Emru Townsend: Rock & Rule seems to have everything that people ask for when they talk about feature animated films that arenít necessarily just for kids. And yet somehow it didnít do all that well.
Clive Smith: Well, in those days, animated features were for kids. You wouldnít find an adult being interested in animation. Itís a bit different today, because animation, I think, has sort of broken through some of those barriers. And I think weíve sort of caught up with the Japanese in that sense, whoíve been interested in animation for the longest time.
It seems sort of unfair, though, that Heavy Metal got more, say, adulation than Rock & Rule. Granted, Heavy Metal has a lot of violence and semi-naked women, which is always a big hit. But still, it seems that Rock & Rule ended up being relegated to a lower position in the animation pantheon than it should have been.
Yeah, it was very disappointing. It was extremely disappointing. I went down with Frank Nissen to Boston for a couple of weeks for the launch of it. We did a whole bunch of interviews, and we talked at MIT, various schools and institutions, various radio appearances and TV appearances, stuff like that, and I think about five people came to the theater. It was really a drag, it was horrible.
Yeah, that would be pretty disappointing.
It was horrible, yeah. We went to Nantucket to cool out for about two weeks after.
Getting back to the actual fun and glory of actually making the picture, another thing that we did was we had acting lessons for animators, which was really neat. For the animators that were developing the characters, developing the personalities, they had an actress, Samantha... I canít remember her name, [a] Toronto actress, came in and provided us with a series of acting lessons, techniques the animators could apply. Because animators are in fact actors. They have to be, because if they canít perform their part and become the character, then how the hell are they going to draw it? I mean, animation isnít a bunch of moving lines. Itís not the motion, itís the emotion.
My favourite character in the whole movie, in terms of lines, character, delivery, everything, is Mok, more than anything else. Heís a great villain.
Animated by Robin Budd. Robin was the lead animator for Mok. Now, in those days, and in fact, today, we [used] the same technique, the same system of casting animators to characters. And an animator would head up a team of animators. So there was a team of Mok animators. But Robin was really the director of that character. So he would rough out most of the animation, and certainly direct everybody else in animating the character.
Heís just one of my favourites. Heís just so... villainous. Heís unapologetic, thatís probably why I like him the best.
We had Lou Reed sing the song that Mok sings at the end, "My Name is Mok"--that was a Lou Reed song. He was very interesting to work with, too. He came to Toronto for creative meetings, for me to basically talk to him about the song, and storywise what I needed to get him to that particular part of the story. Then he went away and came up with what he came up with. Wouldnít allow me to be down there for the recording [laughs] As opposed to all the other recording artists that we worked with. I think all the other recording sessions with Earth, Wind & Fire, Cheap Trick, Deborah Harry, Iggy Pop--he was great, we loved him, he was brilliant. Iggy Pop went into this booth to do his final vocal. And he just became the beast.
Thatís funny, because Mok in many ways seems to look a lot like Iggy Pop. Heís sort of a cross between Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie.
Well, thatís interesting, because those were definitely three models in our minds that we had when we were creating Mok.
Itís one of those things where you look at it long enough, and you say, hmmm, that couldnít be anyone but.
I mean that whole chameleon personality, how heís got a different haircut, a different outfit, and a different look in every scene, thatís right out of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days.
Oh, sure, like that scene where heís really pissed off and he goes into that cupboard and you pan along all his masks and wigs...
And when they do that quick pan past, at first you think heís another mannequin sitting there.
Yeah. That was the idea [laughs]. Well, we storyboarded so many different versions of those sequences. There were whole sequences that eventually were not included in the film, but even those that are in the film went through a lot of different stages before we finalized our cut. And even then, when we got some of the animation back, we would look at it, and weíd realize it needed something else and weíd go back in and re-cut it, animate extra scenes. But it was a real process, it was a real back-and-forth process. It was a real process of trying different things, I mean we could have gone on forever making the film better.
Yeah, I can imagine. Thereís always that temptation with anything.
Thereís one point where you have to say, no, thatís it, itís gone. And I stayed with it until the bitter end, I spent three months in California where we did the final master and the final lab work, so I sat through screenings and screenings and screenings in Technicolor, color correcting, and all the screenings during the mixing and the mastering, and believe me, I hated the thing by the time I was done. Every shot, I was, oh my God, it should have done this, it should have done that, I could have put a bit of a camera move on that...
The usual process.
Yeah, the usual process.