Rock-a-Doodle is a 1991 Irish/British/American live action/animated musical comedy adventure film produced by Sullivan Bluth Studios and Goldcrest Films. Loosely based on Edmond Rostand's comedy Chantecler, Rock-a-Doodle was directed by Don Bluth and written by David N. Weiss. The film features the voices of Glen Campbell, Christopher Plummer, Phil Harris (in his final film role before his retirement and death), Charles Nelson Reilly, Sorrell Booke, Sandy Duncan, Eddie Deezen, Ellen Greene, and Toby Scott Ganger in his film debut. The film was released in the United Kingdom on August 2, 1991 and in the United States and Canada on April 3, 1992.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Bluth|
|Screenplay by||David N. Weiss|
by Edmond Rostand
|Music by||Robert Folk|
The film tells the story of an anthropomorphic rooster named Chanticleer, who lives on a farm and crows every morning to raise the sun. However, he leaves his farm to become a rock star in the city after being tricked by the Grand Duke of Owls, whose kind hates sunshine, into thinking that his crow does not actually raise the sun. Without Chanticleer, rain continues to pour non-stop, causing a massive flood all over the country. The Duke and his henchmen take over in the darkness, and plan to eat all of the barnyard animals. Chanticleer's friends from the farm, along with Edmond, a young human boy who was transformed into a kitten by the Duke, take off on a mission to get Chanticleer to bring back the sun and save the country before it is too late.
Chanticleer is a rooster whose singing seems to raise the sun every morning. One morning, Chanticleer gets into a fight with a stranger sent by the Grand Duke of Owls, whose kind hates sunlight. Chanticleer defeats his attacker, but forgets to crow, and the sun prematurely rises. Ridiculed and rejected by the other animals, Chanticleer leaves the farm in shame, and the sun goes back down as Chanticleer had not crowed. Afterwards, perpetual darkness and rainfall threaten the farm with flooding. This story turns out to be a fairy tale being read to a young boy named Edmond by his mother. Their family's farm is in danger of being destroyed in a storm, and when his mother leaves to assist the rest of the family, Edmond calls for Chanticleer's return. He is instead greeted by the Duke, who is angered by Edmond's interference and uses his magical breath to transform Edmond into a kitten with the intent to devour him. Edmond is saved by Patou, a bloodhound from Chanticleer's farm, and Edmond manages to drive away the Duke with a flashlight. Edmond then meets the claustrophobic magpie Snipes, the intellectual field mouse Peepers, and several other animals from the farm, all of whom are hoping to find Chanticleer and apologize to him for their behavior. Edmond accompanies Patou, Snipes, and Peepers to the city, while the rest of the animals remain at Edmond's house.
Hunch, the Duke's pygmy nephew, is assigned by him to stop Edmond and the others from finding Chanticleer. The group narrowly escapes him and enters the city through an aqueduct pipe. Chanticleer, now under the name of "The King", has become a famous Elvis impersonator under his manager Pinky Fox, who is employed by the Duke to keep Chanticleer in the city and prevent his friends from finding him. During a concert, he is introduced to Goldie Pheasant as a distraction in case Chanticleer's friends come to find him. Goldie soon grows genuinely attracted to Chanticleer, and realizes Pinky's true intentions when he captures Edmond and the others trying to get a letter to Chanticleer. Meanwhile, the Duke and his party stalk the farm animals at Edmond's house, who continually use Edmond's flashlight to drive them off as long as the batteries hold out. Realizing that she is in love with him, Goldie confesses to Chanticleer that his friends had come to see him, and Pinky blackmails Chanticleer to attend his show or never see his friends again. Hunch inadvertently frees Edmond and the others, and they help Chanticleer and Goldie make a grand escape in a helicopter, which they use to return to the farm.
After their batteries run out, the denizens of the farm are nearly made a meal of by the Duke and his minions when they are driven off by the helicopter's spotlight. Edmond and the others try to get Chanticleer to crow, but his ongoing sense of dejection limits his ability. The Duke taunts Chanticleer and tries to drown him, but Edmond starts chanting Chanticleer's name in hopes of reviving his spirit, provoking the Duke into strangling Edmond until he loses consciousness. Impressed by Edmond's bravery, the other animals begin chanting Chanticleer's name, driving an angry Duke to transform himself into a tornado. Chanticleer finally regains his confidence and crows loud enough to raise the sun, diminishing the Duke into a harmless miniature version of himself. He is then chased away by a vengeful Hunch into the distance once and for all. The floods begin to subside and Edmond transforms back into a human. Edmond awakes in the real world, where the sun is shining outside and the floods have ended, but Edmond's mother assumes that his adventures were only a dream. Nevertheless, Edmond picks up Chanticleer's book and thanks him for coming back, before he is magically transported into Chanticleer's world, where he witnesses the rooster singing to make the sun shine.
- Toby Scott Ganger as Edmond, the son of a human farmer who is being read the story of Chanticleer by his mother, Dory. He is transformed into a kitten by the Grand Duke as a sentence for trying to summon back Chanticleer, and is the one who organises the farm animals to bring Chanticleer back to the farm after the flooding starts. He slowly begins to learn the errors of his ways and stops being afraid.
- Glen Campbell as Chanticleer, a rooster who lives on a farm with many other animals, who are fond of and love him. When the sun rises without his crowing, his friends, believing he was lying to them about his crowing bringing up the sun (a fact he himself thought was true), reject him, leading to the adventures of Edmond and the others. In a miserable state, he goes to the city and becomes a popular singer. Through his manager Pinky, he meets Goldie and falls in love at first sight with her. Soon though, his friends come to the city and apologize. He and Goldie are then brought back to the farm, so he can save it. He is also based on the superstar Elvis Presley.
- Phil Harris as Patou, a Basset Hound who is a good friend to both Chanticleer and Edmond, and plays the narrator character of the story. He despises the Grand Duke and is dedicated to Edmond's cause to bring Chanticleer back home. He is brave and reasonable, but somewhat temperamental. His endeavour to find Chanticleer is hampered by the fact that he does not know how to tie his shoes (which he wears because of bunions, in which it is a running gag). However, in the end, he finally figures out how to tie them right, after Edmond teaches him. This would be Harris's final acting role; he retired after its release.
- Christopher Plummer as the Grand Duke of Owls, a magical owl who despises Chanticleer. He overhears Edmond's call for Chanticleer in the real world and transforms him into a kitten as punishment, planning to eat him. The Duke hates his nephew Hunch and threatens several times to kill him if he fails to annihilate Chanticleer's friends. The Duke is a malevolent powerful creature of the night, with a penchant for eating smaller animals as meals and commanding other villainous owls to do his bidding. He hates sunlight, like all owls, and recoils when light shines on him. Also, he possesses magical breath that can transform anyone into any creature, as exampled when he turns Edmond into his kitten form. He is chased away by Hunch near the very end of the film after being shrunken to a size smaller than that of Hunch and the mice and chicks on the farm, driving the both of them far away from Chanticleer's farm. In a deleted scene of the film, he nearly eats a skunk that he has stuffed (live) into a pie, but thanks to Hunch's clumsiness, the skunk escapes. In the final version of that scene, however, it is unknown what kind of pie the Duke is baking.
- Ellen Greene as Goldie, a pheasant and singer who is in Pinky's employment. She is initially jealous of Chanticleer for stealing her spotlight, but falls in love with him upon becoming more acquainted with him. Pinky initially tells her that Edmond is a bad kitty, but when Pinky has Edmond and his friends tied up, she realizes that they are actually Chanticleer's friends, and tells Chanticleer that they tried to get a message to him. After this, Chanticleer manages to escape the set of Pinky's new movie, and returns to the farm with his friends, Edmond, and Goldie. Goldie stays with Chanticleer on the farm, and they presumably get married at the end.
- Eddie Deezen as Snipes, a magpie. He, Edmond, Patou, and Peepers travel to the city in a toybox floating on the floodwaters, with Snipes more interested in exploring the city and its sights than actually helping his friends. Being claustrophobic, this poses a problem when he pokes holes in the box trying to escape and reach open air. He despises garbage and dirt, but loves the food served in the city when they go inside a restaurant where Chanticleer sings, particularly lasagna.
- Sandy Duncan as Peepers, a mouse. Because of this, she is initially terrified of Edmond, but he tries to convince everyone that he used to be a boy. She was willing to accept him for being a cat if he took her and the others to the city. It is not until the very end of the film that she believes him and comments "oh, he was a handsome little boy..." She has a lisp and very round glasses, and is constantly arguing with Snipes's chauvinistic views.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Hunch, the Duke's pygmy nephew and lead henchman. Hunch enjoys rhyming words with "aggravation" and humming "The Ride of the Valkyries". He is dimwitted, but extremely aggressive. He carries an all-purpose Swiss Army Knife in a lidless soda can strapped to his back and uses its various bladed objects, tools, and household objects (such as a flyswatter) as weapons. A small running gag in the film was that whenever the Duke would breathe on him, his magic would transform Hunch into a randomly different creature. In the end, Hunch gets the upper hand, and chases his uncle away with his flyswatter.
- Sorrell Booke as Pinky, a Southern fox who loves money and golf. He is also Chanticleer's manager in the city. His job is to ensure that Chanticleer never feels the compulsion to return home by convincing him that his friends hate him, making it easy to profit off of Chanticleer's singing skills. He secretly works for the Duke and lies to Goldie about Edmond being a "bad kitty". Chanticleer and Goldie, who have fallen in love with each other, escape with Edmond's friends, foiling Pinky's plans and destroying his limousine simultaneously. This was Booke's final film role.
- Will Ryan as Stuey, a chronically nervous pig from Chanticleer's farm. Whenever anyone mentions the owls, he starts to freak out, and will sometimes snort and whimper. While Edmond, Snipes, Patou, and Peepers go to the city to return Chanticleer to the farm, he stays behind to keep the owls at bay. He is almost eaten by the Duke, but is saved when the group returns with Chanticleer, shining a helicopter light on the Duke.
- Louise Chamis as Minnie Rabbit, one of the animals from the farm.
- Bob Gallico as Radio Announcer
- Jake Steinfeld as Farmyard Bully, a minion of the Duke sent by him to stop Chanticleer from crowing. Steinfeld also voiced Max the Bouncer, a bouncer frog who is one of Pinky's henchman.
- T.J. Kuenster, Jim Doherty, John Drummond, and Frank Kelly as the Duke's owl henchmen.
- Kathryn Holcomb as Dory, Edmond's mother
- Stan Ivar as Frank, Edmond's father
- Christian Hoff as Scott, one of Edmond's older brothers
- Jason Marin as Mark, one of Edmond's older brothers
Plans for an animated version of the Chanticleer tale dated as far back as the early years of the Walt Disney Studios, where several of its artists were interested in combining elements of the story with those about an anthropomorphic fox named Reynard. Though character designs by Marc Davis survive, Walt Disney personally rejected the pitch, and the film was never put into production or animation tests. Don Bluth began pre-production of an animated film about Chanticleer in 1982. In 1985, the film was mentioned as being in development limbo. In the late 1980s, as a response to the success of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the proposal was revised by a former Disney animator, Don Bluth, who wanted to tell the rooster's story through live action and animation. Originally, the story's first and last scenes were to be shot in black and white, similar to 1939's The Wizard of Oz. The film's opening, which took place at a farm, had Edmond's mother reading the tale of Chanticleer to him. Victor French from Get Smart and Highway to Heaven was set to direct these scenes, but terminal lung cancer forced him out of production. Bluth, who had never done anything in this field, took over from this point. However, very little of this footage made it in the final cut. The live-action sequences were done at Ardmore Studios.
In a 1990 magazine article, Don described the plot of the film thusly. "ROCK-A-DOODLE is a fantasy, something that we just made up. It's about a character named Chanticleer who thinks that when he crows the sun comes up. The truth is, it does; until one day into the farm yard comes another rooster who fights with Chanticleer and keeps him so busy that the sun, who has a habit of coming up every morning at that time, peeks its little head over the hill. Well, Chanticleer has not crowed and when he sees that the sun has come up without him, he's devastated. All the farm yard animals ridicule and laugh at him, so he walks away and says 'I'm nobody.' The sun becomes very upset after that and hides behind the clouds never to come out again. Meanwhile, the rooster goes away to the city and becomes a rock star, very reminiscent of Elvis Presley. The farm yard animals realize they're in trouble because the rains have come, the world's flooding, and there's no more sunshine. So they go to the city and try to bring Chanticleer home to crow." In the final film, however, it is never explained why the sun rises even though Chanticleer does not crow, despite how much the narration of the film tries to explain many things.
The live-action footage was filmed in 1990 at MGM Studios in Hollywood, California. When the live-action footage was finished during production, Goldcrest Films recruited Sullivan Bluth Studios to animate the rest of the film. Animation took place in both Burbank, California and Dublin, Ireland. Chanticleer's girlfriend, Goldie the Pheasant, was designed to have attributes similar to Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (as seen in the original trailer). In response to reactions from mothers during test screenings of her scenes, Goldcrest requested that Sullivan Bluth reanimate the scenes by covering her chest with feathers as cel overlays, or simply painting her cleavage out.
The live-action and animation sequences were filmed in two separate aspect ratios. The animation was shot on an open-matte full-screen negative, meaning the top and bottom of the image was cropped to fit the theatre screen along with the new Olive Films DVD and Blu-ray releases. However, the live-action scenes, including all animated elements, were shot in hard-matted widescreen. When viewed in full-screen (except the theatre screen and the new Olive Films DVD and Blu-ray releases), all the animated sequences (except for parts of the finale) can be seen in full, but the live-action segments lose information on the sides.
To avoid a potential PG rating, Bluth edited out the showing of The Duke's "skunk pie" (the pie is not seen in full view in the final version), the animators had to replace Chanticleer's glass of wine with a transparent cup of soda in the "Kiss and Coo" sequence, and had to draw colored effects into The Grand Duke's breath to make him less scary for young audiences. Test audiences also felt confused by the storytelling so the filmmakers decided to include narration told by the dog character, Patou, voiced by Phil Harris. The crew, because of these changes, had to work overtime to finish the film by Thanksgiving 1990.[nb 1]
Rock-a-Doodle was originally going to be released by MGM–Pathe Communications Co., but studio partnership was facing financial difficulties, so Bluth rescheduled Rock-a-Doodle for release around Thanksgiving 1991 and selected The Samuel Goldwyn Company as the film's distributor. However, that date was further moved to April 1992 to avoid competition with Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Feature Animation's Beauty and the Beast, as well as Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment's An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, a sequel to An American Tail, in which Bluth himself was not involved.
Rock-a-Doodle was the first feature-length family live-action/animated film since 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but unlike the live-action characters from that film sharing the screen with animated characters like Roger Rabbit, Edmond is the only live-action character to share the screen with the animated farm animals; this was at the beginning, when The Grand Duke confronts Edmond before turning him into an animated cat, and at the end, where Chanticleer is singing a reprise of Sun Do Shine like he does at the beginning. Bluth chose this direction because he was influenced by Roger Rabbit.
Home media historyEdit
Rock-a-Doodle was first released on VHS and LaserDisc on August 18, 1992, as well as on DVD on July 20, 1999 by HBO Video. The first VHS release includes a sneak peek at Don Bluth's next animated feature, Thumbelina, showing a scene where Thumbelina meets Prince Cornelius from the Vale of the Fairies and falls in love with him. It also includes a promotional commercial for Wisk laundry detergent, which has a $5.00 mail-in rebate certificate found inside each videocassette. A second edition was released by MGM Home Entertainment through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on November 8, 2005. In 2010, the film was released along with The Pebble and the Penguin as a double-sided DVD. For the film's 25th anniversary of its North American release, a third edition was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Olive Films (under license from MGM) on October 31, 2017. That edition marked the film's first widescreen debut in an American home media release (which was the final Don Bluth film to be presented in the widescreen format in an American home media release), apart from digital retailers. However, unlike the previous home media releases, both the new Olive Films DVD and Blu-ray releases were sourced from PAL masters (resulting in a slightly higher audio pitch than normal, despite the running time remaining the same as its NTSC counterpart), although both the 2012 MGM logo and the last half of the end credits were kept in a normal pitch. Despite that, the entire film remains normal-pitched on Vudu and Amazon Video (due to being sourced from mid-2000's printings).
Rock-a-Doodle received generally negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 20% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 15 reviews with an average score of 4/10. Halliwell's Film Guide commended its "excellent animation", but complained of the "poor and confusing narrative" that "rendered [it] pointless". In a positive review, the Washington Post wrote "The young ones, who certainly don't give a sticky-fingered hoot about animation production values, are likely to have a good time with this. There are many passing delights. Composer T. J. Kuenster has some funny songs. They're not Ashman and Menken (The Little Mermaid songwriting team), but they're sprightly. The best is probably a Bach-like fugue number, in which the Grand Duke and his owlish goons sing "Never Let Him Crow" around a church organ. But in a movie like this, it ain't over till the rooster sings."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two stars out of four. In his review, he gave mild praise to the songs and the animation and said the film may entertain younger audiences, but said the film "doesn't feel as bright as it should." He also called the live-action segments unnecessary.
The film took in $11,657,385 at the US box office after an opening weekend gross of $2,603,286, which forced Bluth's studio into liquidation half a year after its release. Moreover, a Hong Kong company, Media Assets, purchased Bluth's next three films, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park, and The Pebble and the Penguin. None of these did any better than Rock-a-Doodle critically or commercially, except Thumbelina, which did get slightly better in critical reception. All of them preceded 1997's Anastasia, his comeback hit.
|Rock-a-Doodle: Music from the Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||April 13, 1992|
|Producer||Robert Folk, T.J. Kuenster|
|Don Bluth Music of Films chronology|
The soundtrack for Rock-a-Doodle was composed by Robert Folk and performed by the Irish Film Orchestra, with songs written and produced by T.J. Kuenster, one of the songwriters for All Dogs Go to Heaven. Background vocals on "We Hate the Sun", "Tweedle Te Dee", and "The Owls' Picnic" were all sung by a triple-tracked Kuenster himself. The tracks "Sun Do Shine", "Come Back to You", "Rock-a-Doodle", "Treasure Hunting Fever", "Sink or Swim," "Kiss 'n Coo", "Back to the Country", and "Tyin' Your Shoes" contained background vocals by The Jordanaires, who were also known for backing up Elvis.
- "Sun Do Shine" – Glen Campbell
- "We Hate the Sun" – Christopher Plummer
- "Come Back to You" – Campbell
- "Rock-a-Doodle" – Campbell
- "Bouncers Theme Song" – The Don Bluth Players
- "No Batteries!" – Plummer
- "Treasure Hunting Fever" – Campbell
- "Sink or Swim" – Ellen Greene
- "Kiss 'n Coo" – Campbell and Greene
- "Back to the Country" – Campbell
- "The Owls' Picnic" – Plummer
- "Tyin' Your Shoes" – Phil Harris
- "Sun Do Shine" (Reprise) – Campbell
A novelization of the film, written by Don Bluth and Chip Lovitt, was published by Troll Communications LLC (ISBN 0-8167-2475-X). The film also inspired a Computerized Coloring Book by Capstone Software and IntraCorp called The Rock-A-Doodle Computerized Coloring Book.
- The copyright date of 1990 appears in the film's end credits, although it was not released until at least a year later.
- "Rock-A-Doodle". Box Office Mojo.
- Gritten, David (6 April 1992). "Rock-a-Doodle's Bluth Is Crowing Animatedly". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
- Hill, Jim (August 2000). "The "Chanticleer" Saga – Part Three".
- John Cawley. "Rock-a-Doodle". Retrieved 11 January 2018.
- McDonnell, David (May 1985). "Log Entries". Starlog. No. 94. pp. 9–15.
- Beck, Jerry (2005). "Rock*a*Doodle". The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Reader Press. pp. 233–4. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
- Don Bluth & Gary Goldman (19 August 2016). "Remembering Rock-A-Doodle". Retrieved 8 November 2018.
- "Rock-a-Doodle (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- Gritten, David, ed. (2007). "Rock-a-Doodle". Halliwell's Film Guide 2008. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 1005. ISBN 0-00-726080-6.
- Howe, Desson (3 April 1992). "'Rock-a-Doodle' (G)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
- Roger Ebert (3 April 1992). "Rock-A-Doodle Movie Review & Film Summary (1992)".
- Winning, Josh (8 November 2011). "50 Worst Kids Movies". Total Film. GamesRadar. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
- "Rock-a-Doodle – Original Score". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 October 2015.