Rocko's Modern Life is back. Sort of. The Netflix special, Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling is now available to stream, marking the franchise's first return since it went off the air in 1996. Those intervening 23 years have been busy ones for Nickelodeon, which ordered a number of specials based on older properties such as Hey Arnold! and Invader Zim in addition to Rocko's Modern Life. But does this mean the company is ready to bring more Rocko to the screen? How did the whole process of making the special happen? Was there anything left on the cutting room floor?
To answer these questions and more, ComicBook.com spoke with Rocko's Modern Life creator Joe Murray via email. In addition to the above queries, Murray also discussed the prominent inclusions of Rachel Bighead, the daughter of Rocko's neighbors, the Bigheads, as well as explained the special's name. You can check out our Q&A below!
ComicBook.com: Rocko’s Modern Life officially went off the air in 1996, making this special over 20 years after the fact. What’s it been like to return to Rocko after all this time? Were there any particular difficulties in getting back into that groove, so to speak?
Joe Murray: Writing for the show felt pretty natural even after all of this time. We did have to ramp up a crew to get used to the way the show was drawn, background, designs etc. Since I insisted on being as close to possible to the original show as possible, a lot of study took place with the old episodes, and bringing original art out of the archives to get everyone up to speed.
You briefly mentioned in one of your blogs about how your move to Belgium also might coincide with your retirement of sorts, with Let’s Go Luna being “a good show to go out on.” Is this your last swing at Rocko, do you think? Or is there something more there if you get the call that there’s interest in returning to that well?
Usually when I flirt with retirement, it means that I got frustrated with something within the industry where I said “I’m too old and experienced to have to deal with this crap”. But then something excites me again and I get lured back into the fray. I would definitely talk about it if more Rockos were on the table, but I highly doubt it.
The special is largely about the ways in which the world has changed since Rocko and his pals left -- mirroring, of course, the show also leaving. What made you and the team decide to go in this direction? Was there ever a point where y’all said, “Well, it needs an update if it’s supposed to be modern”?
When I was deciding whether to do the special or not, my wife Aleide said “There must be a lot of new things you could make fun of”. Then I spoke with Doug Lawrence and Martin Olson who came on later as writers and we riffed about a few ideas. I decided to do a story mirroring what was actually going on. A network bringing back a show after 20 years due to fan demand. In this case, the Fatheads. And the story snowballed after that. The trio coming back to O’town after 20 years and Rocko finding out that his favorites [sic] cartoon was gone. That’s the show I pitched. Doug and Martin helped me flesh it out, and then later Cosmo Segurson, Tom Smith and Dan Becker did some additional writing during the storyboard stage. It all worked together very well.
One particularly huge change in this special is the introduction of Rachel, the daughter of the Bigheads. What sort of process led to you folks featuring a gender transition as one of the most pivotal aspects of the special -- especially with a character you voice -- and was there any pushback on the idea?
Doug, Martin and I were discussing Rachel’s character and how it felt natural that this change would occur during the time away from the show. We also wanted to include the more positive representation this community has in this modern era as an aspect of change. The story was pitched to the then president of Nickelodeon and she signed off on it if we worked closely with GLAAD to do it right, which I was happy to do. Chris Viscardi was the executive for Nick that we working with and he gave his full support to this addition to the story.
Do you feel that the special conveys a specific message? There’s a whole lot of nostalgia inherently baked into it, but it also seems to suggest that maybe that’s not a good thing overall.
It’s an odd thing I feel, holding on to the past. But I love a lot of old things. I collect old toys, love old cars etc. So, I’m not saying it’s bad. But embracing the present is also important. Rocko went a little overboard thinking that his life came to a complete halt without his old cartoon, but that happens sometimes. And bringing things back can mean monetary gain (as in all of the new Rocko merchandise out there). But I think Ed Bighead sums it up pretty well at the end when he says, "You can’t live in the past Rocko. You can be grateful for it, but if you don’t embrace the present, you miss out on a lot of important stuff." I like the saying that says, "If you have one leg in yesterday and the other in tomorrow, then you're pissing on today."
Why Static Cling? I feel like I must be missing something here, but I still don’t exactly understand the special’s name.
I know. I’m sure a lot of people thought it was going to be about laundry. But my thinking is that when something is [s]tatic, it doesn’t go anywhere. And also, old TV has a lot of static. That TV itself is arranged static. So, clinging to that was what Rocko was doing. It seems like a ways to go but that was my thinking behind it.
There’s a whole slew of callbacks, sight gags, and references snuck into the special, so many that a few of them are "blink and you’ll miss it" cameos, but is there anything at all you wish could have been featured in the final product that didn’t quite make the cut?
We had a whole scene of Rocko, Filburt, and Heffer visiting Chokey Chicken, but it turned into a total health place with spinning classes. After all that was cut, the only thing left was a brief look at the modern Chokey Chicken with a new skinny chicken rather than fat obese one they had back in the '90s.
Last but not least, but, uh, what were Rocko, Filburt, and Heffer eating all that time in space?
Stuff on a Stick.
Here's how Netflix describes the special:0comments
"After being in space for around 20 years, Rocko and his friends attempt to conform to an even more modern life in O-Town, where coffee shops are on every corner, food trucks offer multi-layered tacos, touch-screen O-Phones are being upgraded on a near-constant basis, an instant-print kiosk has replaced Rocko's old job at Kind-of-a-Lot-O-Comics, and radioactive energy drinks turn their consumers into mutants."
Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling is now available to stream on Netflix. The special features the voices of returning cast members Carlos Alazraqui as Rocko, Tom Kenny as Heffer, Mr. Lawrence as Filburt, Charlie Adler as Mr. Bighead, and more. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the special right here.
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