November 29, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rocko Reflux?

I had lunch with Doug Lawrence the other day, and we were discussing Rocko, and why it seems to have such staying power. ( and why the DVD’s, are selling like hotcakes, with Shout Factory having a few more surprises up their sleeve.)

I remember when Rocko first ended, Nick tried to paint it as a failed experiment. Practically a failure. I was proud of the episodes we produced but couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t resonating with more of an audience. But it seems like Nick’s attempts to bury it and scuttle it luckily didn’t take hold. They should be proud of the risk they took at the start. And I’m sure they like the revenue they are making off of a project they paid for 20 years ago.

I’m not patting myself on the back here, but I remember telling the Nick execs that I was trying to make something that was “evergreen”. Something that keeps coming back and remain relevant even 20 years from now. I was using that argument as a reason to keep the budget healthy and don’t meddle with the content. ( The constant requests to change the target audience and bring it down to “rugrats’ targets is what led me to say “This is enough”).

But it was that, and, as I always say, the dream team crew we were able to put together, with talents such as Doug Lawrence, whose gags and stories still remain the favorites of quite a few fans.

It’s also that a lot of  those who started watching as kids, are now experiencing the “modern life” angst at an older age that we chose to lampoon, satire and caricature. Doug says “We said something”.

Plus it’s just weird.

I’m proud of that.


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15 Responses to November 29, 2012

  1. Connor O'Brien says:

    I remember someone posted an old ad for rocko on here and in the ad it was saying things like “how would you like to live in your own house with your own dog, and work in a comic book store?!” and it seemed like such a strange way to market it because it was like they were implying that rocko was a kid who for some reason got to do all these things and you said that the ad was a result of nick trying to get the rugrats demographic. id imagine that sort of thing was very frustrating…

  2. Nick Fortunato says:

    Well thank you all for saying what you wanted to say. I can still enjoy Rocko from a child and adult aspect.

  3. Dan Sills says:

    It’s interesting that Rugrats was so huge at the time, but now I find it’s barely mentioned when I have nostalgic conversations with people about Nickelodeon. It’s all about Rocko.

    Rocko truly does have that staying power. Perhaps it’s that perfect blend of bizarre and relatable.

    Also, wow! Very cool artwork! And it looks like it’s just a section of something bigger, too. Is this part of the season 4 DVD or something else?

  4. Andy says:

    Even as a kid, I knew there was something about Rocko that made it stand out from the other Nicktoons. I loved watching all of them, but out of the whole bunch, Rocko is the one with the most consistent string of great episodes. Rugrats went downhill after a few seasons.

    You and the creative team made a show that never talked down to us, and some 20 years later, I still howl with laughter at the episodes. People used to look at me like I was crazy when I would hold Rocko higher than some of the other 90s TV shows (which granted, there was a ton of great ones). I’m so thankful that people are now starting to appreciate the series for how great it truly is.

  5. Brody says:

    First off, I’m sure you meant no harm when you said bringing it down to Rugrats level. Because Rugrats is one of my all time favorite shows. I liked Rugrats even before I liked Rocko.

    But its very interesting to hear that though. Because the 90s has been portrayed as sort of a golden age in animation. With artists being able to have the creative freedom they didn’t have in the 80s.

    But I’m sure how into pop culture you are. But at the 2012 Kids Choice Awards, the actress Kristen Stewart mentioned Rocko in her acceptance speech. So its totally a generational thing that I guess the execs didn’t understand.

    • Joe Murray says:

      I meant the age group target audience of Rugrats. Rocko was more 12 and up, and rugrats had a demographic of 4 to 12. So yes, I was not criticizing the content in any way.

      • Isaiah Marker says:

        Actually, I think Rugrats is for all ages… in my opinion. It’s a kids show, but it even had some adult humor at times to it, and even aired in Nick’s old ’90s Teen line-up…. SNICK.

  6. Matt Stevanus says:

    I grew up on Rocko, giving me some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Coincidentally, this was the show that spurred me into a career in art, so it gave me so much more than just a great show to watch on Saturdays (or was it Fridays?). Anyway, the point is this show entertained me as a kid and inspired me as an adult, that’s why it has so much staying power and I wouldn’t be surprised if people remember it in the next twenty years.

  7. Raul says:

    Well, you truly did make something that has lasted the test of time. The same could definitely said for Camp Lazlo, though we haven’t been as lucky with the DVD releases. Are there any plans from Cartoon Network to get some DVDs out anytime soon? If so, it’d be a must buy for me.

    Also as Dan said, very cool picture! I’m very eager to see what it’s for.

  8. Mr. Semaj says:

    Funny thing about the “rugrats” demographic: When Rugrats became the next big Nicktoon, they had to their credit a few seasons’ worth that resonated as much with adults as it did with kids. It seemed the intended demographic was only reinforced upon its revival, since there’s very little from that period fans tend to remember, beyond simple nostalgia.

    Rocko was for the twentysomethings of tomorrow. 90s kids were not yet thinking about how to get bills paid, how to get to work on time, or about getting married. But now we are. It made sense to aim for a broader audience. Sadly, many companies tend to forget that lesson.

  9. Tom Newton says:

    I’ve always been a fan of “Rocko’s Modern Life” ever since I was a preschooler. Even as an adult, it still puts a smile on my face due to the clever writing, direction, and the art style. What made many 90s cartoons unique (especially “Rocko”) is that they stood the test of time for many who grew up watching these programs, and it could be for various reasons.

    For me, it was the clever writing, direction, art style, and how the audience could relate to the characters on screen. An example for me would be how I could relate to Rocko by how he acts around his friends and in public, and how he attempts to get out of tough and wacky situations every episode.

    I guess this is one of the main reasons why I love cartoons so much and why I want to be a cartoonist myself. Some want to let their imagination go free and express it to the world for the sake of arts and entertainment as a whole. Others want to tell stories that contain many different characters that people could relate to for the sake of comedy or drama. Watching these cartoons as an adult, especially “Rocko”, I can conclude that I fall in-between the two. I want to entertain and express myself, but also tell a story through numerous personalities, no matter how weird, warped, or dramatic it is.

    Artists will encounter restrictions, especially with the studios and networks they work for, but even with those restrictions applied, entertainment and expression can still be created through the stroke of a pencil or the written and spoken words of a writer, director, or the creator him/herself. “Rocko’s Modern Life” is one show that proved this, and hopefully, so will the many shows, both animated and live-action, that will eventually hit the airwaves and stand out amongst the others on any network.

    Gotta love the creative mind, I always say.

  10. andrew_the_troll says:

    Oddly I just turned 20 last sunday…. so I watched Rocko when I was really young, and basically just rediscovered it at about this time last year actually (right before the dvds started comming out, online video searches ftw) I was most surprised at the content, and more so that my parents actually let me watch it when I did…. as far as 90-s cartoons it comes second only to Batman tas imho, because “it’s just weird.” Too bad it couldn’t be made into a cheap yet quality online series, well as long as the politics don’t get too deep anyway[Although I laughed at the bumper sticker about guns in hut sut raw 🙂 ] and since I ramble, I watched quigley down under, and thought, huh “hans gruber” doesn’t sound very austrailian they need rocko’s voice instead….

    Have a Merry Christmas

  11. Dan says:

    We all are proud Joe! is the best cartoon ever. Hope me kinds seen sometime!

  12. JT says:

    The original Rugrats episodes (the first 65) prior to the hiatus, with the original writing staff, were written on an adult level. It typically wasn’t risque the way Rocko’s Modern Life often was, but it was loaded with adult humor/content in the sense that it contained concepts and references you had to be older or more educated to get. At its core, it was a satire on parenthood. They often focused more on the stories surrounding the adult characters, with the babies playing a supporting role in misunderstanding the concept and influencing the outcome. When the story did focus on the babies, it was often done metaphorically, mirroring an adult concept. For instance, the episode where Tommy goes to a “maximum security daycare” is a parody of old prison films, such as Escape From Alcatraz. The episode where they rebel against Angelica and leave the sandbox with another older boy who promises better treatment for the babies is a representation of corrupt political systems, and the eventual realization that all political systems are corrupt and often it’s a “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know” situation.

    After the hiatus, the new writing staff dumbed down the show to the point where it was basically a preschool show. From what I’ve read, a lot of that had to do with Arlene Klasky and her views on how the show should be. She apparently got into heated arguments with the original writers, wanting them to tone the show down, and after the hiatus and departures of all of the original writers to other cartoons, she was able to influence the new writers on how she wanted the show written.

    With Rocko’s Modern Life, you guys not only made an adult cartoon, you made a cartoon that was among the edgiest things on television at the time, period. If more people had actually understood all of the things that were going on, I don’t think you guys ever would have gotten it on the air in that climate. One of my favorite dynamics, and something I haven’t seen anybody else mention, is the implication that Heffer’s grandfather is racist. He “hates Wallabies,” and calls Rocko, “Beaver.” As a kid, I, of course, didn’t get it. I didn’t even pick up on that as a teenager, because with his Grandfather being old and not able to see, I wasn’t looking behind the hieroglyphic. And I suspect hardly anybody else picked up on it, either. I think if they had, Nickelodeon probably would’ve edited it out.

    I didn’t know Nickelodeon was painting it as a “failure,” though. It did have a 4 season run, which was right in line with the majority of their other Nicktoons. Considering how expensive animation is, I would think that if it wasn’t doing at least respectable ratings, they wouldn’t have picked it up for that many episodes.

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