Logo for animated movie Rock Dog

J.K. Simmons, Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard

Wide-eyed Tibetan Mastiff Bodi is being prepared by his father Khampa to assume the role of defender to a flock of sheep in their remote Himalayan village – but Bodi has dreams beyond the mountains.

 

A radio plummets from the sky one day and introduces Bodi to the world of old-school rock ‘n roll, via a track from the legendary Angus Scattergood. Feeling that his musical dreams have been reaffirmed, Bodi follows his heart – even if it means leaving his family and his flock behind.

 

Bodi arrives in the big city with nothing but big dreams and his home-made guitar – the former being quickly dashed when he sees the quality of bands he’s up against after being easily defeated in a ‘shred off’ but guitar virtuoso Trey. He realizes he has much to learn and sets off in search of Scattergood, in the hope that he’ll teach him the rock ‘n roll ropes.

 

Scattergood, meanwhile, has his own problems – he’s due to deliver his next hit record, but rock writer’s block has him up against the ropes. He needs to come up with his next song in a hurry and after dismissing Bodi repeatedly, hatches a cunning plan when he finally gives the hopeful star a chance to perform.

 

Meanwhile, Khampa’s old foe Linnux spots Bodi in the big city and kidnaps him, pressing him for information that will help him raid the Himalayan village for its precious sheep. Bodi must escape and find a way to warn his father about the impending attack – or find a way to repel it himself.

 

The film is based on a graphic novel by Zheng Jun – China’s first uniquely Chinese example in the genre – written, after he couldn’t answer his daughter’s question about why Japanese Manga comics dominated his home marketplace. Zheng Jun based the story on his own experience - he was being groomed for a career in international business, until the day he fatefully heard Bruce Springsteen on the radio. The encounter ignited his passion for music, and his life immediately changed course. He traveled to Beijing, where he got by as a busker, sleeping on friends’ floors to save money. After years of hard work, he eventually rose to the top of the Chinese music industry.

 

The film and the book are also both underscored with Buddhist principles including the concepts of enlightenment and discovery of the inner strength. The choice of a Tibetan Mastiff as the character to tell his story is also symbolic, as the dog is beloved by Chinese Buddhists, especially in Tibet.

 

Director Ash Brannon said the he never expected to get the chance to direct the film, having originally joined as a story consultant. “But it was like the

girl who’s just a friend, until one day you’re suddenly in love with her,” he says. With years of experience at Pixar, he shared the studio’s love simple storytelling and a

focus on finding great depth and humor within each character.

 

“Bodi’s dilemma: how to chase his own dream and also fulfill his responsibility to his family and community, is something we all encounter in our lives, and I hope the movie strikes a chord. But most of all I hope that Rock Dog reminds us that making music is a joyful thing,” says Brannon.

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