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Rock & Rule Premiere at Corus Quay

by Peter Roe (Guest Contributor)

On January 19, 2011, intrepid Nelvana animator, Barry Sanders, presented the first of (what is to become) a monthly event, at the Toronto home base of Corus Entertainment: an after-hours screening of a non-mainstream animated feature film.

The obvious choice to kick-start this series was Nelvana’s own attempt at breaking into the feature film industry, Rock & Rule (1983).

As an avid fan and author of an ‘Art of’ book showcasing this “cult” film, I was honoured to be asked to moderate a panel of former crew members, who graced the sparse – but appreciative – audience with their presence and held an informal Q&A session, following the film. Goaded and aided by a few R&R crew members still with Nelvana (who opted to remain among the audience), the guest panel consisted of animators Willy Ashworth, Scott Caple, Bill Speers and Charlie Bonifacio, camera operator Dave Altman, graphic artist Laura Shepherd, voice and music performer Melleny Melody and director Clive Smith.

from left to right: Scott Caple, Dave Altman, Bill Speers, Willy Ashworth, Laura Shepherd, Clive Smith, Melleny Melody and Charlie Bonifacio. Far right: Peter Roe.

My job as a first-time moderator was very easy, as the memories and anecdotes shared by the guests flowed easily, many prompted by inquiries into the technical aspects of production. Once it was realized that the visual magic onscreen was created virtually by hand, light and camera, those audience members of the most recent generation seemed to have their interests piqued; there certainly wasn’t a piece of handy effects software to utilize between 1979 and 1982!

The pace of the conversations and exchanges between crew and audience was very upbeat and enthusiastic, for the most part. There was a brief moment of sombre (when the recent passing of lead technical director Dennis Brown was broached) and another moment of surprise (when another – shall we say, extremely personal – anecdote was shared aloud). The camaraderie of the crew present that evening was palpable and genuine; these folks endured such a battle to get their first feature made, twenty-eight years ago, that hearing some of their revelations was like listening to war stories.

By the evening’s close, everyone in attendance seemed tired, but happy. Many voiced their desire to reunite for a similar occasion, soon. I was told that I had a grin plastered on my face the whole time I was with the guest panel; I was obviously “over the moon” to be in the same room as the Canadian visionaries that could be present at this screening. Judging by the amount of laughter and the number of smiles exiting the room, I’m confident I wasn’t the only one left feeling that way.

Peter Roe is a devout fan of all things Rock & Rule and indeed, the history of Nelvana Ltd. When he’s not seeking a publisher for his long-suffering manuscript revealing The Art and Making of Rock & Rule, he’s either at work at Nelvana, or investigating the paranormal.


  1. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt February 1, 2011

    AWESOME! Thanks Peter! If anyone else would like to guest contribute something, drop a line at our ‘about’ page listed in the menu bar and apprise us of your proposed article.

    Hey Peter – any chance of these Corus screenings getting opened up to the public? That’d be fun for those in the GTA.

  2. Ariel Ariel February 2, 2011

    Congrats Pete! You’ve come a long way from a Sheridan classmate of mine to become a Nelvana historian. All the best.

  3. Mike Mike February 2, 2011

    I really wish I had know about this event. I am quite interested in the early Nelvana TV specials and the Rock and Rule feature.
    Please could the author of the article ad a little information about where to find out about upcoming animation screenings at the Corus Quay? Is there maybe a facebook page or an e-mail list?
    Or was this a private Corus event?

  4. Mike Valiquette Mike Valiquette Post author | February 3, 2011

    This was a private event for Corus employees only. I know there’s interest in making these screenings open to the public, but that’s not part of the plan yet. Basically, Barry Sanders, who does 3D work at Nelvana, salivated over the gorgeous screening room at the new Corus building, and took it upon himself to put it to good use. This was the first of what are supposed to be monthly screenings. The panel was a great way to start it, but isn’t going to be a component of future screenings, as far as I know.

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