If you’ve been around long enough, you might remember a genre of extremely clever novelty records — super popular during the ’70s — that parodied current events and news stories with fake interviews made up of audio clips taken from charting pop songs. Those early mash-up records were lots of fun, and if you miss them, and wonder why somebody hasn’t picked up on that idea for a long-form project, then a new animated film called The Stolen Lyric is going to really turn you on.
Directed by Chase Peter Garrettson, The Stolen Lyric is an animated retelling of the Robin Hood fable, set in the rock music world, and taking on corporate greed as its chief nemesis. While the film’s plot and episodic structure closely follow Howard Pyle’s 1883 novel, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, in The Stolen Lyric, Robin H is the lead singer of a rock band called The Merry, whose members include Tucker (Friar Tuck), LJ (Little John) and Will Scarlet (Will Scarlet). What makes The Stolen Lyric absolutely groundbreaking is how the film’s dialogue is based exclusively on 555 song fragments from 129 different iconic recording artists. Imagine listening to a mind-blowing, deep-catalog mix CD that was created by a pop music audiophile with a ten second attention span, and that might give you an idea of the sweet nostalgic ride that is The Stolen Lyric.
Here are just a few of the artists whose songs you’ll hear in The Stolen Lyric:
The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, The Who, Television, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Simon and Garfunkel, Jethro Tull, Queen, The Doors, Iggy Pop, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Radiohead, Outkast, Beastie Boys, Beach Boys, Elton John, Janet Jackson, Peter Frampton, Jefferson Airplane, Alice in Chains, Joy Division, Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails, Buzzcocks and MGMT.
I must admit that I was very surprised to recognize a few song clips from the hyper-litigious Metallica, so perhaps the filmmakers are biding their time until the lawsuits start to flow in from that camp.
Because the film immediately immerses you in a familiar auditory environment, the action can be a bit fuzzy at first, so here’s an outline of major plot points:
Originally, The Merry included a fifth member, Sherriff (The Sheriff of Nottingham) who, pre-fortune and fame, become disillusioned with a lack of commercial success, and quit the band to take a music business office job. Years later, the guys discover that Sheriff (who is now a wealthy corporate exective) has stolen a lyric from one of The Merry’s songs — “Time to Trade in Your Bike in for the Ride of Your Life” — and sold it for use in a car commercial. In their quest to get their owed-royalties from Sheriff, the story of The Merry unfolds in a series of flashbacks, and we see that Sheriff is also now with Rob’s former girlfriend who, for some reason isn’t named Marion, but Lorraine, as referenced in the lyrics to Lou Reed’s “Wild Child.”
Here’s a bit of interesting trivia on the film: The characters in The Stolen Lyric were designed to look like hybrids of the traditional characters and modern-day rock personalities, with Rob’s look inspired by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, LJ’s look inspired by Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Will Scarlet’s look inspired by David Bowie, Tucker’s look inspired by Jonathan Davis of Korn, and Sheriff’s look inspired by Nick Valensi of The Strokes.
I think that the most fun you can have with The Stolen Lyric is to watch it with group of your best record-collecting-music-nerd friends (adding lots of alcohol into the mix) and see who gets stumped the most when trying to identify the more obscure songs and artists. You could even make a drinking game out of it! Very fun! Although there are scattered swear words throughout (which most kids already know if they have ever ridden the subway in NYC, or own records by even one rap artist), and one fairly tame sex scene, I would say the film is age-appropriate viewing for mature 13 year-olds and up. It would absolutely be a terrific way to introduce kids to a top-shelf and somewhat eclectic collection of classic tunes that they are never going to hear anywhere else.
I watched The Stolen Lyric twice and enjoyed even more the second time.
The Stolen Lyric can be viewed on Amazon Prime.