2017’s Rock Dog probably will never make lists of acknowledged “cult movies” published by the more “mainstream” movie press, but you could argue that just helps its cult movie street cred. Once a movie has become known enough to be catalogued and categorized, is it still really a cult object? Rock Dog, I predict, will continue to be largely forgotten in the annals of cinema, or even animation. Only the true, blue fans will remember.
Of course, those true, blue fans are furries. Rock Dog is a cult movie within the furry fandom. Put it another way, yeah, furries like Zootopia. On one hand, it makes sense furries would like it, but on the other hand it’s a beloved movie that was hailed as a classic by plenty of non-furries from it’s release. You can like Zootopia without joining the furry fandom pretty easily, but if you even saw Rock Dog and decided you liked it, you might want to check this furry thing out.
Which is not to say if you didn’t like the original, you have to turn in your conbadge. First of all, that would be gatekeeping, and that’s wrong. But second of all, Rock Dog is by no means a perfect movie. I loved it, but the sequel, Rock Dog 2: Rock around the Park, going to the 2020s equivalent of straight to video (it technically went to various streaming platforms first) makes sense.
This has been a long time coming.
The movie? No, not the movie itself, but my review of it. To people who are only reading this review to get to my thoughts on the movie, I suggest skipping my little prologue. For those that would like some context, then read on.
Rock Dog has been on my radar for well over a year, potentially two years, though it's kind of hard to pin down the exact date. I saw the original trailer when it leaked at around the end of 2015 and was immediately interested.
The film was directed by Ash Brannon, a co-director of Toy Story 2 and the underrated masterpiece that is Surf's Up. I grew up with the latter film and was curious of this new project since Ash hasn't done a ton in the animation field since 2007.
I was so hyped for the film that I felt that it would surpass Zootopia. This belief had caused debates with many of the avid fans the film had garnered in the fandom. While my stance has softened on the Disney film, I still stand by some of the grievances I had with it. That being said I have decided that despite my desire to compare the two films, I decided to purely look at Rock Dog as it's own film and judge it on its own merits.
Presented here, verbatim, from our friends over at Cartoon Brew: “Lionsgate has acquired the Chinese/American co-production Rock Dog for release through its Summit Premiere label. The film will debut in American theaters on February 24, 2017… In one of the first examples of reverse-outsourcing in American feature animation, the Chinese backers farmed out the entire production to Dallas-based Reel FX, the company that produced Free Birds and The Book of Life. Rock Dog was conceived by Chinese rockstar Zheng Jun, who wrote and illustrated a popular graphic novel upon which the film is based. The film follows the story of Bodi, a Tibetan Mastiff, who dreams of following in the footsteps of Angus Scattergood, a British cat musician. Directed by Toy Story 2 co-director Ash Brannon, the film was touted as an attempt by Chinese producers to create a culturally-Chinese animated film that would appeal to a worldwide audience. To increase its chances for success in the global marketplace, the film’s original production language was English, with a cast that includes J.K. Simmons, Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, Matt Dillon, Sam Elliot, Lewis Black, and Kenan Thompson. In the U.S., Rock Dog will open one week after Warner Bros.’ The LEGO Batman Movie.” Ouch. Here’s a direct link to the new trailer.
Good news, everyone! Rock Dog is not dead! It even has a release date, again, at least for China; July 8. The movie still doesn't have a North American release date yet (though IMDB has some further international dates); however, the movie is a Chinese/American co-production, and features a cast of Americans with an American director (Ash Brannon), so the plan has always been to release the movie in America, apparently. Eventually. Probably.
If it does get that American release date, it will be the fourth confirmed fully anthropomorphic animal world movie released here in 2016, counting (fellow Chinese/American co-production) Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootopia and Sing (with Spark and Sly Cooper bringing the possible total up to six, if they, like Rock Dog, could be bothered to get a release date out there).
So, Disney goes out of there way to advertise the very anthropomorphic nature of next animated movie (you couldn't resist the awful fur pun, could you, Disney? It's okay, we know how it is.), and it turns out everyone and their Rock Dog has chosen to come out with similar movies within months of each other. Rock Dog, though a Chinese production with no American release date (it does have an October 1 Chinese release date), is meant to be the movie that breaks Chinese animation into America.
And it's every bit as anthropomorphic an animal world as Zootopia or Kung Fu Panda 3, and, at the very least, it looks much more promising than Legend of a Rabbit.