MESSED UP AND MUSICAL: Rock and Rule (1984)

Nelvana was a Canadian animation powerhouse in the 1980’s, producing the Boba Fett cartoon in the Star Wars Holiday Special, Droids, Ewoks and even the live action Whoopi Goldberg movie Burglar. Along the way, Nelvana’s franchises have been shown on over 360 television stations in more 180 countries, in approximately 50 languages. But their first major film was Rock and Rule.

Based heavily on their earlier animated film The Devil and Daniel Mouse, the film took five years to create and used up all of the studio’s resources thanks to its $8 million dollar budget. MGM never promoted the film and it quickly faded from the U.S. box office. If Nelvana hadn’t started working in kid-friendly TV, they would have gone out of business.

In 1983, a nuclear war destroys the human race and mutated street animals populate the Earth.Mok Swagger is a legendary rock musician (voiced by Don Francks, with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop singing his songs) who is hunting for a special voice that will allow him to release a demon. Why? Well, as he’s lost his fame, he just wants to set the world on fire.

Meanwhile, in a nightclub in Mok’s hometown, Ohmtown, Omar (Paul Le Mat voiced him with Robin Zander from Cheap Trick singing), Angel (Susan Roman voice, Debbie Harry singing), Dizzy and Stretch play a show in a small bar. Mok hears Angel sing and knows that he has finally found the voice that he’s been looking for.

Mok invites the band to his mansion outside of town, drugging the band and escaping with Angel. Taking her to Nuke York, he stages a magic ritual as a rock concert, we learn that only one voice, one heart and one song can stop the demon. Yet the evil rock star convinces Omar that Angel is willingly with him before capturing and torturing the band.

Will Omar get it together? Will Mok unleash a demon on the world? Will we get to hear songs by Cheap Trick, Earth Wind & Fire, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry? Yes. Maybe. Yes.

This isn’t a cartoon for kids. It’s packed with drugs, devil worship, some sex and swearing (there was more before MCA demanded cuts). They pretty much dumped the film with only a Night Flight mention and a Marvel tie-in comic. I remembered waiting for the film to come out and it never did.

The book is really gorgeous because instead of original art being created for the comic, it’s a fumetti style book that takes cel art and creates comic book layouts from it.

This film is like an 80’s rock and roll version of The AppleThere’s a musical couple that is torn apart by evil big business, but way less camel toe — ironic as many of the creatures in the film look like humanoid dromedaries.

The animation is pretty interesting as well, looking Bakshi-like (indeed, Ralph Bakshi is often credited as the director of this, but Clive A. Smith in the true person behind the film). Even though production started as early as 1978, it really reflects the MTV style of the 80’s. It compares favorably with a more well-known animated film from Canada, Heavy Metal.

Rock and Rule played on HBO and Showtime in the U.S., never showing in theaters. It wasn’t released officially on video until 2005 and a new blu-ray from Unearthed Films was released in 2010.

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