Rock & Rule (Part 1)
Canada Trust Company/Unearthed Films
Emru Townsend · June 7, 2005 | Many years ago I wrote an unpublished article on Rock & Rule titled "The Canadian Cult Film That Could." I was thinking of the story of the train engine determined to make it to the station, and imagined Rock & Rule as a movie that had spent years languishing in obscurity, but was gradually increasing its fan base through occasional showings on HBO and Cinemax and the circulation of bootleg videotapes.

The occasion of the article was the 1996 Ottawa International Animation Festival, where a celebration of the Nelvana studio's 25th anniversary included a rare theatrical screening of Rock & Rule. By complete coincidence, the issue of fps that hit the stands that same month featured Rock & Rule on the cover, as that issue contained the first of a two-part retrospective of the movie. I had interviewed a few members of the Rock & Rule crew for the retrospective, and met two of the interviewees, Lenora Hume and Clive Smith, in person for the first time at the festival. I remember shaking Clive's hand after the screening and congratulating him on having created a movie that many animation fans had enjoyed.

I had figured that was the end of it. But little did I know that things were still chugging along. Unearthed Films, a company focused on releasing cult films on DVD, acquired the rights to Rock & Rule, and when I found out I contacted Unearthed's head honcho Stephen Biro and offered to do some follow-up interviews with members of the cast and crew and present them as a booklet to accompany the DVD.

Late last October, I found myself sitting in Clive Smith's astonishingly eclectic living room, surrounded by about a dozen of the people who had worked on the film. While a television set showed Rock & Rule, they reminisced about what it was like to work not only on one of Canada's first feature animated films, but on such a staggeringly ambitious film at a time when feature animation was on the decline.

Who's Who in the Interview
Anne Marie Bardwell: Animator
Robin Budd: Animator
Greg Duffell: Additional dialogue, voice of Stretch & Zip
John Halfpenny: Screenplay, voice of Uncle Mikey
Gord Hill: Technical direction & design, model photography and photographic processes
Lenora Hume: Director of photography, special photographic effects
Larry Jacobs: Animator
Laura Shepherd: Graphic artist
Clive Smith: Director, art director, storyboards
Norm Stangel: Producer of animated special effects

Shop for Rock & Rule DVDs and more:
Our flashback/interview/gag session was lively, informative, utterly exhausting, and impossible to fit into the twelve-page booklet accompanying the DVD. As a result, we are presenting the entire interview here, over the next few months. It's a fascinating look into the workings of a studio packed with raw talent and searching for a way to express it; it's hard not to wonder what would have happened if Rock & Rule had done better and the studio had had a chance to establish itself in features. It's also a look back at a time when animation was, as Anne Marie Bardwell put it, "hand-carved." For those of you who fondly remember looping film on a Steenbeck editor, this interview will provide a nice flashback. For those of you who have never animated without using a computer, it will provide a nice history lesson.

Special thanks to Brad Nelson for setting up the audio recording for the interview, and to Charles Bonifacio for coming up with the idea of a gang interview in the first place, even though he ultimately couldn't participate.
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