Rocko's Modern Life Explained

Show Name:Rocko's Modern Life
Format:Animated series, Comedy
Runtime:22 minutes (11 per episode) (approx.)
Creator:Joe Murray
Producer:Joe Murray
Executive Producer:Joe Murray
Starring:Carlos Alazraqui
Tom Kenny
Doug Lawrence
Charles Adler
Linda Wallem
Opentheme:"Rocko's Modern Life"
First Aired:September 18, 1993
Last Aired:November 24, 1996
Num Seasons:4
Num Episodes:52
List Episodes:List of Rocko's Modern Life episodes

Rocko's Modern Life is an American TV animated series, the fourth of Nickelodeon's Nicktoons, created by Joe Murray and aired for four seasons from 1993 to 1996. The show was based around the surreal, parodic adventures of an anthropomorphic wallaby named Rocko, and his life in the city of O-Town. The program was produced by Joe Murray Productions and Nickelodeon Studios, and occasionally by Games Productions. The show is laden with double entendres, sexual innuendos, and social commentary, some of which have been edited in rebroadcasts.[1] Rocko's Modern Life ended production in 1996.[2]


Originally, the character Rocko appeared in an unpublished comic book titled Travis. Murray tried selling the comic book in the late 1980s, between illustrating jobs, and did not find success in getting it in production. Many other characters appeared in various sketchbooks. He described the early 1990s animation atmosphere as "ripe for this kind of project. We took some chances that would be hard to do in these current times," with the "current times" being the 1990s.[3] Murray wanted funding for his independent film "My Dog Zero," so he wanted Nickelodeon to pre-buy television rights for the series. He presented a pencil test to Nickelodeon Studios, which afterward became interested in buying and airing the show.

Linda Simensky, then in charge of animation development in Nickelodeon, described the Nicktoons lineup and concept to Murray. He originally felt skepticism towards the concept of creating a Nicktoon as he disliked television cartoons. Simensky told him that Nicktoons differed from other cartoons. He told her that he believed that "My Dog Zero" would not work as a cartoon. He then researched Nickelodeon at the library and found that Nickelodeon's "attitude was different than regular TV." Murray combed through his sketchbooks, developed the Rocko's Modern Life concept, and submitted it to Nickelodeon, believing that the concept would likely be rejected. According to Murray, around three or four months later he had "forgotten about" the concept and was working on "My Dog Zero" when Simensky informed him that Nickelodeon wanted a pilot episode. Murray said that he was glad that he would get funding for "My Dog Zero."[4] On his website he describes "My Dog Zero" was "that film that Linda Simensky saw which led me to Rocko."[5] "Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic" was originally written as the pilot; the executives decided that Heffer Wolfe, one of the characters, would be "a little too weird for test audiences." Murray, instead of removing Heffer from "Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic," decided to write "Trash-O-Madness" as the pilot episode.[4]

When the series was in development prior to the release of the first episode, the series had the title The Rocko Show.[6] In 1992, two months prior to the production of season 1 of Rocko's Modern Life, Murray's first wife committed suicide.[7] Murray said that he felt that he had emotional and physical "unresolved issues" when he moved to Los Angeles. He describes the experience as like participating in "marathon with my pants around my ankles." Murray initially believed that he would create one season, move back to the San Francisco Bay Area, and "clean up the loose ends I had left hanging." Murray said that he felt surprised when Nickelodeon approved new seasons;[4] Nickelodeon renewed the series for its second season in December 1993.[8]

After season 3 he decided to hand the project to Stephen Hillenburg, who performed most work for season 4; Murray continued to manage the cartoon.[4] He said that he would completely leave the production after season 4. He said also that he encouraged the network to continue production, but Nickelodeon eventually decided to cancel the series. He described all fifty-two episodes as "top notch", and in his view the quality of a television show may decline as production continues "when you are dealing with volume."[4] On his website he said that, "In some ways it succeeded and in some ways failed. All I know it developed its own flavor and an equally original legion of fans."[3] In a 1997 interview Murray said that he at times wondered if he could re-start the series; he feels the task would be difficult.[4]


Murray's Joe Murray Productions and Games Animation rented office space on Ventura Boulevard in the Studio City neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California.[9] The production moved to a different office building on Vineland Avenue in Studio City. Executives did not share space with the creative team.[10] [11] Rough Draft Studios assembled the animation.[12] According to Murray, as Rocko's Modern Life was his first television series, he did not know about the atmosphere of typical animation studios. Murray said that he opted to operate his studio in a similar manner to the operation of his Saratoga, California studio, which he describes as "Very relaxed."[4] His cadre included many veterans who, according to him, described the experience as "the most fun they had ever had!" He, saying that the atmosphere was "not my doing," credited his team members for collectively contributing. [4] Murray described the daily atmosphere at the studio as "very loose," adding that the rules permitted all staff members to use the paging system to make announcements. He stated that one visitor compared the environment of the production studio to "preschool without supervision." [11] [10] Murray stated that 70 people in the United States and over 200 people in South Korea animated the series. [4]

Murray produced the pilot episode, "Trash-O-Madness," at his studio in Saratoga; he animated half of the episode, and the production occurred entirely in the United States, with animation in Saratoga and processing in San Francisco. [13] While directing during recording sessions, Murray preferred to be on the stage with the actors instead of "behind glass" in a control room, which he describes as "the norm" while making animated series. [14] He believes that, due to his lack of experience with children, Rocko's Modern Life "skewed kind of older."[15] Murray noted, "There's a lot of big kids out there. People went to see 'Roger Rabbit' and saw all these characters they'd grown up with and said, 'Yeah, why don't they have something like that anymore?'"[16] When he began producing Rocko, he says that his experience in independent films initially led him to attempt to micromanage many details in the production. He said that the approach, when used for production of television shows, was "driving me crazy." This led him to allow for other team members to manage aspects of the Rocko's Modern Life production.[15]

Writing style

The writers aimed to create stories that they describe as "strong" and "funny." The writers, including George Maestri and Martin Olson, often presented ideas to Murray while eating hamburgers at Rocky's, a restaurant formerly located on Lankershim in the North Hollywood section of the San Fernando Valley. He took his team members on "writing trips" to places such as Rocky's, the LaBrea Tar Pits, and the wilderness. If he liked the story premises, the writers produced full outlines from the premises. Outlines approved by both him and Nickelodeon became Rocko's Modern Life episodes. Maestri describes some stories as originating from "real life" and some originating from "thin air." [17] [18] Murray stated that each episode of Rocko's Modern Life stemmed from a personal experiences of himself and/or one or more of the directors or writers. [4] He said that he did not intend to use formulaic writing seen in other cartoons; he desired content that "broke new ground" and "did things that rode the edge," and that could be described as "unexpected." He did not hire writers who had previous experience with writing cartoons, instead hiring writers who worked outside of animation, including improv actors and comic artists. He said that story concepts that "ever smacked close to some formula idea that we had all seen before" received rejection.[19]

Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, a storyboard writer, says that writers of Rocko's Modern Life targeted children and adults. He cites Rocky and Bullwinkle as an example of another series that contains references undecipherable by children and understood by adults. Aiming for a similar goal, Marsh described the process as "a hard job." According to him, when censors questioned proposed material, sometimes the team disagreed with the opinions of the censors and sometimes the team agreed with the rationale of the censors. He says that "many people" told him that the team "succeeded in this endevour" and that "many parents I know really enjoyed watching the show with their kids for just this reason." [20] John Pacenti said the series "seems very much aimed at adults" "for a children's' cartoon."[21] Marsh believes that the material written by Doug Lawrence stands as an example of a "unique sense of humor." For instance, Marsh credits Lawrence with the "pineapple references" adding that Lawrence believed that pineapples seemed humorous. [20]

Animation style

Murray's animation lacked parallel lines and featured many crooked doors. In an interview he stated that his design style contributed to the show's "Wonky bent feel." [4] Jean Prescott of The Sun Herald described the series as "squash-and-stretch."[22] A 1993 Houston Chronicle article described the series's setting as having a "reality that is "squashed and stretched" into a twisted version of real life."[23] The background staff hand-painted backgrounds with Dr. Martin Dyes [14], while each episode title card consisted of an original painting.[14] Linda Simensky said that she asked the creators of Rocko's Modern Life about why the women in the series were drawn to be "top-heavy," the creators told her that they believed that drawing women "the traditional way" was easier. Simensky described the creators as "talented guys" who formed "a boy's club" and added that "we pushed them to be funny, but a lot of their women are stereotypical."[24]


There are 3 versions of the Rocko's Modern Life theme song. The first and original version can be heard playing throughout season one and was composed by Pat Irwin, who also composed the series' background music. The second version of the theme song was a slightly remixed version of the first and was only used during episodes 8 and 9 of season one. One of the changes included high pitched voices added to the chorus. The third version of the theme song was performed by Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider from The B-52's. They performed the Rocko's Modern Life theme song from Season 2 onwards.

At first Murray wanted Paul Sumares to perform the theme song since Sumares created most of the music found in My Dog Zero. Murray wanted the same style in My Dog Zero exhibited in Rocko's Modern Life. Nickelodeon wanted a person with more experience.[6] According to Sumares, believing for the request to be a long shot, Murray asked for Danny Elfman and felt stunned when Nickelodeon decided to honor his request by asking Elfman to perform.[6] According to Murray, Elfman, his first choice, was booked. Therefore he chose the B-52's, his second choice.[6] According to Sumares Murray decided to use the B-52's instead of Elfman. Murray states that the difference between the stories "could just be a recollection conflict, because Paul is a brilliant amazing guy."[6] Murray also sought Alan Silvestri. According to Sumares Viacom did not want to use Silvestri as the organization wanted a band "slightly older kids could identify with." [6]


The plot follows life of a wallaby, Rocko, who has emigrated to America from Australia. In America, he is faced with various problems and challenges involving his pals who try to teach him what it means to be a good friend. There are sexual innuendos such as references to body parts including nipples, breasts, testicles and others.Many of the locations in the television show Rocko's Modern Life have the letter "O" for example O-Town and Conglom-O. When asked about the use of "O" in his show Murray said,

The plot locations included the following:


See main article: Characters in Rocko's Modern Life. All the characters in the Rocko's Modern Life series are animals and there are a multitude. Murray said that he matched personalities of his characters to the various animals in the series to form a "social caricature".[15] Rocko, the protagonist, is a wallaby who encounters various dilemmas and situations regarding otherwise mundane aspects of life. His best friend Heffer Wolfe is fat and enthusiastic while Filburt often feels uncomfortable or disturbed.


Creator, Executive Producer, Writer, Story Editor (Season 1 - 3)

Project Coordinator

Producer, Storyboard Director, Writer, Creative Director

Storyboard Artist, Writer

Storyboard Director, Writer

Storyboard Director, Writer

  • Swampy Marsh

Storyboard Director, Writer




Story Editor (on Season 4 only)

Storyboard Artist

Animation Director

Animation Timer, animation director

Storyboard artist

  • Jeff Myers: Storyboard Director
  • Kevin O' Brien: Storyboard artist
  • Joe Suggs: Storyboard Artist
  • Conrad Vernon

Storyboard Artist

animation director

  • George Chilatas: animation director
  • Nick Jennings: storyboard artist
  • Pete Michels

animation director

animation artist

animation director

  • Roger Chiassen: writer/storyboard director
  • Robert McNally Scull writer/storyboard artist
  • Pat Irwin

Music composer


On September 19, 1993, the series's first night of airing, it received a 3.0 in ratings. By January 31, 1994 the series's audience grew by 65%.[8]

Ted Drozdowski of The Boston Phoenix stated in the "Eye pleasers" article that he enjoyed Rocko's Modern Life because of "jovial excitement," "good-hearted outrage," "humanity," and "pushy animated characterizations."[25]

A music video, called "Well, I'm Just a Wallaby" by Lloyd Cole was made for Nickelodeon.


Timothy J. Borquez, Patrick Foley, Michael Giesler, Michael A. Gollorn, William B. Griggs, Tom Jeager, Gregory LaPlante, Timothy Mertens, and Kenneth Young of Rocko's Modern Life received a 1993 Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Editing."[26]

George Maestri was nominated for a CableACE Award for his Rocko's Modern Life writing.[27] [28]

The series won an award as part of the Environmental Media Awards in 1996.[29]


Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly described the series as "a witless rip-off of Ren & Stimpy: mucus jokes without the redeeming surrealism or contempt for authority." Tucker rated the series "D."[30]

Common Sense Media reviewer Andrea Graham, whose review is posted on, describes Rocko's Modern Life as "somewhat edgy" and gave the series four out of five stars. Graham tells parents to watch for "sexual innuendos." [31]

Other broadcasts

In 1994 the series aired on MTV.[30]

In Malaysia Rocko's Modern Life aired in MetroVision around 1996.[32] In the early 2000s Nickelodeon Japan marketed the show along with The Ren and Stimpy Show.[33] In Australia, it was shown on ABC Kids.[34]

DVD collection

Fans have requested that Nickelodeon produce a DVD collection of the series for years. In 2008 Nickelodeon partnered with to allow new and old programming to be made available on DVD through CreateSpace. As part of the deal is responsible for producing the discs (on one time burnable media) on-demand as well as cover and disc art.[35] Two DVDs were released on September 16, 2008.[36] [37]

Prior to the official DVD releases, Murray stated that he has not heard of any plans for a DVD release and that there are several illegal DVD releases of the series sold on eBay. He commented, "But at least someone is trying to give Rocko fans what they want. Because Nickelodeon sure isn't doing it." [38] Murray has been working with his legal team to regain the rights, so that an official DVD can be released.[39]

The official home video release of the series in the United States was in 1995, when selected episodes were released on VHS by Sony Wonder.[40] Paramount Home Entertainment later re-released the episodes in 1997 and 1998.[41] [42]

Select episodes from the first season of the show have been released on iTunes as part of the Nick Rewind releases. iTunes has a "Best of Vol. 1" collection of 6 Rocko episodes

DVD nameRelease dateDiscsEpisodesCover art
Best of...
Volume 1
September 16, 20082Disc-1

Episode 9a - Carnival Knowledge

Episode 9b - Sand In The Navel

Episode 8a - A Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic

Episode 8b - Canned

Episode 11a - Rocko's Happy Sack

Episode 11b - Flu-in-u-enza


Episode 12a - Who's For Dinner

Episode 12b - Love Spanked

Episode 13a - Clean Lovin

Episode 13b - Unbalanced Load

Episode 2a - Leap Frogs

Episode 2b - Bedfellows

Best of...
Volume 2
September 16, 20082Disc-1

Episode 1a - No Pain, No Gain

Episode 1b - Who Gives A Buck?

Episode 3a - Jet Stream

Episode 3b - Dirty Dog

Episode 4a - Keeping Up with the Bigheads

Episode 4b - Skid Marks


Episode 6a - The Good, The Bad, and the Wallaby

Episode 6b - Trash-O-Madness

Episode 5a - Power Trip

Episode 5b - To Heck and Back

Episode 7a - Spitballs

Episode 7b - Popcorn Pandemonium

Episode 10a - Cabin Fever

Episode 10b - Rinse And Spit

Bonus features a Rocko's Modern Life music video.

Together, these two DVD releases contain the complete first season.

Marvel Comics series

Episodes and comic book chapters

See main article: Rocko's Modern Life media and release information. During Tom DeFalco's Editor-in-Chief career, Marvel Comics produced a seven-issue comic book series based on the television series.[43] Marvel published the series from June 1994 to December 1994 with monthly releases.

Nickelodeon approached Marvel, asking the company to produce comic book series for Rocko's Modern Life and Ren and Stimpy. Marvel purchased the license for Rocko from Nickelodeon. The staff created the comics, and Susan Luposniak, a Nickelodeon employee[44], examined the comics before they were released. [45] Joe Murray said in a December 2, 2008 blog entry that he drew some of the pages in the comic book series.[46]

The comics contain stories not seen in the television show. In addition, the comic book series omits some television show characters and places, while some original places and characters appear in the comics. John "Lewie" Lewandowski wrote all of the stories except for one; Joey Cavalieri wrote "Beaten by a Club," the second story of Issue #4.

Troy Little, a resident of Monroe, Oregon, wrote to Marvel requesting that the title for the comic's letters column should be "That's Life." In Issue 3, published in August 1994, the editors decided to use the title for the comic's "Letters to the Editor" section.[44] [45] In Issue 5, published in October 1994, the editors stated that they still received suggestions for the title for the comic even though the editors had decided on using "That's Life" by Issue 3.[47]


By January 31, 1994 Nickelodeon received ten "licensing partners" for merchandise for the series.[8] Hardee's distributed Rocko toys.[48] Viacom New Media released one game based on the show, , in the United States for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In addition, Nickelodeon 3-D Movie Maker features various characters from the show. Rocko also appeared in the game . created two free online games featuring Rocko, using Shockwave Flash (which requires the Shockwave plugin).[49] [50]

Nickelodeon's website safety guide

In the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s[51] [52] Nickelodeon used Rocko's Modern Life characters in several short comics collected under the title "A Byte-Size Online Safety Guide" explaining netiquette, internet security, and internet safety to readers of

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. DIgg - Rocko's Modern Life Innuendo
  2. "Rocko's Modern Life," Joe Murray Studio
  3. "Rocko's Modern Life," Joe Murray Studio
  4. "Lisa (Kiczuk) Trainor interviews Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life," The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ
  5. "Independent Filmwork," Joe Murray Studio
  6. "A Bit of Trivia From Paul Sumares," The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ
  7. "June 16, 2008." Joe Murray Studio.
  8. Warner, Fara. "Nick Rock(o)s Liscencing Boat." Brandweek. Volume 35, Issue 5. January 31, 1994.
  9. "Animators Feel Free With `Rocko'." The Palm Beach Post
  10. "October 24, 2008." Joe Murray Studio. Accessed October 24, 2008.
  11. "Where Rocko the series was produced," Joe Murray Studio
  12. [Maureen Furniss|Furniss, Maureen]
  13. "How the Pilot was produced," Joe Murray Studio
  14. "Rocko's Modern Life Archives," Joe Murray Studio
  15. "Q & A with Joe Murray," Cartoon Network Pressroom
  16. Zimmerman, Kevin. "Not just for kids anymore." Daily Variety. March 23, 1995.
  17. "Lisa (Kiczuk) Trainor interviews George Maestri, story writer for Rocko's Modern Life," The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ
  18. "Lisa (Kiczuk) Trainor interviews Martin Olson, writer for Rocko's Modern Life," The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ
  19. "August 15, 2008 Excerpt from my new book “Crafting A Cartoon”; From a chapter on “Story”.." Joe Murray Studio. Accessed August 18, 2008.
  20. "Dan Abrams' interview with Jeff "Swampy" Marsh," The Rocko's Modern Life FAQ
  21. "Nickelodeon's `Rocko' Revels In Dysfunction." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  22. Prescott, Jean. "Rocko and the Gang Take On Pollution." The Sun Herald. Page M28. April 19, 1996.
  23. "Cartoon choices to animate the mornings." Houston Chronicle. September 18, 1993.
  24. [Maureen Furniss|Furniss, Maureen]
  25. "Eye pleasers," The Boston Phoenix. May 8-15, 1997. Retrieved on March 1, 2009.
  26. Chase's Annual Events (1995). Published 1994. ISBN 0809236346. 515.
  27. "George Maestri." Peachpit Press. Retrieved on March 1, 2009.
  28. [George Maestri|Maestri, George]
  29. "Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press.." Los Angeles Times. October 15, 1996. Accessed June 20, 2008.
  30. Tucker, Ken. "Turn the Beat 'Around." Entertainment Weekly. June 17, 1994. Issue 227. 40. 2p, 5c.
  31. "TV Review: Rocko's Modern Life," Common Sense Media on
  32. Proctor, Melanie. "TV bonanza for children." New Straits Times. May 29, 1996. Arts Section, Page 3.
  33. " Ren and Stimpy and Rocko's Modern Life" as of December 14, 2003. Nickelodeon Japan. Retrieved on March 1, 2009.
  34. "Rocko's Modern Life." ABC Kids. Accessed October 4, 2008.
  35. Web site: Amazon and Nickelodeon/Paramount Strike Deal for Burn-on-Demand Titles. 2008-08-24. Site News. 2008-08-21.
  36. "The Best of Rocko's Modern Life- Volume 1 (2 Disc Set)." Accessed September 18, 2008.
  37. "The Best of Rocko's Modern Life- Volume 2 (2 Disc Set)." Accessed September 18, 2008.
  38. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions," Joe Murray Studios (January 2008 archive)
  39. Web site: Joe Murray's Journal entry for July 17, 2008. Joe Murray Studios.
  40. "New video releases for children.(Originated from Knight-Ridder Newspapers)." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
  41. "Rocko's Modern Life: With Friends Like These (1993),"
  42. ""Rocko's Modern Life: Modern Love (1993)," Accessed June 20, 2008.
  43. "Rocko's Modern Life" Information, Google Books
  44. "That's Life," Rocko's Modern Life. Marvel Comics. Volume 1, Issue 3.
  45. "That's Life," Rocko's Modern Life. Marvel Comics. Volume 1, Issue 4.
  46. "December 2, 2008." Joe Murray Studio. Accessed on December 4, 2008.
  47. "That's Life," Rocko's Modern Life. Marvel Comics. Volume 1, Issue 5.
  48. "Nickelodeon at Hardees." Hosted by RetroJunk.
  49. Web site: Nick Games - Rocko's Modern Life: Match Master. 2008-11-02.
  50. Web site: Nick Games - Rocko's Modern Life: Slider. 2008-11-02.
  51. "Search Results for Jan 01, 1996 - Jul 19, 2007" for, Internet Archive
  52. "A Byte-Size Online Safety Guide" as of April 3, 2005, Nickelodeon