Skip to main content

How The Rocko's Modern Life Revival Happened

rocko's modern life static cling

When the TV gods are smiling, viewers usually win out, and that's definitely the case with the impending comeback of the classic Nicktoon Rocko's Modern Life. Bringing the beloved wallaby and his friends into the 21st century, Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling is one big way Nickelodeon is honoring the older animated series that turned the channel into a juggernaut. Creator Joe Murray, writer/star Mr. Lawrence, star Tom Kenny and more were gloriously on hand for this year's Comic-Con, where everyone shared how the highly anticipated project came together. Here's how Murray put it during the panel.

I actually had to pick myself up off the floor when I got a call from them saying they wanted to bring it back. I actually didn't know whether we wanted to mess with it or not, and we were just hoping it would be good to do. I was really happy with the 52 episodes we did. And I had to think about it. I called Doug [Lawrence], and I called Martin Olsen, and we started riffing on stuff. It turned out to be a good move, and I'm glad I did it.

Joe Murray was definitely being cheeky there with that last sentiment, but the cheering crowd probably proved that he should absolutely be glad that decision was made. While the entire lineup of Nicktoons definitely deserves a comeback in some form or fashion, Rocko's Modern Life is the kind of project that CAN make a bizarre return after 20 years without having to worry about the characters' ages (like Rugrats) or having to necessarily wrap up important narrative points (like the Hey Arnold movie). Rocko, Heffer and Filburt -- not to mention the plethora of fantastic side-characters -- can inexplicably reappear in 2017/2018 for more satirical and slightly curmudgeonly antics, and it immediately works.

Mr. Lawrence, who voices Filburt and others, talked more during the panel about what the mindset was as Joe Murray gathered the creative team together to discuss the potential future for Rocko's Modern Life. And it sounds like a total blast.

When Joe called me, he didn't tell me what it was about. He just said, 'Do you wanna have lunch?' And so when I came over there and started talking about it, I think his main thing was, 'Should we do this? Is there a point to this, to do this again? Let's not do it just because we were asked. Let's do it because there's a purpose to it.' You know, that we wanted to see it come back. As soon as we started taking anything that was of today that wasn't around in the '90s and put it next to those characters, it wrote itself. We were coming up with so many funny things just at that lunch. It lent itself to everything.

The first footage from Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling was revealed during the Comic-Con panel, and was subsequently released online, showing fans just how hardcore the upcoming special dove into modern society. Particularly when it comes to consumables like coffee and food truck fare. It must have been a blast, and also mildly overwhelming, for everyone to realize just how different life is now.

I had the absolute pleasure of talking to both Mr. Lawrence and voice actor extraordinaire Tom "Heffer and also SpongeBob" Kenny ahead of the panel, and Lawrence revealed to me the very first gag they came up with for Rocko's return. (Even though it won't actually get seen by anyone.)

I called Joe two days [after the initial lunch], and I said, 'I got the joke for us to do with Rocko.' It was the first gag we wrote down. It's not in the [TV movie] at all. It was something that we were thinking about, it was just [Rocko] dealing with a cell phone and him trying to get it to work properly, to do what he wanted it to do. And the Hippo Lady was going to keep popping up on his phone, and eventually smack him through the phone. Like her hand was going to come out of the phone and pelt him. And so the end of the whole thing was Rocko going out into the back yard to bury the phone. And there's still the light, you can see it coming out of the dirt, and Spunky going around and barking at it. And it was just about him saying, 'I'm done with it.'

That sounds so brilliantly in tune with Rocko's Modern Life, and we did see an extension of that concept in the footage, with both Heffer and Filburt going crazy over getting the new O-Phones. Of course, Heffer goes crazy over everything, but Filburt's excitement was fun to watch.

If this early clip and creation stories are any indication, Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling will be exactly what fans have been hoping for during the past two decades. And we'll all get to see it in its full glory when it premieres on Nickelodeon at some point in 2018. (Damned animation.) In the meantime, head to our summer TV premiere schedule to see what'll get here a lot sooner. And you can watch that previously mentioned footage on the next page.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.