What Were We Doing in the 90’s?

Rocko's Modern Life Pilot

May 5, 2021: My daughter texted me late last night and said “Did you know you are in a documentary that’s on Hulu?” I said “No, I don’t know anything about it”. “It’s about Nickelodeon in the 90’s” She wrote. “Oh” I responded. “I’m not watching it” and I went to bed.

It’s interesting the emotions the 90’s with Nick bring up. We really felt like we were on a crusade. I can understand why they wanted to work with me at first. I was very vocal about not wanting to be anything like TV cartoons that were on the air at the time. They sucked. I even remember when they tried to put new music on my pilot, I complained and threatened to walk because the new score sounded like saturday morning cartoons. But when Nick kept saying they don’t want anything that seems like what’s on TV at the time, I was willing to give it a try. We worked hard to break molds, and do things differently. At first they tried to put a producer on Rocko that had done TV cartoons before, and kept trying to tell me “this is the way we always do it” I would reply” That’s exactly why we shouldn’t do it that way”. But more and more, corporate Nickelodeon Viacom crept in. Linda Simensky left. And then Disney saw Nick taking away their “eyeballs” and dealt with it ( in the way they always do) by spotting the secret to Nick’s success. They found it in Gerry Laybourne (and I think they were right) and promised her the moon. They hired her away from Nick and then locked her in a closet ( metaphorically). And yes, I feel Nick did start going down hill. And it’s common knowledge that Nick execs came close to passing on Spongebob because they thought it was too much like Rocko.

So, I kept trying to push things with TV, but I don’t feel I was too successful. Maybe a little. But it’s interesting how, twenty plus years later, history is being viewed as,,, well,, something worthy of a documentary I guess.

I’m still not watching it.

3 Responses

  1. Dear Joe Murray

    I just wanted to say thank you for sticking to your guns and making Rocko’s modern life in your vision. I was a kid in the 90’s and Rocko was my favorite shows on Nickelodeon. I grew up in San Jose, I already had a dog named spunky. I even went the same middle school you went to Castillero, I was in the art club and I remember you coming to the school and drawing Rocko and Heffer. The show was a big part of where I got my senses of humor and knowing that you came from the same town and school I did really inspired me pursue art. It would be a dream to work with you some day. Thanks for everything.

  2. Hey Wayne, thanks for the note. I actually went to Bret Harte as a middle school, but I had a lot of friends who went to Castillero!
    But I remember coming to Castillero for talks and such.

    Wishing you lots of inspiration with your life in art. Best to you! Joe

  3. Hi Joe,
    I have explored your website and work, love it and inspired about the artwork and stuff and seen many of your work most inspiring and remarkable from short films, to the 90s era and to the point of books.
    Speaking of books, I have seen and heard your book “Who Asked the Moon to Dinner?” and thought that it was most common to Luna and Isaac. And that came to question, do you still have plans for Isaac, your character in the previous blog?

    Thanks for reading.

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