What has separated ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit‘ from other live-action/animation combination films is the extent to which interaction detail was added at times when ‘nobody was really looking.’ Kristian Williams outlined three reasons why ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit‘ has set the standard for both traditionally-animated films and CGI films… 1. convincing eyelines between human and animated characters, 2. convincing physical interactions between the animated characters and the real world they inhabit, and 3. convincing use of light and shadow. He provided a wonderful explanation that is available on YouTube.
The London SFX group at The Forum in Camden Town prepared all of the matte overlays for the scene in which Eddie Valiant, Dolores, and Roger Rabbit are in the back room of the Terminal Bar. Eddie is trying to saw off the handcuffs connecting him to Roger, and accidentally bumps his head on the overhead lamp – which starts it swinging. The light source is changing constantly throughout the scene. London SFX animators Chris Jenkins and Fraser MacLean not only created the set of tone mattes unique for each frame, which followed the changing light direction and fully characterized Roger’s underlying anatomy but, with ILM, altered the color of the tones and shadows as the ‘quality’ of the light changed due to the swinging lamp. There is a translucency in the painting of Roger’s ears that is seen when his ears are directly in front of the swinging light.
This stunning, but seemingly-superfluous attention to detail might not be apparent to the ordinary movie-goer, but it went a long way to selling the combination concept at a subliminal level. Disney Animation even uses the term, ‘Bumping the Lamp,’ when describing efforts to go ‘above and beyond.’
Shown here are instructions on eyelines provided by Richard Williams during the production of ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit,‘
and the notes made by Fraser MacLean and Chris Jenkins during the animation of that scene.