“The biggest fakes in technology: 9 inventions that turned out to be a disaster,” was the start of the great report by my colleague Rubén Andrés from just a few weeks ago. Before starting to read it, I tested myself trying to guess what Rubén’s selection might be, since there is plenty to choose from.
I have to say that I was right the vast majority, and also that we agree on our first choice: the Laserdics. An invention intended to supersede the VHS system whose only legacy is to be one of the most failed systems in history.
Despite all the peculiarities of the system, he offered us one of the most curious anecdotes in the history of home video, and which came to put Disney herself in a bind, is none other than the day a single Laserdisc album got ‘naked’ Jessica Rabbit.
It was the year 1988 when Disney released Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and despite some criticism, the film that mixed animation characters with real images was a success at the box office, more than offsetting its high production costs that made it one of the most expensive movies for several years.
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It wasn’t until the end of the following year that the film hit the home market with its VHS version, for the Laserdisc version it was necessary to wait a few more years, until in 1994 controversy broke out.
Legend has it that for years Disney animators had fun including subliminal scenes, risked or politically incorrect frames that went completely unnoticed among the flickering images at 24 frames per second of the cinemas, and later before the scarce 240 lines of definition of the VHS domestic videos.
With the arrival of the Laserdisc everything changed, its 425 lines of resolution and the possibility of taking a “perfect” frame-by-frame pause threatened to expose the darkest secrets of Disney movies. And that was precisely what happened.
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In 1994, Variety magazine alerted to the presence of several of these subliminal scenes in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, including one in which Jessica Rabbit, the explosive protagonist of the film, could be seen, without underwear.
It all happens during the scene where Jessica Rabbit travels through Toon Town with Bob Hoskins in an animated taxi. When the taxi collides with a lamppost, Jessica and Hoskins shoot out of the car several turns, it is at Jessica’s second turn (frames 2170 to 2172 from the Laserdisc version) when her underwear disappears.
The impact of the discovery, along with other more than objectionable scenes in the same film, caused a series of chain reactions by Disney that started a witch hunt to try to locate the person responsible although, unless it is known, he never managed to find him.
The option was also offered to customers to exchange their Laserdisc discs for free for versions that no longer included the controversial frames, although curiously no one agreed.
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In fact, Following the news, the LaserDisc versions of Who Framed Roger Rabbit flew from stores, depleting stocks, an unusual fact for a format with such a low market share.
As you can imagine the later versions of the film, which did not make it to DVD until 1999, lack the controversial frames, which can only be seen in the Laserdisc version and some VHS in videos of four or more heads.