Clive Smith
The rise and fall of Rock & Rule
Emru Townsend: There are two different edits to Rock & Rule. There's the one that was broadcast on the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] and there's the one you can get on video. What happened there?

Clive Smith: We produced the picture as Rock & Rule and tested it, and there were some areas that were a little slow, there were concerns about one of the performers, I believe we changed the actual voice for Omar. And it was recut, re-edited, but there's not a huge difference. There's a couple of sequences missing, but there's not a huge difference. It was re-edited and refinished as Ring of Power.

There's been some debate as to which is the original edit.

Well, Rock & Rule is the original edit.

The problem is, both of them have the title of Rock & Rule.

I'm sorry?

The one that was aired on the CBC was titled as Rock & Rule, but the one that's on video is also titled Rock & Rule, but they're both...

I'd have to see. You know something, I don't even know.

[After a discussion too convoluted to reprint here, this is what we concluded: there are two distinct edits of the film, identifiable by the voice actor for Omar. The one that aired on the CBC has slightly stronger language; the one released to video has a different voice actor for Omar, Paul Le Mat.

During the interview, the question of which version was the original was never fully answered. The problem was complicated by the fact that each version has some footage the other lacks.

Clive suggested the possibility that they may have had a deadline to meet for the CBC airing, and had to get
something to them despite the fact that they hadn't finished their final edit of the film after they decided to rework it. Although imperfect, this scenario seemed plausible enough--until the screening of Rock & Rule at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 1996, which was identical to the CBC version in every way.

I had the opportunity to chat with Clive for a little while after the screening at Ottawa, and he confirmed that the print that was shown was the final cut of
Rock & Rule, which invalidated his previous theory. It also didn't jibe with the fact that the version sent out by Nelvana's publicity department is the video version, not the CBC version.

Ultimately, my conclusion is this: it's been about fifteen years since
Rock & Rule was completed; Clive can't be expected to remember every detail about which is which. He considers the CBC version to be the definitive Rock & Rule, which seems to make sense as the editing is more polished. We'll probably never know the true genesis of the two versions, but this is good enough. --Emru]

What do you think of [Rock & Rule]? You like it? You obviously do.

Well, the CBC edit is actually my favourite one. The differences are slight, but I think it's enough of a difference. Rock & Rule came on TV a time when I was--I mean, I've been watching animation all my life, I never stopped watching it--but Rock & Rule came out at a time when I was starting to consciously watch movies and more specifically animation with an eye towards understanding editing, timing, and so on. Rock & Rule has always been a great example, I've been using it for a long time for examples for different things, and it's what I used for looking at different ways of staging shots, and so on.

It was a really interesting and invigorating process, I'll tell you.

I can imagine.

Gone are those days. Gone are those days, when we could spend three and a half years making films.

Is that how long it took?

It was about three and half years in production. Not only that, the entire studio was involved in it. We weren't as big then as we are now, but we were at our peak, we were about 200 people.

That was your first feature, because prior to that you were doing TV specials like Romie-0 and Julie-8 and Easter Fever, and all that.

Well, we had done five or six television half-hours starting with Cosmic Christmas, The Devil and Daniel Mouse, Rome-0 and Julie-8, An Intergalactic Thanksgiving with Sid Caesar. That one is one of my favourites. And Catherine O'Hara playing the mother. It was pretty funny stuff.

You were at the peak of your powers at the time, but it was still sort of an odd time to be doing features.

We were definitely forging our way across a new landscape there. It was one of those things where everybody said, no, it can't be done, it can't be done, and we did it. It took us longer, it cost us more money, but it was a great process because we did learn. We were learning. We were all really kids at the time. We were all just inventing the process for ourselves. We didn't understand how these things were done. We didn't know from working anywhere else, we didn't know from reading books or instructions, and we didn't have anybody senior to us to rely on, so we basically established our own criteria, our own rules of working, and we worked as best we could. We worked very instinctively, very intuitively, and very empirically. We had the writing going on at the same time as the design development was going on, which was going on at the same time as the storyboard was going on. And it was a very organic process.

Today, where one has to be very, very careful about how you spend your money, and keeping within a budget, things are done much differently. One establishes a budget based on a script, and then once that script and the budget have been locked, one proceeds and does the storyboards based on the script. Obviously you make changes as ideas start to evolve and surface from the script and then the visual artists start to put in their interpretations. You start to think things through more clearly, and things do change from the script to the storyboards. But you still use the script as the basis for your visuals and it moves forward like that.

But in the days of Rock & Rule, we were working a little bit more... ideally. It was a very ideal situation. The studio was something between an animation company, art school, and an insane asylum. We had all sorts of different people inputting different ideas and different characteristics and different personalities into the film in its development. So we had writers who were just starting to write for the first time. Pete Sauder, who is now our senior story editor and writer, and is extremely experienced and extremely sought-after in the animation business, was brand-new to the process when we put him on as a writer. He had been involved in drawing, he was an inbetweener or something. So this was his first gig as a writer. John Halfpenny, who is a director and an artist still to this day, was writing at that time. We were putting different people in different positions. So we had writers come up with ideas, feeding those ideas to the people who were doing the character designs, the character development. The designers were feeding their ideas back into the story department, so the story department could see these ideas coming out of drawings. Drawings would spark ideas for story, and so on. So really, the characters were pushing the story forward. As the characters were developing, the story was developing.

So that's sort of the way we worked. We worked in a very fluid sort of fashion. It was costly, but it was fun.

I almost hesitate to ask what the final cost was.

I think it was around 9 [million], which in today's dollars is low budget. But in those days it was a lot of money, considering we had started with a 5.5 [million] budget. That was what we had raised. We had raised it as a private offering, so we had a number of shareholders involved in it.

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Eight people - eight lives - one universal groove