Rock-a-Doodle is a 1991 animated musical fantasy adventure film loosely based on Edmond Rostand's comedy Chantecler. This film was directed by Don Bluth, produced by Goldcrest Films and released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company originally, and currently by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and originally released in the United Kingdom and in Ireland on August 2, 1991, and in the United States on April 3, 1992. The film features the voices of Glen Campbell, Christopher Plummer, Phil Harris, Charles Nelson Reilly, Sorrell Booke, Sandy Duncan, Eddie Deezen, Ellen Greene and Toby Scott Ganger.
Chanticleer (Glen Campbell) is a proud rooster whose crowing wakes the sun up every morning (or so the other farm animals believe). His singing keeps the other animals happy and the farm free from downpours. However, one morning, Chanticleer gets in a fight with another rooster that was sent by the Grand Duke of Owls (Christopher Plummer), whose kind can't stand the sunlight. Chanticleer wins but forgets to crow and the sun rises without his singing. The other animals reject him and drive him out of the farm, causing a perpetual rainstorm and beginning the Grand Duke's reign of terror on the farm.
The story is revealed to be a storybook that a mother named Dory (Dee Wallace) reads to her 6-year-old son, Edmond (Toby Scott Ganger). Edmond grows concerned when his farm in Midwest Tennessee, becomes flooded from the rain. When Edmond's father, Frank, calls the family to help save the farm, his mother to stay where it’s safe as She helps hold Off the storm. Edmond realizes that Chanticleer is the answer to the problem and yells for him, only to summon the Duke himself. The Duke turns Edmond into a kitten for trying to interfere with his plans. Just as the Duke is about to devour Edmond, he is saved by Patou (Phil Harris), the basset hound who bites the Duke’s leg and Edmond drives the Duke off with a flashlight, as light is the owls' only weakness. Edmond also meets a magpie named Snipes (Eddie Deezen) and a mouse named Peepers (Sandy Duncan), who do not believe Edmond was once a human boy, but tell him they are journeying to the city to find Chanticleer. While the rest of the animals stay at Edmond's farm, Edmond, along with Patou, Snipes, and Peepers, sail to the city in a trunk. The Duke sends his nephew Hunch (Charles Nelson Reilly) to stop the crew from reaching the city, but Hunch fails to catch them.
Once they reach the city, they discover Chanticleer has taken the moniker "The King" in an Elvis-style show where he sings for an audience. As a distraction, Edmond's idol and Chanticleer's manager, Pinky Fox (Sorrell Booke), who had been hired by the Duke to keep Chanticleer away from the farm, get a chorus singer pheasant named Goldie (Ellen Greene) to distract him. Chanticleer is immediately smitten with Goldie, but she resents him for taking the public's attention away from her. When Edmond tries to talk to Goldie about Chanticleer, she mistakes him for the bad kitty told by Pinky and chases him away. After a time, Goldie begins to reciprocate Chanticleer's feelings and tells him that his friends had come to find him.
In the meantime, Edmond and the others are captured and imprisoned by Pinky and his guards to keep them from contacting Chanticleer and are locked in his trailer. Pinky turns on Goldie for informing Chanticleer of what has happened and blackmails Chanticleer with the possible threat of killing his friends into continuing with his movie. Edmond and the others manage to escape, though (thanks to Hunch's intervention), and with Goldie and Chanticleer in tow, they make their way back to the farm. The Duke and his minions have been waiting on the farm animals' supply of batteries to run out on their flashlight. They nearly make a meal out of them, but are driven away by the spotlight of the helicopter Edmond and the others are flying.
Edmond and the others try to get Chanticleer to crow, but he is out of practice and soon gives up. The Duke taunts Chanticleer in his stupor and strangles Edmond into unconsciousness when he tries to raise Chanticleer's spirit by chanting his name. Inspired by Edmond's selflessness and bravery, the other animals begin to chant Chanticleer's name in unison. Infuriated, the Duke transforms himself into a tornado to wipe out the farm and the animals. However, Chanticleer finally regains his confidence and crows loud enough for the sun to rise, shrinking the Duke into a harmless pipsqueak. Hunch, eager for revenge towards all the abuse He suffered from his uncle, attacks him with a flyswatter and chases him away.
With that, the sun finally came up as the flood waters recede. Believing that Edmond died, the animals mourn him until he transforms back into a human boy since the Duke’s Magic was lifted. Edmond awakens in his own room to his mother's voice, having been knocked unconscious by a tree that had crashed into his bedroom. He realizes it's morning and the sun had come out to save the farm from destruction. His mother suspects he had a dream, but Edmond is convinced it was real. After she leaves, Edmond, whose faith was restored in the characters, is now allowed to visit and watch as Chanticleer sings to raise the sun. As he is transported, all of his animal friends are happy to see him alive, well and human again.
- Toby Scott Ganger as Edmond, the 6-year-old son of a human farmer and the human protagonist of the film. He is transformed into a kitten by the Grand Duke as punishment for trying to summon back Chanticleer and is the one who organizes 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 he stops being afraid. Also he likes paper airplanes.
- Glen Campbell as Chanticleer, the animated protagonist and 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 how his crowing brought up the sun (a fact he himself thought was true), leave 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.
- Ellen Greene as Goldie Pheasant, a pheasant and singer also in Pinky's employment. She initially dislikes Chanticleer for stealing her spotlight, but falls in love with him upon becoming more acquainted with him, in one part of the movie Pinky told her that Edmond was a bad kitty but he wasn't. She is one of the three tritagonists.
- Phil Harris as Patou, a Basset Hound who's a good friend to both Chanticleer and Edmund and plays the narrator character of the story. He despises the Grand Duke and is dedicated to Edmund's cause to bring Chanticleer back home. He is brave and reasonable, but somewhat temperamental. His endeavor 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. This is Harris's last and final role before his retirement from acting and his death in 1995. He is the deuteragonist.
- Eddie Deezen as Snipes, a magpie. He, Edmund, 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 hates garbage and dirt, but loves the food served in the city when they go inside a restaurant where Chanticleer sings, particularly lasagna. He is one of the three tritagonists.
- 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 forgive him for being a cat if he took her and the others to the city. It is not until the very end of the movie that she believes him and comments "He was a little boy.... oh, he was a handsome little boy…." She has a lisp and very round glasses and is constantly arguing with Snipe's chauvinistic views. She s one of the three tritagonists.
- Christopher Plummer as the Grand Duke of Owls, a magical owl who despises Chanticleer and the main antagonist of the film. He overhears Edmund'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 and threatens several times to kill him if he fails. 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.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Hunch, the Grand Duke's pygmy owl nephew and lead henchman. Hunch enjoys saying words that ends with “-ation”. 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 (like a flyswatter, umbrella, can opener, and corkscrew) as weapons. A small running gag in the movie was that whenever the Duke would breathe on him, his magic would transform Hunch into a randomly different creature. He is the tertiary antagonist of the film.
- Sorrell Booke as Pinky, an obese fox who favors 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 he lies to Goldie about Edmond being the bad guy. He is the hidden secondary antagonist of the film. This is Booke's last and final role before his retirement from acting, and his death in 1994.
- Will Ryan as Stuey, a chronically nervous pig. Whenever anybody mentions the owls he'll start to freak out and in the movie he'll sometimes snort and whimper
- Jack Steinfeld as Max the Bodyguard, Pinky's toad enforcer. He keeps his boss's studio secure
- Kathryn Holcomb as Edmond's mother
- Dee Wallace 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
- Bob Galaco as Radio Announcer
- Sun Do Shine song by Glen Campbell backing vocals The Jordanaires
- We Hate the Sun
- Come Back to You
- Tweedle le Dee
- Treasure Hunting Fever
- Sink or Swim
- Kiss 'n Coo
- Back to the Country
- The Owls Picnic
- Tyin' Your Shoes
- Sun Do Shine (Reprise)
The movie received generally negative reviews.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a rating of 20% based on 15 reviews, with an average of 4/10, but actually ranked 6% ahead of A Troll in Central Park (having the audience score of 14%, another failure from Don Bluth).
The staff of 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 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 movie "doesn't feel as bright as it should."
He also called the live-action segments unnecessary.
In 2011, Total Film ranked Rock-a-Doodle as 24th among the 50 worst children's films ever made.
- This was the only Don Bluth movie to contain live action.
- Glen Campbell was chosen as the voice/singing voice of Chanticeer after Don Bluth heard his yodeling in the "I Remember You" song.
- This was the first movie role for Toby Scott Ganger and the last movie role for Phil Harris, who died in 1995.
- This also the last film Don Bluth directed by himself. The following films throughout the 1990's were co-directed by Bluth and fellow animator Gary Goldman.
- One of Edmond's lines in the movie has been commonly misinterpreted by modern audiences as "Jeepers! I'm a furry!", but he actually says, "I'm all furry!"
- The film originally included more darker elements; a famous one being a deleted scene from the kitchen scene. In this scene, the Duke bakes a live baby skunk in a pie. The reason the scene was cut was because Don Bluth received a note from the preview audience that most cases of child abuse happen in the kitchen and involve baking instruments.
- Patou's narration was one of the last things added to the film when test audiences reported that they found several scenes confusing.
- When the Duke of Owls' Magic breath turn Edmond into a cat, the sound effect of the cat screeching from All Dogs Go to Heaven was reused.
- In 1993, Rock-a-Doodle made its world television debut on the Disney Channel.
- When Edmond looked at his paws. He had three digits and a thumb (in a cat's case, a dewclaw.) however, real cats have four digits and a dewclaw.
- When Edmond landed on his four paws after Snipes accidentally startled him, one of Edmond's feet is the same color as his outfit.
- Although the Grand Duke and his servants hate the sun and other devices that use light, he is shown baking a skunk pie near a hot, burning oven.
Video release history
- Rock-a-Doodle was first released on VHS and Laserdisc on August 18, 1992, as well as on DVD on July 20, 1999 by HBO Video. A second edition was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on November 8, 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 October 31, 2017. That edition mark the film's first widescreen debut 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 digital release entirely remains normal-pitched on Vudu, due to being sourced from mid-2000's printings.
- The theatrical and early DVD releases have music ending on just the Don Bluth logo, and the Goldcrest logo has no music. The VHS release has music on both the Don Bluth & Goldcrest logos. The MGM DVD obscures the Don Bluth logo and only shows the Goldcrest & MGM logos, so don't expect to see the same version twice.