Monday, September 15, 2008

Rock N Rule - Mok, Robin Budd and dog noses on humans

Movie Poster


SCENE: blue scrolling text
NARRATOR: 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.
NARRATOR: Another time, another place.
NARRATOR: Mok, a legendary superrocker, 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.

Very sleek... cracked the satanic code
Despite the fact that the concept for this story is pretty embarrassing:
humans with dog noses,
Imitation 70s rock and roll still exists in the future,
and to be taken seriously it takes place in a dark post-nuclear holocaust world (like a million 70s and 80s movies),
there are moments of really good modern animation and even a character who has a unique design.


The poor Canadian animators were stuck with some bad decisions coming from the top but genuinely tried to do some real animation and and have some fun and show off along the way.

Evil and Triumphant
The most unique character design is this villain guy: MOK, obviously a caricature of Mick Jagger. I suppose they couldn't afford to get Mick Jagger to do the voice, so they used Lou Reed instead.

The design is so specific and complex that it would be pretty much impossible for anyone to animate it. It doesn't follow traditional animation construction; it's not made of easy-to-animate pears and spheres - unlike some of the other characters in the cartoon.
Just the lips themselves are hard to draw from any one angle, but Robin Budd completely controls it in full animation, and ignores all the stock mouth animation that had come down to us from Disney and invents his own.

I can't say for sure, but all the designs in the cartoon look compromised by the bad ideas coming from non-animators. For some reason, someone decided to animate human characters because human characters would be taken more "seriously" by the audience. Someone at the top wanted Nelvana to be noticed and respected by live action critics and players I guess. The whole thing has "Pleeeeease take me and my dog noses seriously" written all over it. So of course, no one did.BUT maybe during a committee meeting someone else said it would be easier to animate funny animals and so a bizarre compromise was struck.
The characters all had to be designed stiff and too tall (for seriousness) but then had dog noses pasted onto human faces, which just makes the characters even more unappealing than regular 70s Hanna Barbera human characters.

I'm just guessing, but I bet that Mok has been partially designed by committee. The dog nose especially looks weird on him, because he is so specifically Mick Jagger, the human, not Pluto the dog.

It also looks like The Nelvana signature (square eyes) has been grafted onto many of the characters.

The facial construction of this character is so complex that it's amazing that someone could have actually animated it without the typical problem of melting features that you see in so many modern Disney 2d movies.

Robin Budd was the lead animator on the character and he must be some kind of genius to have been able to pull off such a difficult animation problem. Even though I'm cringing all through the story about how evil can be cured by 70s rock and roll, I'm fascinated by the skill of execution of some of the animation.

This character didn't have a huge influence on Canadian animation later, just because the character is so hard to draw and animate. Only Robin could have done it (maybe he had some good people who followed him too)

The character did influence Disney animator Glen Keane who used some of the characteristics of Mok for his Ratigan character in The Great Mouse Detective.
Thanks to Jenny for letting me steal this off her blog.

Except for the square eyes and long legs, Mok wasn't and isn't typical of the Canadian style , but was a pretty interesting experiment and departure from what was thought of as "animation style" in 1980.

The more typical and recognizable Canadian style traits are all over the rest of the film though.

This is ultra Canadian style.
I'll describe the general traits to look for in these and other Canadian models in the next post. Maybe you can already see them.

Thanks to Brad Goodchild for keeping some Canadian history together for us!


Mr. Semaj said...

It defeats the whole idea of the characters being dog/cat/rat hybrids, apparently.

Karley said...

IIRC, they originally tried to get Mick Jagger for the voice, but one of his lawyers wrote back, basically throwing a huge hissy fit and threatening a lawsuit if they pursued it further.

Brendan M said...

I've yet to see this film, but man- it looks pretty awesome. Does Iggy Pop have original songs in it? And Lou Reed voicing a character loosely based on Mick Jagger? Priceless. The animation for Mok is pretty great

PCUnfunny said...

LOL ! The Beagle Boys !

Kali Fontecchio said...

Watching that trailer makes me feel embarrassed.

Mitch K said...

The four-fingered hands on those characters look so strange!

Alain-Christian said...

I have an animation question that has nothing to do with this entry but I didn't know how else to contact you:

How do you work out the time for when a character blinks?

Is it a random math thing? Is there a formula? I know sometimes they blink for comedic effect with sound effects but what about the mundane incidental blinking?

Anonymous said...

Thanks John for the comment, love yer commentary on the Rock and Rule do I contact you to catch up sometime.

Kris said...

Mok is really the main thing to love about the film. I believe you mentioned The Devil and Daniel Mouse in a previous post--the design for Mok is somewhat based on the devil design in that cartoon (with the crazy lips and stuff). Were both characters animated by the same guy?

Zoran Taylor said...

So wait - Reed did the dialogue voice too, not just the songs? 'Cause in that clip, Mok doesn't really sound like him when he talks, and Reed never worked as a voice artist outside of music. So I guess.....he was actually acting there, eh? It's interesting how far he got away from his own voice. I would've never guessed he could do that!

SlashHalen said...

This film looks... um... interesting? I get the feeling I should just stick with American Pop though. Unless you say we should see it at least once, John.

I just checked (they gave this film a 6.5 out of 10) and Mok was apparently voiced by someone named Don Francks. Lou Reed only did the singing.... And no one cares.

Chip Butty said...

That "My Name Is Mok" clip shows the other brilliant idea Nelvana had to make their film superficially adult and edgy - actual drug references! They drink beer and swear at a PG-13 level, too.

pop;yeah said...

lou only does the singing voice.

Maloni said...

Thanks for acknowleging that are are some great aspects about Rock and Rule, John.
I LOVED Mok! He was fun to draw and is a great exercise in learning planes. You just can't ignore the planes of the face while drawing Mok. I was really into Heavy Metal magazine around the time I was obsessed with this film, which led to hours of drawing rock stars, fantasy characters and hip chicks.
Rock and Rule ad well as the Transformers was also my herald into drawing action adventure from my old habit of drawing Bugs, Mickey and the Pink Panther genre all the time.
Not quite your cup of tea, Spumco-man, but I was happy to diversify.

--"She can sing and she can SCREAM! But she still pissed me off!"

Maloni said...

Oh! Mok was supposed to have a bit of David Bowie in him too! Hence Mok's daring fashion sense:)
Also, Tom Sito said that Lou Reed got really ticked when the producers tried to convince him to mimic Bowie.
Poor guy.

Peggy said...

In the world of furry fandom, where someone will glom onto any production involving animal-head people and declare it the Best Thing Ever... I've never run into anyone who acts like that about Rock N Rule. Never. In something like fifteen years of being involved with the furry scene.

That is how unappealing those designs are. Even people who are ga-ga over any human/animal hybrid characters don't like them.

Jeffrey said...

I remember when I first saw this movie. The only thing that kept me watching was the promise of Iggy Pop and Mok. Mok was so oddly out of place in this film. He was like a fugitive from Bakshi film.

It's funny that you brought brought up "The Great Mouse Detective". Mok was making me think of characters from "The Secret of NIMH" (but when I did a google search, it seems like the character designs were not what I remembered from 25+ years ago). Still, that character design is reminding me of something else animated, and it's going to be driving me crazy the rest of the day...

:: smo :: said...

ok so i'll admit i do actually admire this movie. there's a LOT of bad going on but at the same time i feel like it's Nelvana getting all amped about what bakshi was doing and coming together to try and make a feature. I only wish it wasn't so bad so their efforts would have had a greater impact. but still i like the idea of them trying at least!

brendan i think lou reed does that awful "my name is mok" song, and iggy pop does the song for the scene at the end with the great paint animation on the monster. i feel like the iggy pop one is more fitting to the character, even though it's also retarded. oh well...

Zorrilla said...

"Rock... and Ruuule"

The narrator in the trailer sounds like he's overacting, but no sir, actually I think he's suffering. And who could blame him?

But the animation looks good!

If only the premise wasn't so ridiculous and pretentious.

Gabriele_Gabba said...

This looks so twisted, i can't believe i've never watched this, can wait!

I'm kinda curious since Mok could also potentially be another drag queen villian? I can feel the lipstick companies drooling already!

Also what's a grindhouse narrator doing on an animation preview? Its so creepy!

Franky said...

As a 70's rock fan, there's an awful lot to like in Rock and Rule. Robin Zander and Debbie Harry duet, Iggy doing a song during the most demonic scene, Lou Reed doing the My Name is Mok song. There's so much Cheap Trick and Debbie Harry that I practically cream myself. The animation like John said has its moments. Mok is brilliant and everything else looks generic, but overall I enjoyed the hell out of this flick.

Chris Rank said...

John K, your wish may be granted!

Cartoon Crank said...

John, loved this post, especially the use of the Beagle Boys (appropriately pictured as greedy money grabbers). But I have to point out that those guys really are dogs, not dog-nosed humans. Why Barks opted the name "Beagle" when they look nothing like beagles, I'll never know. He probably didn't know himself.

Ryan G. said...

Hmm..Heavy Metal was released just a few years prior to this. Canadians loved their rock during the early 80's!

Shawn said...

I don't like it.

PCUnfunny said...

"Why Barks opted the name "Beagle" when they look nothing like beagles, I'll never know. He probably didn't know himself."

He choose the name for a simple reason, it sounds good. As for the look, that really dosen't matter. Alot of cartoon animals don't even look like the animals they are suppose to be. Ren for example. ;)

Blammo said...

Mok was voiced by Don Francs.
Dave Brewster helped Robin on the Mok animation.


Zoran Taylor said...

I think the bigger problem than a studio looking for respect by being dark and nasty is the fact that they will also typically think that the designs have to be "un-cartoony" to fit the context. John himself has more than proven how potent and timeless a genuine cartoon full of bizarre, unsettling black humour can be.
If only someone thought to ask Reed to act out a scene in the same way he sang on VU records -now gentle, now possessed, now accusatory, sometimes downright insane, suddenly flying up a whole octave and squealing like Stimpy on amphetamines. Then give it to someone at Carbunkle, along with a photo of the guy and the note "Ed Benedict-meets-Jack Kirby", give 'em, ooh....let's say five minutes, and BAM!!!! You've got something I would definitely watch. I'm not kidding, by the way.

patrick said...

I saw this at the bijou theatre a few years ago, and remember thinking it was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen in my life, and that's saying a lot.

Sphyzex_9 said...

That reminds me. Did you see that updated Felix the Cat movie from 1991? Jesus Christ that was horrible.

Anonymous said...

You know, I think one of my VFS teachers, Andy Bartlett, told me about this before. Like working in Toronto on it or something.
So thanks for posting this John.
And Shit, Mok is one strange design.
With those Jaggar.. or jagged, lips.
Yeah, definitely a mad genius animator.

Bill Field said...

The Good Guys were modeled after Cheap Trick, minus Tom Peterson, who was in the middle of his 6 year vacation from the band anyway. Cheap Trick was responsible for all of the bands music and vocals- except for a couple Debbie Harry parts.

HemlockMan said...

OMG, that looks soooooo awful.

Ryan said...

alain-christian: I know you didn't ask me, but do you really want to do "mundane" and "incidental" animation? Make them blink when it's funny for them to blink. The rest of the time, make sure they're doing something more interesting than blinking.

Caleb Bowen said...

I would always see this in the animation section of video stores, but that orange-haired mullet guy on the cover would talk me out of a rental every time. Also, I felt like the text on the cover was trying so hard to be cool it was hard to read(Rock and Bule?). I'll be watching it soon, now that I've seen it has some smooth motion. I'm also wondering if there's a worse cartoon/rock film than Heavy Metal 2000.

Maloni said...

Alain-Christain, I usually have my characters blink as a subtle antic device before turning their heads.

Anonymous said...

that mick jagger character is weird. in a good way.

well people, i was reading all the scott mcfarlane/family guy discussion on the last topic, and there's something you all forgot to mention about seth; his first tv cartoon (and family guy embryo) that i remeber was a pilot for What a cartoon show, called "Larry & Steve", wich was very funny, well-drawn and used all the good principles:

so hey, i don't think seth does awful animation cos he wants; he's basically a sell-out, he does it for the money.

Alain-Christian said...

ATTN: Ryan
RE: Blinking
I don't know what your answer had to do with my question, perhaps you read it too quickly?

I'll ask again: For those of you that actually work in animation, how is blinking handled? Is that worked out in storyboarding, is it up to the character animator? Obviously when a character blinks for comedic effect it was worked out in the storyboard (or at the very least planned in some way) but what about when it's not done that way? Say a character is being chased or talking or whatever, how were those blinks decided on?

Alain-Christian said...

RE: Maloni
ATTN: blinking

Okay, that I have noticed! It's not always there but it makes sense to do that because if you observe people they tend to do it as well.

Now we're getting into the juicy technical details! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...I don't really see a lot of the influence from Mok on Ratigan...maybe I'm going blind. I did lose that knife fight with the hobo around the corner. Greedy bastard wanted his own pie.

On that note, Mok does look like Mick Jagger, but Lou Reed only does his singing voice. That Don Francks guy did Mok's speaking voice.

How many furries out their crapped themselves after seeing their ultimate fantasy brought to life? I'm going to guess...3.

Enclothe said...

Wow that actually looks edgy and interesting compared to today's bland-fest showing in the theaters.

Rudy Tenebre, esteemed secretary. said...

The real tragedy of Rock and Rule is poor youthful Tom Sito having this one fairly interesting project to work on, and thence forward consigned to Ducktales and Union politics...

Your a very lucky man, Johnnie, to have broken from the mills,--and it seems they still don't make it easy for a maverick, (Spumco output is spotty and collapsable) and the dreadful irony that a Golden Age esthete like yourself must resort to Flash animation programs almost breaks the heart.

"But talent isn't enough, right my friends?"
Fred Nietzche

Raff said...

>> the dreadful irony that a Golden Age esthete like yourself must resort to Flash animation programs almost breaks the heart. <<

Good drawings in Flash + lots of hand-drawn inbetweens equals

SoleilSmile said...

Alain-Christian, have you entered your first semester in animation school yet? If not, first year you will have an assignment in "anticipation". You will be trying all kinds of tricks to pull off that acting assignment.
Second year you will have a dialogue assignment--which will seem the last FOREVER. You will be forced to observe people in that creepy animation student way and believe me, you will have the blink thing mastered by the end of that assignment. If you still have trouble, your apprenticeship in the animation industry working under a master animator will even out any lingering doubts.
Does that help?

MC Gee Gee said...

man what? who made you da king of cartoons? ok, i admit, John K does make da bestest looking cartoons, and he is da king. BUT WHAT ABOUT HOMIES LIKE ME! look at da cartoons i got at my blog! THEY WILL BLOW DIS STUFF AWAY:

Lord Wingate said...

I'm glad to see you posted more about Rock and Rule. It was this film that started me doodling in the first place. I had always wondered what your opinion was of it, regardless if you are just relating it to Canadian "style" in general.

Ryan said...

ATTN: Alain-Christian
RE: Blinking

See, now these are two very different questions.
1) Is there a formula?
2) How were those blinks decided on?
People use formulas to avoid making decisions.

Your original choice of words, like "formula" and "mundane" led me to think you were on the wrong track.

Brad said...

alain-christian: If you're working in Flash, you could use a movie clip with some code in it to tell it to play at random intervals. Works really well for idle animation stuff. Of course, I'm coming from Flash games, where that sort of stuff is probably easier to control.

As for Rock N' Rule, man, as weird as that movie is, watching it makes me realize that we'll probably never see that sort style done correctly, in fluid animation, not that anime 5 fps stuff.

Also makes me realize how much better think those organic ink lines look than perfectly smooth Flash vectors... no offense.

introvert said...

Hmm, in regard to the blinking thing. I did get this digital booklet from AnimationMentor that was full of tips and tricks from industry animators. There was a really good article in there about how to use blinks effectivley (and how they can be used badly), so it might be worth your effort to look it up.

Anonymous said...

Brad Goodchild here, could you email me...would love to contact you after all this time...I am trying to get to know Eric Weiss at Nick...a producer suggested I talk to you...anyway hope ya can email or get in touch.
Thanks John

p.maestro said...

everything should have a purpose. blinks generally are used during brain activity. before and after talking, while turning heads, and blinking on a consonant helps enforce the open mouthed vowels coming next. but you should play around with it. slow blinks fast blinks. on two's and one's. whatever floats your bacon.

digging the "Canadian Style" posts, John. i'll make you a deal. you point at the moon, and i won't look at your finger.

Anonymous said...

You posted these around the time that I found out one of our instructors worked on that movie.

I want to check out that movie though. Style and theme is kinda weird, but I like weird.

Jeff Read said...

Anyone else notice how much Nelvana square eyes look like David Gonterman eyes?

Mok looks like the offspring of a Peter Chung character and a refugee from Heavy Metal. And that... is awesome.

Jane Kernan said...

The weirdest part about this movie, for me, is that I could swear that Batman the Animated Series "borrowed" some of the dark-brooding-future-car scenes shot-for-shot. If you get your hands on it and watch the first five minutes, and you'll recognize one scene. Am I crazy? I believe it might be from the Batmobile-centric episode "The Mechanic," or maybe H.A.R.D.A.C.- one of the earlier episodes. Is there a third source that they're both pulling from? Anyway, it's a pretty cool sequence, maybe bolstered by the fact that you can't see any of the dog faces. Still, the film as a whole is no where near as delightfully uncanny as Don Bluth's Rock-a-Doodle. Picture the committee meetings responsible for that one, I dare you!

I put some screencaps here:

Gerard D. de Souza said...

Canada, you amaze me:

TotalD said...

I had been out of Sheridan for two years, I had to quit because all the money I had saved was gone ( my dad died when I was 13 so we had no income , I worked 3 jobs to put myself through school ) .

I was doing Scooby Doo right up till Nelvana hired me so R&R was my first feature . It was a steep learning curve because Robin was , and still is to me , one of the best designer/animators around. Hate on the designs all you want, I think for a bunch of kids, we did pretty good.

Felicity Walker said...

The character designs were ugly, but I like the setting, the early ’80s vibe, and the rock. There are enough cool things in that movie to outweigh the aesthetic flaws and make it enjoyable.

As a Canadian and animation fan, I’d be interested to read more about the Canadian style. What is it about our animation? I read a book about the history of Canadian animation and found almost all of it ugly and off-putting. And yet the book was acting like it was the greatest stuff ever. The book actually bragged that Canadian animators can’t draw heroically-proportioned characters!

oAtStAo said...

When I was at Sheridan in '94 I picked up a bunch of those Style sheets from the film some you posted.
Very interesting times early 80's.

Cosmic Christmas imprinted on me big time as a child.. some overflow style all over the place in Nelvana.

Did you know Brian Lemay ? He was one of the angry chip on the shoulder Canadian animators who took up the Prof Helm at SHeridan when I was there. Maybe I understand why he was angry, because I left Sheridan once they kept pushing Disney and funding computational devices to do the bidding. Don Bluth came by once though that was pretty neat.