Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rock And Rule (1983): A Review

The war was over... The only survivors were street animals — dogs, cats and rats. From them, a new race of mutants evolved. That was a long time ago. Mok, a legendary super rocker, has retired to Ohmtown. There his computers work at deciphering an ancient code which would unlock a doorway between this world and another dimension. Obsessed with his dark experiment, Mok himself searches for the last crucial component: a very special voice. (Opening narration to the 1983 US version of Rock and Rule)

In the late 80s, watching late night television, I came across an animated film being broadcast called Rock And Rule. The story centers on a wannabe rock group consisting of four anthropomorphic dogs: Angel, Omar, Dizzy, and Stretch living in a future dystopian world where all the humans have died out. Angel comes to the attention of the super-rocker, Mok, who is in the declining years of his popularity. Determined to exact revenge on a fickle public, he has dedicated all his efforts to summon a demon from another dimension that will make his last show a real killer attraction. Literally.

And I was fascinated. I set out determined to find a copy and it was not until the late 90s, a friend of mine gifted me with a DVD of the production put out by Unearthed Films. They have since released a two-disc Blu-Ray collectors edition that you can purchase here.

Before I continue, one caveat. The Motion Picture of Association of America did not come up with the PG-13 rating until a year after Rock And Rule was released. The film, with its blatant drug references, fleeting nudity, use of strong language, and some fleeting disturbing images puts the film squarely into PG-13 territory. This is not a movie for the kiddies.

Let me be honest. Rock And Rule is a glorious train wreck of an animated film and for good reason. Nelvana, a Canadian animation studio, didn't have much of a script to go with and the story and characters were changed on the fly. According to my DVD's liner notes, the crew behind Rock And Rule went straight into production "without a solid story and a completed screenplay. Indecision on the part of the producers was rampant. Constant re-writes and script alterations invariably took their toll on everyone from animators to camera operators. Whole sequences were cut, leaving months and months of work lying on the editing room floor and the bottoms of dumpsters. Numerous retakes of both minor and crucial scenes became commonplace; characters were redesigned and completely reanimated from scratch, long after the scenes they were featured in were already shot."

And the story gets worse from there.

But here is why I love the film:
  1. In its early years, Nelvana was one of the best quality animation studio on the block and a list of their shows can be seen here. Rock And Rule was the first feature length animated film ever made principally in Canada.
  2. The soundtrack features songs from Debbie Harry (of Blondie fame), Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick, and Lou Reed.
  3. It was furry before furry became cool (and then ostracized).
  4. Not made for the kiddies, even though the message of the film (love conquers evil) is as saccharine as you can get.
  5. The film is unrelenting in its dystopian darkness (part of it takes place in Nuke York...that's not a typo).
  6. Mok is clearly based on Mick Jagger, the character's full name being, Mok Swagger. Oh, yeah. That's subtle.
  7. The animation is just fun to watch and some of the background art is exquisite.
 You can watch a documentary on the making of Rock And Rule here and you can watch the full American version of the film online here. Be aware these links may disappear. We are talking about the Internet after all.

Angel on keyboard, Dizzy on drums, Omar on lead guitar (and lead vocal) and stretch on bass guitar. And in case you're interested, they are all dogs.

This is Mok. He's the bad guy and, just so you know, he's a cat.
This is the demon Mok summons using Angel's voice, all because his last concert was not 100% sold out. Now I may be wrong, but in my humble opinion, this is not how one endears the fans to return.

Of course, Angel isn't doing this willingly. Mok drugs her and uses a special collar around her throat to force her to sing the demon up. Insert a snarky comment of your own on Mok's fashion sense.
Stretch and Dizzy (real name: Alphonse). Dizzy can't drive and ends up driving twice in the film. He wrecks both times.


  1. I remember seeing this once at a furry con back when they still had video rooms. Yikes but this is one trippy in all the good ways movie. Though I personally prefer Nelvana's even earlier animation 'The Devil and Daniel Mouse', which is even creepier.

    1. Just watched it. Rather cute and has a strong resemblance to Rock and Rule.