Animation Studies 2 : Toon vs Actor. Research: Dissect and take note.

I decided to go for 2 films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Cool World. It is safe to say that Cool World took inspiration from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, however, it wasn’t as well regarded as Roger Rabbit. Both are a mixture of 2D animation and live action.  Not much apart from one another with the story or even the timeline (Roger Rabbit is from 1988 and Cool world from 1992).  Cool World takes place in 1992 but initially starts in 1945, whilst Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes place in 1947.  The budget of Who framed Roger Rabbit was $70 mil.  and earned $329.8 mil. whilst Cool World’s budget was $30 million and earned $14,1 mil in box office.  Whilst Cool World had much more negative controversy, I will be looking only at the differences in animation, actor vs toon interaction and how much of the illusion that is meant to take place between the two is believable or not.


Who framed Roger Rabbit (1988)  and Cool World (1992)

                                  (Who Framed Roger Rabbit HD Trailer (1988)   )

I’ve chosen to take the trailer as the main video to dissect, allowing myself to explain the scenes that to me were the perfect moments in which Who framed Roger Rabbit merged live action with animation.  And with that created connection between the toon and actor and due to that not breaking the illusion of the two not even being part of the same dimension.

The intro shows the animated world.  The creators were not lazy at all during this, establishing perfectly which cartoon style they would go for and the colour schemes. Throughout the film the world is in this style and the same shades of colours.  You can also see that they use shadows and even reflections in the intro scene which proves to be a must throughout the whole film. In the film’s world you won’t meet highly rendered characters, but instead it really is a cartoon world.

Roger5.png(Everything in this scene is real, aside from Roger, Baby Herman and the little birds.)

The introduction of the real world takes place the moment after Roger being hit by the fridge.  The fridge door opens and without the audience realizing it (Unless they pause and look further into it) they are watching a room that is only half filled up.  The actor (human) is real, the floor is real, the fridge is real but even the items within the fridge are real, though they are created in a way that they look cartoon like. Due to what was mentioned earlier, the creators establishing the art style they wanted to go for and even the environment’s style, you can’t see which is real and which is fake when placed next to an animated cartoon.


Eyeline match.  This scene shows interaction between four characters, Baby Herman, Roger, Director and the tweeting bird. The eyes following whomever is being spoken to, translates interaction perfectly. Even the interaction between the Director and Baby Herman translates well when they break eye contact to both look over to Roger.

Transition in light.
Baby Herman walking off stage in anger seems like a very simple task, however the lighting in this part is crazy detailed if you look for it.   He goes from his normal shading which he has had this whole time due to the light in the room not changing, to a darker shade once he goes off the stage.  However, the animators added an extra to it that is only a few frames long as he passes under the skirt of a lady, making the shadow much darker, BUT! it never goes black.  Instead they made his shadow around the same darkness as the woman’s leg’s shadow, which again shows the amount of detail in this scene and this is almost a standard in the whole film.

Toon interact with real object.
The ‘grabbing onto things’  is something that alot of films seem to get wrong, but Who framed Roger Rabbit was one of the very few that seemed to have the right idea.  Even with Roger interacting with the coat the actor does not break the eyeline match.  The first picture shows him wanting to yank his coat free, the tension visible on the cloth and a clear eyeline match, whilst the second shows a less tense cloth whilst the actor looks down upon Roger whilst telling him off. That combined with the shadow play makes a great scene that translates the interaction between toon and actor.


So to sum up what Who framed Roger Rabbit did right and what I would want to take into my ‘film’  would be;

  • Lighting and shadows.  The change of lighting differs from one room to the other and allowing this to influence the shadows of the character makes for a more believable experience when placing this character next to a real person or object.
  • Eyeline match.  Making sure that they look AT eachother when speaking makes for more believable interaction. This can make or break a scene.
  • Interaction between the real and the fake.  Whenever a character grabs onto something or someone there should be some form of response by that which is touched.  In the example above the coat was showing tension which creates a believable action between object and character.
  • Having a good idea about the style. The creators of the toons knew which style they wanted the world to be in and sticking to that one style makes it easier to merge the real with the fake, as we have seen in the opening scene with Roger and the Fridge.
  • Don’t be lazy.  The idea that there are reflections, shadows, camera play and solid animation which doesn’t jitter at all in movement, takes time.  In the case of Roger Rabbit, the creators went overboard with it all and it was more than worth it. To create a connection, a believable one, between that which is real and that which is animated takes time and effort.


“Cool World takes place in 1992 but initially starts in 1945”
“Cool World’s budget was $30 million and earned $14,1 mil in box office.” (2017). Cool World. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes place in 1947”
“The budget of Who framed Roger Rabbit was $70 mil.  and earned $329.8 mil.” (2017). Who Framed Roger Rabbit. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].

1 –YouTube. (2017). Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Trailer (HD) (1988). [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].

All images are screenshots from the trailer which is referenced above. 

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