Rock & Rule

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Rock & Rule
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClive A. Smith
Produced byMichael Hirsh
Patrick Loubert
Screenplay byJohn Halfpenny
Peter Sauder
Story byPatrick Loubert
Peter Sauder
StarringDon Francks
Susan Roman
Paul Le Mat
Catherine O'Hara
Music byPatricia Cullen
CinematographyLenora Hume
Edited byG. Scott LaBarge
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Company
Release date
  • April 15, 1983 (1983-04-15)
Running time
77 minutes
Budget$8 million
Box office$30,379[1]

Rock & Rule (known as Ring of Power outside North America) is a 1983 Canadian adult animated musical science fiction fantasy film from the animated-film company Nelvana. It was the animation studio's first ever feature film. Rock & Rule was produced and directed by Michael Hirsh, Patrick Loubert, and Clive A. Smith with John Halfpenny, Patrick Loubert, and Peter Sauder at the helm of its screenplay. The film also features the voices of Don Francks, Greg Salata, and Susan Roman.

Centring upon rock and roll music, Rock & Rule includes songs by Cheap Trick, Chris Stein and Debbie Harry of the pop group Blondie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Earth, Wind & Fire. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States populated by mutant humanoid animals. Though initially unsuccessful at the box office, the movie has gone on to become a cult classic.[2]


Rock & Rule was a heavily derived spinoff of Nelvana's earlier TV special from 1978, The Devil and Daniel Mouse. United Artists was to distribute the movie, but when they were purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the new management team had no interest in it. As a result, it was never released in North America except for a limited release in Boston, Massachusetts. It received minor attention in Germany, where it was screened at a film festival. It was funded in part by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which had obtained the Canadian TV rights. A hard-to-find VHS was released at that time, followed by a laserdisc release. The film developed a cult following from repeated airings on HBO and Showtime and the circulation of bootleg VHS copies at comic book convention booths (with Ralph Bakshi incorrectly named as director). In 2005, Unearthed Films released a special two-disc edition DVD of the film.


In the American release, an introduction states that a war had destroyed the human race, allowing a new civilization of mutated street animals to grow.

Mok, an aging yet legendary rock musician, is on the search for a very special voice that can unleash a powerful demon from another dimension, his dwindling popularity driving him to destroy the world in vengeance and immortalize himself in the process. After travelling around the world looking for the right voice, he returns to his hometown of Ohmtown, a remote, storm-ravaged village famous for its unique power plant. Meanwhile, at a nightclub, Omar, Angel, Dizzy and Stretch perform in a small rock band. As Angel performs her romantic ballad to a mostly empty audience, Mok hears her sing; he realizes that Angel has the voice he needs when a ring he is wearing reacts to her voice. Mok invites Angel and the band to his mansion outside of town, where the band is formally introduced to him and his assistants, the "Rollerskating Schlepper Brothers" Toad, Sleazy and Zip. Mok incapacitates Omar and Stretch with hypnotic "Edison Balls" as he takes Angel on a stroll through his garden and tries to convince her to join him. Although Angel is unaware of Mok's true intentions, she refuses to abandon her band. Unwilling to admit defeat, Mok kidnaps her and takes his blimp to Nuke York, where his summoning, disguised as a concert, will be performed.

Following their ejection from Mok's mansion, the band find out what happened to Angel and they follow the blimp in a stolen police car. Before they reach Nuke York, they are arrested by a border guard. Meanwhile, Angel attempts to escape with the unwitting help of Cinderella, the sister of the Schleppers. While sneaking through the ventilation system, Angel overhears Mok confirming his plans with his computer. At this time, the computer informs Mok that the only way to stop the demon is with "One voice, one heart, one song", but when Mok asks who can do this, the computer replies that there is "no one". Angel and Cindy escape the building and head to the zero-gravity dance club "Club 666", unaware that the Schleppers are following them. Dizzy's aunt bails out Omar and his friends, and tells them of the club. Angel and Cindy are intercepted and taken back to Mok's apartment, and the band tries to follow. Omar eventually bumps into Mok, who uses an impersonator to fool Omar into thinking that Angel has fallen for Mok. To manipulate Angel, Mok captures the band and tortures them with a giant Edison Ball to force her to agree with his demands. He also brainwashes them to ensure that they stay out of the way. The Nuke York concert turns out to be a disaster due to a power failure. Because the invocation requires a titanic amount of electricity, Mok relocates the summoning to Ohmtown, whose power plant has enough energy, though Zip expresses childlike doubts about whether their actions are good or evil. During the concert, a power surge causes overloads all over the city. The shock also brings Omar and his friends out of their hypnosis.

Stretch finds a poster advertising Mok and Angel's concert and Dizzy sticks with him to save her. After confessing that Omar saw Mok and Angel together, Stretch tries to remind him it's all mind games. Omar, still believing Mok's earlier deception, refuses to help Dizzy and Stretch stop the concert. They go without him in a stolen police car, but crash at the concert too late, as Mok forces Angel to summon the demon with her song. But Omar has a change of heart and arrives to free Angel from her electronic shackles before the demon can turn on her. When the demon attacks Omar, Zip seemingly sacrifices himself to save Omar's life. Angel tries singing to force the demon back, but her lone voice has no effect. But Omar joins in harmony with Angel, and thus the creature is weakened and driven back into its own dimension. Mok is thrown into the portal by the vengeful Toad, and as he is sealed away, he realizes that "no one" did not mean that the demon could be stopped; it meant instead that "no one voice" could, acting alone; two voices and two hearts singing as one were needed for the counter-spell. The audience believes the confrontation to have been part of the concert's theatrics, and the band continues their song in triumph.


  • Greg Salata voices Omar (animated by Frank Nissen[3]) in the Canadian version.
  • Susan Roman voices Angel (animated by Anne-Marie Bardwell[3]).
  • Don Francks voices Mok/Mok Swagger (animated by Robin Budd[3]).
    • Lou Reed provides the singing voice for "My Name is Mok" and "Triumph"; Iggy Pop provides the singing voice for "Pain & Suffering".
  • Samantha Langevin is the voice of Mok's computer.
  • Dan Hennessey is Dizzy (real name Alphonse) (animated by Charles Bonifacio).
  • Greg Duffel voices Stretch and Zip.
  • Chris Wiggins is Toad (animated by Chuck Gammage).
  • Brent Titcomb voices Sleazy.
  • Donny Burns plays first radio announcer and Quadhole (animated by John Celestri[3]).
  • Martin Lavut voices second radio announcer and Mylar (animated by John Celestri).
  • Catherine Gallant voices Cindy (animated by John Celestri).
  • Keith Hampshire voices other computers.
  • Melleny Brown plays a Carnegie Hall groupie.
  • Anna Bouroque voices Edna, a.k.a. "What's Her Face".
  • Nick Nichols voices border guard.
  • John Halfpenny plays Uncle Mikey.
  • Maurice LaMarche is sailor.
  • Catherine O'Hara plays Aunt Edith (animated by Chuck Gammage).


Rock & Rule was Nelvana's first animated feature film, and the first Canadian animated feature to be produced in English (Le Village enchanté, a 1956 production from Quebec, was the country's first, overall.[4]). The movie began development in 1978 as a children's film entitled "Drats!."[5] The premise remained the same, centring on a post-apocalyptic rock band composed of fuzzy mutant creatures[6] who evolved from rats after the human race was wiped out.[7] However, instead of wiring her to the soundboard, Mok transformed Angel into a guitar, and literally played her to summon the beast.[8] The crew felt that it would be easier to animate cartoony characters,[9] but as the film evolved, they gradually became more humanistic,[10] and Hollywood acquaintances encouraged them to skew the tone towards an older audience.[11]

The film was produced without a well defined script; [12][13] so the crew would develop and work on sequences, leaving holes for more layers of the story to be added later.[14][15]

The cost of production, $8 million in studio resources, nearly put Nelvana out of business. Over 300 animators worked on the film.[16]

The animation was of unusually high quality for the era (it began production in 1979), and the special effects were mostly photographic techniques, as computer graphics were in their infancy. Computers were used to generate only a few images in the film.[17]


Prior to its completion, Rock & Rule was picked up by Hollywood film studio MGM/UA in April 1982. However, they did not care about the animated feature and gave it only an extremely small limited release in theatres. Due to some scenes involving adult themes such as sexuality and profanity, the film was uniquely marketed.[18]

Alternative versions[edit]

U.S. version

The American distributor, MGM/UA Entertainment Company, disliked Greg Salata, who voiced Omar, and insisted that he be re-dubbed by an actor with name recognition, along with several edits being made to the film. Paul Le Mat was cast and Omar's obscenities were written out. The prologue was also altered, giving a reason why the characters are part animal. Released through United Artists in April 1983, the revised film was unable to find an audience at the box office. It was this chopped version that quickly found its way to VHS and laserdisc.[2]

Canadian version

The film was initially broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1985[19] (uncut and including parental warnings). In 1988, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation began airing the original cut, which featured extra footage, a different, clearer audio mix, the original voice of Omar, original shots that had been replaced by alternate footage, and the shot of Zip regaining consciousness at the conclusion.[20]

Home media[edit]

Original home video release copies of Rock & Rule are extremely difficult to find. MGM/UA Home Video released the film on VHS in 1984, and again on the LaserDisc format in 1986.[21] Both of these editions soon went out of print. Bootleg copies of the film ended up being sold at comic book conventions, but these copies erroneously listed the film as having been done by Ralph Bakshi.[22] Soon after its demise in the home entertainment market, copies of the film could be acquired only by writing to Nelvana, who charged a fee of $80 to create and send a video copy of the film.[23]

On June 7, 2005, Unearthed Films released the film for the first time on DVD. The first disc includes the theatrical cut and the second disc includes the original cut of the film (though the original print was destroyed in a fire; this was taken from a VHS source) and The Devil and Daniel Mouse, the TV special that was the inspiration for Rock & Rule. Other features would be the alternate 'Ring of Power' introduction sequence and a slightly different rough-cut version of the ending. Also included is the trailer for Electric Dragon 80.000 V, a 2001 Japanese film written and directed by Sogo Ishii.

On September 28, 2010, a Blu-ray Disc was released by Unearthed Films and has two versions of the film in one disc.[2]


Because of MGM's lack of interest in the film, very little promotion was given. The film was mentioned in an episode of Night Flight, when Lou Reed was interviewed and incorrectly credited as the voice of Mok. Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation with authentic pictures from the film and its production in Marvel Super Special #25.[24] According to letterer/assistant editor Michael Higgins, the comic sold well despite the film itself having had only a very limited release.[25]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a 72% audience rating.[26] Felix Vasquez Jr. of called the film "an animated gem worth celebrating".[27]

Spin magazine called Rock and Rule "the greatest oddball scifi musical ever committed to animation cels".[28]

Randall Cyrenne of also described the movie as "a unique and interesting film that is at times entirely captivating".[29]

American Film Magazine heralded it as a "nominee for the Instant Midnight Movie Award."[30]

Critic Janet Maslin of The New York Times commented that "The animation ... has an unfortunate way of endowing the male characters with doggy-looking muzzles. In any case, the mood is dopey and loud".[31]

Keith Breese of Contact Music described Rock & Rule as "a masterpiece of outré animation and wildly ambitious vision and remains a triumph in animated feature film".[32]


Artists such as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry and Earth, Wind & Fire featured on the soundtrack.[33]

Presumably, due to the film's limited release and the fact that the artists were under contract to different record labels, a proper album was never issued, although a promotional cassette was given to the press featuring nine songs from the movie.[34] The only songs to be commercially released are three of Cheap Trick's tunes, which were issued in their 1996 boxed set Sex, America, Cheap Trick, as well as Earth, Wind and Fire's sole contribution, which was released as a digital single in 2012,[35] and Iggy Pop's Pain and Suffering, which finally surfaced as a bonus track on the 2019 re-release of his album Zombie Birdhouse[36] (an entirely different recording of the song was included on the album's 1991 reissue). Additionally, Debbie Harry revised the lyrics to Angel's Song and retitled it Maybe for Sure, which was featured on her 1989 album Def, Dumb & Blonde.[37]

Critical reception[edit]

Felix Vasquez Jr. of noted that the soundtrack was "quite incredible"[27] LA Weekly called the soundtrack "a mixed bag of rock songs" with the "standout track" being "Earth, Wind & Fire's funky club jam Dance, Dance, Dance".[2] Randall Cyrenne of also called the soundtrack "a winner", with "an impressive roster of talent" which "sounds just as great as you would hope."[29] Keith Breese of Contact Music noted that the soundtrack "certainly feels contemporary", with "Debbie Harry's addictive Angel Song as the highlight".[32]


1."Angel's Song"Debbie Harry 
2."Send Love Through"Harry & Robin Zander 
3."Send Love Through-Finale"Harry & Robin Zander 
4."Pain & Suffering"Iggy Pop 
5."My Name Is Mok"Lou Reed 
6."Triumph"Lou Reed 
7."Born to Raise Hell"Cheap Trick 
8."I'm the Man"Cheap Trick 
9."Ohm Sweet Ohm"Cheap Trick 
10."Dance Dance Dance"Earth Wind & Fire 
11."Hot Dogs and Sushi"Melleny Brown 


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b c d Connell J., Sean (November 10, 2010). "Rock & Rule Blu-Ray Release: Debbie Harry and Cheap Trick vs. Cartoon Guitar Mutants (and Lou Reed!)". LA
  3. ^ a b c d Kraft, David Anthony (1983). "From A(ngel) TO Z(ip): The Characters of Rock & Rule". Marvel Super Special #25.
  4. ^ Nordicity Group Ltd. (February 2007). "The Case for Kids Programming: Children's and Youth Audio-Visual Production in Canada" (PDF). Canadian Film and Television Production Association. p. 24. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 1956: Le Village enchanté, becomes Canada’s first animated feature film
  5. ^ Clive Smith (director) (2005). Rock & Rule Audio Commentary (DVD). Unearthed Films. Event occurs at 2:13. We started development of the film in 1978 as "Drats," and it was a film that was skewed to a much younger audience, with softer, younger characters, and it was a bit more Grimms' Fairy Tale quality about it.
  6. ^ Townsend, Emru (2005-06-07). "Rock and Rule (Part 1)". Clive Smith: It was sort of a post-apocalyptic world where some dreadful disaster has happened. And out of that came a new race of creatures. Mutants, which were partly animal, partly human. When it was Drats!, they were a lot fuzzier and warmer and friendlier. Rounder.
  7. ^ Townshend, Emru (1997). "Tom Sito: Looking back on the leaner times making Rock & Rule". The Critical Eye. Retrieved 2020-03-11. The original name of Rock & Rule was Drats!, because they were meant to be evolved rats who became cognizant after the human race was obliterated, but that was never really made clear.
  8. ^ Townshend, Emru (1997). "Clive Smith: The rise and fall of Rock & Rule". The Critical Eye. Retrieved 2020-03-11. We had an idea where Angel, who started off as a Drat, basically normal Drat-type person. But when Mok finds her and steals her, rather than control her through some electro-digital futuristic device, which he does in the film, he actually changed her into a guitar. So Mok actually had this sort of feminine form that was half-guitar, half-woman, shall we say, for his final performance. So as he played her, so she sang. It was pretty, kind of, erotic.
  9. ^ Townsend, Emru (2005-06-07). "Rock and Rule (Part 1)". Clive Smith: I think some of the thinking of that was we were convinced that it was harder to animate humans than it was to animate fuzzy little creatures.
  10. ^ "Rock & Rule Photo Gallery: Production Art". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-03-10.
  11. ^ Townshend, Emru (1997). "Clive Smith: The rise and fall of Rock & Rule". The Critical Eye. Retrieved 2020-03-11. And we were advised at the time, I guess by certain acquaintances in Hollywood, that we should be aiming at an older audience. And so we basically turned the picture around completely. And just targeted it much, much older.
  12. ^ Townsend, Emru (2005-06-07). "Rock and Rule (Part 1)". Clive Smith: We didn't have a script, we had an idea.
  13. ^ Kraft, David Anthony (1983). "A Life of Its Own: The Animation of Rock & Rule". Marvel Super Special #25. Neither script nor storyboard was developed chronologically.
  14. ^ Kraft, David Anthony (1983). "A Life of Its Own: The Animation of Rock & Rule". Marvel Super Special #25. They began by creating a very rough concept of the story, a mere skeletal structure onto which any number of plot and story elements might be added.
  15. ^ Townsend, Emru (2005-06-07). "Rock and Rule (Part 1)". Clive Smith: We had a concept, and we started to develop not just the writing, but on a parallel stream we started to develop characters and the animators themselves all contributed the development of the characters and the development of the story. But story ideas would come up, we would write sequences that reflected this very rough concept, and those sequences then would be developed.
  16. ^ Walmsley, Ann (May 27, 1985). "A Bearish Movie with Bullish Results". Maclean's. Maclean Hunter Limited. p. 54. Retrieved 2020-03-10. More than three years in the making, the futuristic rock 'n' roll film employed more than 300 animators
  17. ^ The Making of Rock and Rule-Internet Archive
  18. ^ Staff (April 12, 1982). "Briefly: Local animated film finds a distributor". The Globe and Mail. CTVglobemedia.
  19. ^ Walmsley, Ann (May 27, 1985). "A Bearish Movie with Bullish Results". Maclean's. Maclean Hunter Limited. p. 54. Retrieved 2020-03-10. Although the CBC aired Ring of Power two months ago and Embassy Home Entertainment will distribute it as a video cassette, Loubert says he does not expect it to reach the big screen.
  20. ^ Rock and Rule Ending Comparison-YouTube
  21. ^ "Rock & Rule (1983) [ML100728]". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  22. ^ O'Connell, Sean J. (2010-11-10). "Rock & Rule Blu-Ray Release: Debbie Harry and Cheap Trick vs. Cartoon Guitar Mutants (and Lou Reed!)". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2020-03-11. It ended up shelved for over twenty years; surfacing only as fill-in material for HBO and Showtime in the '80s and circulating on bootleg VHS tapes often incorrectly crediting Ralph Bakshi as the director.
  23. ^ "Movie Information". The Rock & Rule Homepage. Retrieved 2020-03-11. Nelvana use to offer to get a technician to make a VHS copy for $79.00, but they have since stopped doing this in anticipation of the DVD release
  24. ^ Marvel Super Special #25 at the Grand Comics Database
  25. ^ Salicrup, Jim; Higgins, Mike (October 1986). "J. Marc DeMatteis (part 2)". Comics Interview (#39). Fictioneer Books. p. 7.
  26. ^ "Rock and Rule". Rotten Tomatoes.
  27. ^ a b Vasquez Jr., Felix. "Rock and Rule (1983)".
  28. ^ Spotlight on the music of Rock & Rule. 24. Spin Magazine. March 2008. p. 110.
  29. ^ a b Cyrenne, Randall (August 24, 2005). "Rock & Rule: 2-Disc Collector's Edition". animated
  30. ^ "Trailers". American Film. The American Film Institute. May 1983. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  31. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 5, 1985). "ANIMATED DUO". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
  32. ^ a b Breese, Keith. "Rock & Rule".
  33. ^ a b "Various Artists: Rock & Rule".
  34. ^ Gilchrist, Garrett (2014-08-30). "Rock & Rule Thread". Retrieved 2020-03-10. It was previously believed that no official soundtrack album had ever been issued for Rock & Rule. However, as it turns out, a handful of film critics received a cassette tape featuring nine songs ("Hot Dogs and Sushi" and "Send Love Through" were omitted).
  35. ^ "Dance Dance Dance". 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2020-03-10.
  36. ^ Peacock, Tim (2019-04-25). "Lost Iggy Pop Classic 'Zombie Birdhouse' Set For Reissue In June". Retrieved 2020-03-11. ‘Zombie Birdhouse’ also contains a previously unreleased version of ‘Pain and Suffering’, featuring Blondie’s Debbie Harry on backing vocals. The song was originally recorded for the ground-breaking animated feature film ‘Rock & Rule’.
  37. ^ circuit, wet (2015-09-03). "Rock & Rule (1983): The Coolest Glam-Rock New Wave Post-Apocalyptic Animated Musical You've Never Seen". retrocinema magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-10. Harry later re-worked Angel’s song Send Love Through with new lyrics, releasing it as Maybe for Sure on her solo album Deaf Dumb & Blonde.
  38. ^ "Playing Deep:The Ballad of Melleny Melody". FYI Music

External links[edit]