The long out of print “Rock-a-Doodle” from animation master Don Bluth has finally stormed its way on to HD thanks to Olive Films, and it’s a blast to the past for me. I fondly remember seeing a lot of the ads for “Rock-a-Doodle” as well as coming across TV spots and ads in comic books. Sadly, the actual cinematic experience was a bust, even for an eight year old moi. It was a dull, awful movie then, and it’s a pretty dull and awful movie, now. I doubt even the best of nineties nostalgia geeks can find a gem in this mess of a movie. I spent a good number of years putting “Rock-a-Doodle” in the back burner of my memory, and I realize it was for good reason.
I didn’t realize it then, but Don Bluth’s animated film is a bizarre and tonally inconsistent riff on “The Wizard of Oz” that pictures a farm boy taking an adventure in to another land during a horrendous storm threatens his farm. You have to wonder what was going on with Don Bluth who is typically a hit or miss creator. When he misses, his animated efforts feel stock and stale, and “Rock-a-Doodle” just drops like a deflated rubber ball from the outset. “Rock-a-Doodle” begins with odd narration (why is the farm dog Patou from the storybook narrating the movie, when Edmond is the main character?) about a magical crowing rockabilly rooster named Chanticleer, who has the power to bring the sun up with his music.
When he ventures out in to the big world to pursue his music career the sun suddenly won’t rise allowing the darkness to ender thanks to Grand Duke, an evil owl. The movie then shifts over in to live action, inexplicably, where we meet a young boy named Edmond who, as it turns out, was reading a book about Chanticleer. When his farm is besieged by a massive storm, he’s interrupted by Grand Duke, who turns Edmond in to an animated cat. Edmond gets away with the farm animals, and sets out to find Chanticleer and bring him back to defeat Grand Duke. Much of goes down is aimless and absolutely tedious with its barely seventy minute run time often feeling like an eternity. Even with Christopher Plummer, and Glenn Campbell, “Rock-a-Doodle” just goes through the motions.
There isn’t a single interesting character in the bunch of talking animal heroes we follow, and the Grand Duke feels like a carry over from a third rate Ralph Bakshi movie. Much of the narrative just watches like filler with a ton of characters introduced, and none of them ever clicking with the audience. Even Edmond manages to be something of a shrill protagonist right until the very awkward finale where his live action counterpart dances with the animated barnyard animals. “Rock-a-Doodle” should only be purchased by nostalgic nineties kids and hardcore animation buffs. Objectively, it’s a terrible production from beginning to end without a single salvageable aspect to it. Along with a High Definition restoration, and upgrade, the release also features the original film trailer.