Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Bluth|
|Screenplay by||David N. Weiss|
by Edmond Rostand
|Music by||Robert Folk|
|Box office||$11.7 million|
Rock-a-Doodle is a 1991 Irish/British/American live action/animated musical comedy 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 2 August 1991 and in the United States and Canada on 3 April 1992. The film also inspired a Computerized Coloring Book by Capstone Software and IntraCorp called The Rock-A-Doodle Computerized Coloring Book.
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 job is to wake the sun up every morning, but The Grand Duke of Owls, whose kind hates sunshine, sabotages him to make it look like the sun comes up on its own without Chanticleer's crow by sending a stranger to fight him. Chanticleer defeats his attacker, but forgets to crow, and the sun comes up without him. Detested by the farm animals as a result, Chanticleer is forced to leave the farm and look for work in the city. Afterwards, perpetual darkness and rainfall threaten the farm with flooding.
Turning out to be a storybook read to a young boy named Edmond, it seems that the flooding has found his family. When his mother and brothers go to help his father stop it, Edmond calls out to Chanticleer and is heard by The Grand Duke himself, who takes a dislike to Edmond's interference with his plans. Using his magic breath, The Duke turns Edmond into a kitten to devour him, but he is saved at the last second by Patou, a bloodhound who struggles to learn how to tie his shoes, from Chanticleer's farm. As The Duke fights Patou, Edmond manages to drive away The Duke and his henchmen by turning on a flashlight. Edmond then meets Snipes, a claustrophobic magpie, and Peepers, an intellectual field mouse, as well as 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. En route, they are attacked by Hunch, The Duke's diminutive nephew who always calls him "Uncle Dukey", assigned by him to stop Edmond and the others from finding Chanticleer. They narrowly escape and enter the city through an aqueduct pipe.
Chanticleer — now under the name of "King" — has become a famous singer performing Elvis-style songs, thanks to his manager Pinky Fox, 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. Chanticleer goes on with the show, Hunch inadvertently frees Edmond and the others, and they help Chanticleer and Goldie make a grand escape in a helicopter, foiling Pinky's plans and destroying his limousine simultaneously. They return to the farm, using the helicopter.
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. Chanticleer confronts The Duke, but realizes he has forgotten how to crow. The Duke taunts him and tries to drown him, but Edmond refuses to lose hope and starts chanting Chanticleer's name in hopes of reviving his spirit. The Duke grows tired of this, and as an effort to silence Edmond, magically strangles the kitten until he losses consciousness. Saddened and enraged by Edmond's assumed death, Patou starts to chant Chanticleer's name, followed by everyone else, and the Duke — furious at the animals' persistence — transforms himself into a massive, violent tornado to silence them. Chanticleer finally remembers how to crow, and begins to sing for the sun to emerge; his cries are heard, driving The Duke's minions away. The sun rises and strikes The Duke with a single ray, shrinking him to a very minuscule size. Hunch, having survived the crash of the helicopter which he damaged in the controls earlier, barely recognizes his uncle, but uses this to exact revenge for his harsh threatenings by chasing him with a fly swatter.
As the animals mourn Edmond, he transforms back into his human form in front of them, making them realize he was telling the truth about being a little boy. As Peepers tries to wake him, he does so in his own room, with his mother watching over him after an accident where a tree collapsed into his room; this reveals that Edmond is having a dream in his unconsciousness. The sun is shining outside and the floods have ended, but his family does not believe him about his adventures and he is told to get his rest. He 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 punishment 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). 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 died four years after its release, aged 91.
- 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 also 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 Snipe's chauvinistic views.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Hunch, The Grand Duke's pygmy owl 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. At the end, when The Duke is shrunken to a size smaller than that of Hunch and the mice and chicks on the farm, Hunch decides to exact his revenge on The Duke by attacking him with the flyswatter, driving the both of them far away from Chanticleer's farm. 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.
- Sorrell Booke as Pinky, a fox who favours 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 Grand Duke of Owls and lies to Goldie about Edmond being a "bad kitty". This is 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 he will sometimes snort and whimper.
- 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 Grand 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 Grand Duke's Owl Henchman
- 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. 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.
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: Music from the Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Various Artists|
|Released||13 April 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
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, where The Grand Duke would have to answer 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.
It took $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 received generally negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 21% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 14 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 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.
Home media history
Rock-a-Doodle was first released on VHS and LaserDisc on 18 August 1992, as well as on DVD on 20 July 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 8 November 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 31 October 2017. That edition mark 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), although both the 2012 MGM logo and the last half of the end credits were kept in a normal pitch.
- 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".
- Beck, Jerry (2005). "Rock*a*Doodle". The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Reader Press. pp. 233–4. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
- John Cawley. "Rock-a-Doodle". Retrieved January 11, 2018.
- "Rock-a-Doodle - Original Score". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
- "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.
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