). It’s the story of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins – Hook, Mermaids), a Los Angeles Private Eye with a bit of a grudge against toons. For a quick buck, Valiant is hired by R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern – Firefox, Little Shop of Horrors) to snoop on Acme. Valiant’s work puts him in the path of Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer, Back to the Future Part II), after Eddie takes some racy pictures of Acme playing patty cake with Roger’s wife, Jessica (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone). Roger angrily swears they’re still a happy couple and that Acme somehow coerced her before running off into the night. The next morning, Eddie is informed that the Marvin Acme’s been killed overnight. To make things worse, Acme’s Will is missing, leaving the fate of Toontown up in the air. All of the evidence points to Roger, but Roger asks for Eddie’s assistance in clearing his name. Can Eddie save Roger before Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future) and his pack of weasels get their hands on him?

The production for the film required jumping over a number of hurdles. Zemeckis, himself a cartoon fan, wanted to bring some of the Warner Bros. characters along with Disney characters. Even better, he also wanted to add some of Tex Avery’s classic style to the film. Similar to what he did with Ready Player One, Spielberg negotiated with some of the studios, and while he couldn’t get everyone, he did manage to get Disney, WB and a few others to commit. With this in place, they had to somehow merge animation with live-action in a way that made it look like the cartoons were interacting with their environment.

This would require one really huge magic trick, made up from an assortment of parts.

Since it was around 1986-1987, there really was no CG, yet.. James Cameron made 6 stuntmen in Alien suits look like 600 through the use of Oscar Winning Editing, and the technology that gave us the paradigm shifting dinosaurs of Jurassic Park wouldn’t occur for another 3 or 4 years. For Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the approach was a mix of robotics, puppetry, sleight of hand gadgetry, and a lot of imagination.

The art was handled by Richard Williams and his team, who would go on to win a Special Achievement Oscar for his contribution to the film. They had to draw every cell/frame by hand, on paper and then have them inked. These would then go to Industrial Light & Magic, who would add shadow, highlights and special effects To make things harder, the artists had to work around Zemeckis’ filming style and figure out how to fit the characters into each scene.

Take Jessica Rabbit’s performance of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”, sung by Amy Irving (Carrie, The Fury). At first glance, it seems a really easy shot. Girl steps on the stage, performs and leaves, right? However, there are so many things happening here on an effects level that I still don’t fully understand how they did it after all these years. ILM handled the lighting, from the sparkles in the dress, the use of the handkerchief and the great moment where Jessica blocks the spotlight in her walk from Acme to Valiant. I had to later explain to my mom that the “Wow” I whispered in the theatre during that scene had little or nothing to do with puberty. It was because I hadn’t seen anything like that before with a cartoon, and I’d hate the Academy forever if the movie didn’t win an Oscar for that.

Having cartoons on screen is one thing, but making it feel like they were interacting with people is another. Hoskins was the anchor that tied most of it all together. Having to work with nearly nothing – not even a green screen – and perform the physical actions required of the role was quite a feat compared to what some actors do with the motion capture rooms and digital walls we use today. Near lifesize models of Roger were created to help Hoskins handle some of the physical “grab and move” sequences, and actor Charles Fleischer actually spent time dressed as Roger on set (but off camera, of course) to feed his side of the conversation to Hoskins when filming a scene.

Puppeteers were brought on for moments were toon characters needed to hold objects, such as guns or knives. There is a moment of the movie where you can see one of the holes for the guns that the weasels, but it’s a pretty minute hiccup with all of the great work that was done. For the car sequences with Benny the Cab (also Fleischer), they used a special mini-car with a driver in the back. The car and driver were painted over (still, frame for frame) by the animators.

And ff course, it wouldn’t be a Zemeckis film without Alan Silvestri at the helm, musically speaking. Silvestri’s score for was a mix of detective noir and cartoony antics, which made for a perfect fit for the film. Overall, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those films I cherished growing up, and it’s almost impossible for me to avoid recommending it.

 

 

The Universe Is Expanding: Here’s The Super Bowl Disney+ MCU Trailer!


The universe is expanding!

Out of the three shows that are featured in the teaser below, it’s the one with Wanda and Vision that most interests me.  I can’t wait to see what happens with those two characters.  And, of course, there’s no way I couldn’t smile a little when Loki popped up.  His death in Infinity War depressed me almost as much as Black Widow’s death in Endgame.

Quick Review: Ratatouille (dir. by Brad Bird)


The following is a Mini Review for Ratatouille, written on June 17, 2007,  taken word forratatouille word from my old Livejournal.

“The absolute worst thing I could ever say about Disney / Pixar’s “Ratatouille” is that I have to wait 2 whole weeks until I can see it again at the official release.”

The Movie: “Ratatouille”

Starring:
(cast list borrowed from the IMDB)
Patton Oswalt … Remy (voice)
Ian Holm … Skinner (voice)
Lou Romano … Linguini (voice)
Brian Dennehy… Django (voice)
Peter Sohn … Emile (voice)
Peter O’Toole … Anton Ego (voice)
Brad Garrett … Gusteau (voice)
Janeane Garofalo … Colette (voice)

This review may be biased, as I’m a Pixar Nut. I have no idea how they do it. Right now, they’re 8 for 8 in my opinion (or maybe 7 for 8 only because anyone who hates or doesn’t understand Nascar may have had problems relating to Cars, like myself).

This place has to be the most enjoyable and creative working establishment on the planet. The absolute worst thing I could ever say about Disney / Pixar’s “Ratatouille” is that I have to wait 2 whole weeks until I can see it again at the official release. Yesterday, Disney hosted a Special Sneak Peek around the country of the film. A one time showing that didn’t quite fill all of the seats in the theatre (and I think that’s only because not too many people were aware of it – about 20 -30 in my audience), but amused and amazed everyone who did show. We had laughter, applause and even a few happy murmurs in the audience. 🙂

Ratatouille is the story of Remy, a rat who adores food. Not just eating it, but actually creating meals with it. Walking in the footsteps of a great and renowned chef Gusteau, Remy wants to cook (with the assistance of his brother Emile), but his father feels that his place is with the rats he lives with. After finding himself in need of job, Linguini is brought on as the newest worker at the famous Gastau’s restaurant, which has seen better days. Linguini wants to fit in, but the staff have regulated him to something of a low position. Together, Remy and Linguini are able to help one another, in quite a few funny ways.

Like all of the Pixar stories before it, the themes are universal. One of Ratatouille’s themes is a “being brave enough to go after what you want most, despite the changes that may occur” and under director Brad Bird’s leadership (who also directed “The Incredibles” and my favorite Amazing Stories episode, “The Family Dog”), this comes across really well. All of the main characters are made to grow in some way (even the ones that appear to not really have a sense of direction).

The graphics (if you can even call them that) are wonderful, and Paris is rendered in a near picture perfect look. According to the film, it’s 100% animation, without any motion capturing whatsoever (which makes sense, considering that Brad Bird has gone on record as stating that animation is an art form and not a genre). The food looks great, and the a lot of the smoke effects (fire, steam, hair getting wet) have improved since The Incredibles. The sound (at least my theatre) was also very good, sounds typically jumped around the speakers for the most part.

As a kids film, Ratatouille works, but parents may want to be on the lookout. The word ‘dead’ comes up quite a bit, and if you’re one of those parents that haven’t had that talk with your kids, I’m just warning you now. There’s some animated violence throughout, but considering my movie theatre had parents that were taking their kids to see Hostel II, I don’t think it’s too bad. It’s up for the viewer to really decide.

Also note that before the movie starts, the animated short “Lifted” also appears, which was hilarious and may cause one to remember their first few driving lessons. I’ll leave it at that. ☺ “Ratatouille” is a marvelous triumph by Disney and Pixar, who always seem to remember that that the story (above all), comes first.

The film doesn’t contain any ACP’s (I call them After Credit Pieces – those little snippets of film that show up right after the credits are done – see Pirates of the Carribean (any one of them) to understand what I mean), though the credits themselves are cute, complete with a new set of Pixar Babies. Michael Giacchino was also on board with the Soundtrack, which is a mix of mostly french violin/piano pieces. Quite a jump from the Incredibles and Mission Impossible III for him, but sweet, nonetheless.

Ratatouille opens in theatres June 29.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Final Trailer


Well, it all comes down to this.

During tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, ESPN is hosting the final trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The last film of the new trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker seems to have Rey (Daisy Ridley) coming into her own as a Jedi. It also looks like her friends are due to face a new threat, could it really be The Emperor? While Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi may have left some audiences divided, Disney is hoping this will bring everyone in line and in the theatre. It seems to be working as theatres around the country are already selling out in pre-sales for the film.

It looks like we have Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fighting against and alongside each other again. Could this also mean some sort of redemption for Kylo? We’ll find out come December 19th, when the film is released.

Enjoy!

Here’s The Trailer For The Lion King


Coming soon from Disney …. IT”S THE LION KING!

Apparently, it’s just like the previous Lion King except it’s now live action!  That’s fine with me.  I’ll watch anything involving cats.  Besides, I want to see how they do this scene:

Donald Glover will be providing the voice of Simba while James Earl Jones will be breaking heats all over again in the role of Mustafa.  The film will be directed by Jon Favreau, who worked wonders with The Jungle Book.  It’ll be interesting to see if he can pull it off again with this remake of one of Disney’s most beloved films.

The new Lion King comes out on July 19th!

Cars 3 Extended Sneak Peek


It’s been 11 years since Disney/Pixar released Cars. The audience has grown up, and from the looks of it, the story tied to Cars 3 is trying to grow with them. Another trailer was recently released, this time featuring Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) new nemesis, the ultra modern rookie sensation Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). It also introduces Cruz Ramirez, another character that appears to be a new trainer for McQueen. Most of the favorites will also be returning for this installment. Lightning is now standing in the same spot as the legendary Doc Hudson when he first met him. Is Lightning finally at the twilight of his career, or does have one more good race left in him?

Brian Fee, who’s worked on the other Cars films as well as a number of other Pixar projects , gets to sit in the Director’s chair this time around. I just hope it’s as dark as Toy Story 3.

Disney/Pixar also released a profile trailer, showing off some of the new characters.

Lightning McQueen:

Jackson Storm:

Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo):

Film Review: Moana (dir by Ron Clements and John Musker)


Look, I get it.

Everyone’s depressed right now.

You’re depressed.

He’s depressed.

She’s depressed.

That random guy over there is depressed.

Your cat’s depressed because you’re so depressed that you’re probably not feeding him on time.

I’m not depressed but I’m currently pretending that I am in order to show solidarity for the people.

Everyone’s depressed!

But you know what?  No matter how depressed you are, don’t take it out on the movies.  I actually had someone tell me recently that he didn’t see how I could worry about movies with so many terrible things happening in the world!  Well, listen up — the world may be a terrible movie but movies help to make it a lot more bearable.

For instance, there’s Moana.  Moana is the latest Disney film and it is a burst of pure joy, a wonderfully entertaining animated adventure that also carries with it an important, timely, and welcome message of empowerment.  Some day, when I have a daughter, Moana is one of the many films that I look forward to watching with her.  We’ll watch Moana and then we’ll watch Brave.  And then we’ll close things out with Frozen.  I can’t wait!

moana

Now, I’ll be honest.  The film’s plot, in many ways, sounds like almost every other Disney princess film.  Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is the headstrong daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe.  Moana dreams of sailing to the ends of the Earth but her loving but protective father refuses to allow her to go beyond the reef.  However, when a force of darkness threatens to consume the island that Moana calls home, she defies her father and sets sail with her pet rooster.  The only way to stop the darkness is to track down a demigod named Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and go with him to return a sacred stone to Te Fiti, the island Goddess.  (The stone is Te Fiti’s heart.)

Now, that may all sound like typical Disney fare but the brilliant thing about Moana is that it realizes that the plot sounds like typical Disney fare.  When Moana finds Maui, he asks her where he animal sidekick is because all princesses travel with an animal sidekick.  Moana argues that she’s not a princess but then realizes that, as the chief’s daughter, she kind of is.  Moano is full of self-referential humor, the type that tells the audience that we’re all in this together.

Maui himself is a brilliantly animated, written, and voiced parody of the type of muscle-bound character who, in the past, would have automatically been this film’s main character.  Dwayne Johnson has always been willing to have fun with his persona and he continues to do that with Maui.  For that matter, Heihei the Rooster also pokes fun at the typical Disney animal sidekick.  As opposed to the usual all-knowing, often snarky sidekick that we’ve come to expect from Disney, Heihei spends most of his time searching for something to eat.  It doesn’t matter if it’s edible or not.  He’ll eat it.  As a result, Heihei doesn’t really do much to help Moana on her journey but he’s still adorable.

But ultimately, this film is all about Moana and what a wonderful character she is!  Strong, independent, intelligent, and occasionally just a little unsure of herself, Moana is perhaps the most 3-dimensional Disney character since Brave‘s Merida.  It’s her character (and  Auli’i Cravalho’s voicework) that brings the film its humanity and makes it a truly special viewing experience.

Moana is wonderfully animated and if you don’t fall in love with the coconut pirates then there is no hope for you.  (Is this film worth seeing in 3D?  I would say that it is.)  The insanely catchy songs are provided by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i and I’m looking forward to the inevitable Broadway adaptation.

So, seriously — stop feeling sorry for yourself for two hours and go see Moana!  You’ll be glad you did.