Before I get to the song (which I do actually like), a little backstory is needed:
Once upon a time an animator named Don Bluth had a dream: a dream to create an animation company that would rival (and hopefully surpass) Disney itself. To that end, Bluth created his own animation studio and early on produced an acclaimed classic: The Secret of NIMH. More success followed with The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. With all of these well-known films, one might ask the question: if they were doing so well, why did the studio eventually go bankrupt? Well…a lot of it had to do with films like Rock-a-Doodle (1991), films that looked good as far as animation went, but were really bad in all other areas. In fact, this film did so poorly that it was the beginning of the end for the studio (their final release was The Pebble and the Penguin in 1995).
Therefore, if you haven’t heard of Rock-A-Doodle, I’m not surprised. Viewing the film with adult eyes, I can’t believe how flawed the story is. The film follows a young kid named Edmond who loves the story of Chanticleer, a rooster who sang every morning to make the sun rise. But when the Grand Duke of Owls sabotages the rooster to make it look like the sun comes up on its own, Chanticleer leaves for the city, humiliated. Constant rain has fallen ever since, and in the real world, Edmond’s home is in danger of being flooded too. Seeing his family (out battling the flood) close to being swept away, Edmond opens his bedroom window and begins yelling for Chanticleer. Instead, Edmond somehow summons the Duke, who decides to teach Edmond a lesson by turning him into a cat (somehow in all of this Edmond was sucked into Chanticleer’s animated world, I told you the plot was full of holes). Edmond encourages the remaining farm animals to band together and find Chanticleer in the big city.
There is one bright spot in the film and that is the casting of Christopher Plummer as the evil Duke (an Owl who plots to drive the rooster Chanticleer from the farm because if he leaves the sun won’t rise. Yes, really, that’s the basis of the plot.) How they got Plummer to do this role, I don’t know, but I’m glad he did because he absolutely rocks this part. One of my favorite moments is “Never Let Him Crow.”
To be technically correct, “Never Let Him Crow” is not so much a song as it is a spoken monologue (from the Duke) with sung commentary from a chorus of Owls. This monologue is also accompanied by a HUGE pipe organ that is playing a slightly abbreviated rendition of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (aka that first song from Disney’s Fantasia). The infuriated Duke is relaying the story of how, earlier in the film, he got bit in the leg by a certain “flea-bitten cur” (the dog Patou, played by Phil Harris, aka the voice of Baloo. This was his final film role) and also how he got blasted in the face with a flashlight by Edmond (the kid who gets turned into a cat by aforementioned Duke, yes really! And in this film owls have an extreme dislike of light in any form and fashion, flashlights included).
I love the back and forth between the domineering Duke and his cowed subordinates (it doesn’t matter what the Duke says, he is their leader and therefore he is always right). I will also say again how much I like Christopher Plummer’s performance; he certainly sounds like he was enjoying himself.
While I can’t recommend the film as a whole, “Never Let Him Crow” is a relatively solid moment and I hope you enjoy watching it.
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