Nov 4, 2008

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT music composed by Alan Silvestri

What started out looking good on paper, ended up being just that and ten times better on film. It was everything in between that proved to be a complete nightmare for everybody involved in the 1988 classic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit With Robert Zemeckis at the director's chair, having proven himself a good bet at the box office with Back To The Future, as well as Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy as producers, the film was destined to be a success. Only it wasn't these big Hollywood names that would catch the public's attention, it was the seamless mixture of live action and classicly animated cartoon characters. A form of film which hadn't really been used that much at that point, other than Disney's Song Of The South and Bednobs & Broomsticks. Using original cartoon characters at the forefront was the easy part (well, not easy, infact quite difficult to film, but that's beside the point), it was the meeting of Warner Bros., MGM and Disney characters for the numerous cameos that became a legal nightmare for the producers, studio, animators, scriptwriters and director. In the end, everything came together, but would never be done again, although a sequel had been in talks for quite a few years but was eventually scrapped.
With the film winning numerous awards for it's special effects, other aspects of the film almost went unnoticed by most. Bob Hoskins, who held his own extremely well against his cartoon co-stars, as well as Christoper Lloyd, almost unrecognizable if not for his voice. Another performance that most people forgot about was the wonderfully performed colorful score by Zemeckis regular, Alan Silvestri.
At that point the composer had only worked on three projects with Zemeckis so far, those being the two films, Romancing The Stone and Back To The Future and a single episode of Spielberg's TV anthology series, Amazing Stories. He would go on to compose for all of Zemeckis' films afterwards, including What Lies Beneath, Forest Gump, Death Becomes Her and The Polar Express. However, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is his busiest, zaniest Zemeckis score to date.
The score album begins, like the film, grabbing your attention right away, with "Maroon Logo". An obvious tip of the hat to Carl Stalling, who scored pretty much every Looney Tunes 'toon you can remember, which in turn was a tip of the hat to avant-garde jazzster, Raymond Scott. This immedietly leads into the "Maroon Cartoon" score, which is a dizzying muscial ride into cartoon violence and suspense, with the tippy toe plucks included, something that made the old Tom & Jerry cartoons so great.
The album quickly takes a breather, which is needed fairly soon, with the somber "Valiant & Valiant", the perfect jazz piece to reflect the Hoskin's P.I. character, Eddie Valiant.
"The Weasels" is a sly, sneaky little piece, that Silvestri seemed to perfect as he showed in Back To The Future and Death Becomes Her. The brass section toots as the strings pluck away rather dastardly and finally meet in a swirling hurricane of trouble.
By now, you can feel the album working just like a cartoon score, with it's style changing every other second.
Silvestri's theme for "Judge Doom", while not very memorable, works extremely well for the characters itself. It's ascending horns and ominous death bells in the background, would certainly strike fear in me, if I were a cartoon bear....Dip be damned.
"Jessica's Theme" is a sultry little number for the Mrs. Rabbit, who's "not bad, just drawn that way". It's an instrumental variation of the "Why Don't You Do Right" song, heard in the seedy nightclub. I would have been fine without the song on the album and just the instrumental theme itself, but I might be alone on this one, as it is a pivotal moment in the film.
The second half of the album mostly consists of entertaining goofy action cues, which Silvestri perfected, as Danny Elfman would too, in the next few years to come. They juggle back and forth between jazz, cartoon madness and straight up orchestrated intensity, that almost sounds as if it came from Silvestri's Predator scores.
The "End Credits" is always a favorite for me when it comes to film scores, as it lets the composer go nuts with his themes without having to follow the action onscreen. And Roger Rabbit's End Credits are one of the best I've heard even up to this very day.
The official soundtrack release runs at 46 minutes, with 7 minutes of that being the "songs" from the film. Those songs I really could of done without, especially the annoying "Smile Darn Ya Smile" heard at the end of them film, but again it's the finale of the movie, so it had to be included. The two other non-score cues are Roger Rabbit's "Merry-Go-Round Broke Down", which I really can't see anybody listening to with careful attention, other than a six year old with ADD. Finally, there's "Dueling Pianos" which was performed by Donald & Daffy Duck in the film. I actually don't mind this, as it was one of my favorite parts of the whole film and apparently one of the most controversial, due to both duck's speech impediments, it's not clear as to whether or not they are muttering racial remarks to each duck white, the other black.
Again, there are two other harder to find releases of the soundtrack. First off there is 40 minute promo, of which I don't own as I never bothered to seek, so I don't know much about it. Secondly there is the 2-Disc Expanded soundtrack which clocks in at a whopping 1 hr and 40 minutes, which contains several alternate cues that are well worth the listen. The 2-CD Expanded set is next to impossible to find, so the official soundtrack release is your best bet. Anybody who enjoys old fashioned cartoon music or just a good musical ride, I highly recommend this little gem to you and your big wascally wabbit ears.

**** - for official soundtrack release
***** - for 2-CD expanded edition

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