It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The animator Don Bluth left Disney in 1979 when he felt the studio's animation division had lost its way. He was quite right at the time. But since then, with titles like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty And The Beast" (1991), Disney has found its way again, and now it sometimes seems as if Bluth is wandering.
His titles as an independent animator include "The Secret of NIMH," "The Land Before Time," "An American Tail," "All Dogs Go To Heaven" and now "Rock-a-Doodle." His trademark is a certain freedom of figure drawing; characters look unusual, even bizarre, compared to the more anthropomorphic Disney characters, and until the very latest Disney movies played catch-up, they had more spatial freedom, too.
His "All Dogs Go to Heaven" was also notable for the particular brilliance of its colors; it was dazzling to look at. But one of the disappointments of "Rock-a-Doodle" is a muted color palette. The movie doesn't feel as bright as it should.
The story (awkwardly sandwiched between unnecessary live-action bookends involving a real little boy) is about Chanticleer, a boastful barnyard rooster who confidently believes it is his crowing that makes the sun come up. The Grand Duke of Owl, who lives nearby, is also convinced Chanticleer has that power - and doesn't like it one bit, because he prefers the deep, dark night himself.
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