We recently had the chance to catch up with Joe Murray, the brilliant creator and producer of animated shows such as Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life and Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo and the author of the fantastic primer Creating Animated Cartoons with Character (Watston-Guptill, $24.95). Describe for us what it was like to be part of the creative animation scenes in the early 90s. I think what set the decade apart was the fact that the climate was ripe for people taking chances and doing different things. I actually love the first season because it was so different—we were really attaching ourselves to that whole ‘Modern Life’ hook. Nine years after Rocko, you launched another popular animated show Camp Lazlo (2005-2008) on Cartoon Network. You have also been busy dabbling in alternative ways of putting animated content out there. We always ask our role models in the toon biz to share some of their tried-and-true advice with our readers. What I always tell students and people who are fresh out of school is to create something that mashes with the world of commerce. Rocko is an anthropomorphic wallaby and the eponymous titular character of the 1993-1996 animated television series Rocko's Modern Life (as well as its comic book series).
He is usually seen with his two friends, the overweight and simple steer Heffer Wolfe and the neurotic turtle Filburt-a friendship that gets him entangled into strange escapades such as when a vengeful ghost attempted to exact revenge on Heiffer for the idiocy of his ancestor. Although personally hygienic, Rocko has an almost pathological tendency to neglect his living space. For the majority of the series, Rocko works a daily job at a comic book store called Kind-O-Lot Comics, run by his grouchy employer Mr.
It was [veteran animation and children’s TV development exec] Linda Simensky who talked me into it. Things like Rocko goes to the beach, to the grocery store or the DMV and Spunky falls over the mop…they were pure modern life satires and we had a lot of fun doing them.
Immediately after I launched the blog, questions started to come in about aspring animators wanting to know how to do various aspects of the business, so I tried to answer them all.
A lot of creative types have ideas that networks would run away from—It doesn’t mean it’s not good, it’s just that people with money may not be interested in those ideas.


His creator Joe Murray has suggested that Rocko's interest in the United States began with a vacation with his family as a youth; during the trip he met his future sidekick Filburt.
He's also had a few love interests across the series, such as pink rollerskating fox Sheila and kangaroo mail-lady Alice, in addition to his long crush on the unseen Melba Toast (until he learned of her established relationship).
Rocko enjoys collecting comic books and likes rainbows (although this briefly earned him the scorn of his neighbors and associates). Factory recently released the first volume of the show on DVD, featuring thirteen 22-minute episodes. We were coming out of a rough period in animation and really wanted to shake things up a little bit. For a show to stand the test of time, you need to have a large group of people who watch it when they are young. On Lazlo, it was a completely different experience, because we had an amazing crew and we knew already how to produce a strong storyboard-driven show.
That’s when I realized that I should give people some insight about the basics of structure and how an animated show is actually put together.
You try and pursue these alternative ways of producing animation because you can avoid the hurdles you run into on traditional media.
There’s an audience out there for those ideas on the Internet—this is where those hard-to-sell ideas can find their audience. He gets along fairly well with his neighbors the Bigheads (although Ed Bighead has much contempt for Rocko, contrasted with his wife Bev who thinks otherwise).
However, he has been shown under other jobs, such as briefly becoming what is implied to be a phone sex operator (one of the many adult jokes inserted in the series). Rocko was a character from an old comic-strip which was kind of like an everyman in the eye of the hurricane.  I remember visiting the zoo in the Bay Area and coming across this wallaby that seemed to oblivious of the chaos around him…and I guess that’s how the idea was born. There were big successes—like that yellow sponge that popped up in a big way—and with that success came another era where people aren’t apt to take as many chances because the stakes are too high. This group will also watch it as they grow older and they connect with it in a different way.
At this point in my career, I am enjoying all these projects, teaching classes and finding ways to do something that will further the next of cartoon creators.


But then the networks built their own production models and imported the talent—people like Peter Hannan and Gary Baseman. On the movie front, I really enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me last year .
He was also briefly an animator who contributed to Ralph Bighead's attempted-failure animation Wacky Deli which became a smash success. I was always attracted to Jay Ward’s material because he was able to build in different levels in his shows.
Director Tim Bjorkland and I were reminiscing about the show the other day and we just remember having a lot of fun.
It seems that a lot of animation schools focus on the technical aspects of animation, but they don’t spend time on character and story development, so that’s where I hope my book will be useful. I see a lot of incredible talent out there and there’s still a lot of life left in TV, but we are beginning to see that shift happening.
Today, there are a lot more opportunities to break into those studio models, but you have to work within the system. I wanted to do a show that parents watched with their kids and enjoyed on different levels. I have a feeling that it was more fun for the crew, because I had to create an environment that would shield them from all the bureaucracy!
It looks we’re finally coming out of that era where everyone thought that if it’s CG, it’s going to sell.
I think people are finally realizing that you can attach a bad idea to CG and expect it to do well.
I didn’t think I was going to like it, because I’m more of a 2D purist, but I loved being in the middle of that story.



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