Wednesday, May 20, 2009

REVIEW: The Best of Rocko's Modern Life, Vols. 1 & 2

All images are NOT from the DVD, but rather from iTunes. You'll find out why in a sec.

Rocko's Modern Life is an animated series that ran on Nickelodeon from 1993 to 1996 for a total of 52 episodes. It was created by cartoonist Joe Murray and it was produced through Games Animation.

It was Nick's fourth attempt at original cartoons (after Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy) and the show began production around the time the latter show got taken away from the creator and continued under the Games studio. Rocko is often compared to Ren & Stimpy, in that the show had a "wacky", cartoony animation style. However, that's where the similarity ends. For one, Rocko was more grounded into its setting, in contrast to the "anything can happen" style in Ren & Stimpy.

Even with the Ren & Stimpy comparison, Rocko is a brilliant TV cartoon. In fact, I'd say Rocko was better than that insane chihuahua and dumb cat (not that they were awful or anythin'. heh heh). The characters are interesting enough to drive a whole story through, even making episodes about a mudane task like Rocko going shopping entertaining. The show was well-written and directed, due to contributions from writer/artists such as Stephen Hillenburg (SpongeBob), Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Phineas and Ferb), Mark O'Hare (Citizen Dog), and others.

Rocko had few VHS tapes released in the ninties, but a show was never given a DVD treatment, until last year...sorta.

About a year ago, Nickelodeon made a deal with to release their older shows through their DVD-on-demand service. Basically they make a new DVD to every order they recieve, which is then shipped.

Through this, the entire first season of Rocko was released, but (for some reason) under the umbrella The Best of Rocko's Modern Life.

So yeah, don't expect anything fancy from this. Just a basic menu with no extras what-so-ever.

These are DVD-R, meaning that it won't work on all players. Unfortunately, one of them happens to be the computer I'm typing this from (I have no idea why, since I managed to play other DVD-Rs with no issues). The only players that I could actually play these were from my friend's laptop and through the regular DVD player on my TV. As a result, I'll be basing this from what I saw on my TV.

The picture quality looks good. Keep in mind that the show was made 15 years ago and was painted on cels and filmed, so don't expect razer-sharp image quality.

The opening sequence only shows up in the very beginning. The closing credits are there in appropriate episodes, but then it just cuts to the next cartoon after that.

"Leap Frogs", the show's banned episode, is included, which I guess is a plus.

Not everything's uncut, however. "The Good, the Bad, and the Wallaby" had a scene where a milking machine is attached to Heffer, essentially going through (implied) orgasm over it. It was removed from reruns and unfortunately is removed in the DVD as well. Strangely, however, this scene was intact in the "With Friends Like These" VHS tape that came out years ago.

And it's VERY expensive. Each volume costs about $25. Which is pretty high for a six-episode set with zero extras.

So do I recommend it? Well, it depends. If you're desperate for Rocko on DVD, this is pretty much the only legit one so far. Hopefully they sell well enough for Viacom to consider an actual retail release of the entire run. One can dream. At best, try to find a cheaper copy.


Rick Roberts said...

"Unlike R&S, Rocko was driven by characters rather than gags"

Ren and Stimpy WAS driven by character. Look at Stimpy's Fan Club about Ren's self loathing and Stimpy conforting him like a father figure. Man's Best Friend was about a larger then life man who is bordering on the line of crazy and abuse but sympathetic because he never layed a finger on Ren of Stimpy. There is alot of examples Ren and Stimpy was certaintly not driven just by gags, more like the gags were the result of character situations.

Rick Roberts said...

"And it's VERY expensive. Each volume costs about $25. Which is pretty high for a six-episode set that has no extras what-so-ever."

What ? Fuck that shit. I downloaded the entire series with damn near perfect quality picture.

Brubaker said...

Perhaps I should rewrite that statement.

I meant that Rocko tended to be more grounded, while anything went on in Ren & Stimpy (they could be in outer space in one episode, a movie studio in another, etc.)

That said, the dynamics in "Stimpy's Fan Club" was very well done.

Rick Roberts said...

That's what about enjoyed in R&S, the fact that it's settings were not limited. As a result you can get something like Space Madness and again, Stimpy's Fan Club breaking the fourth wall enough to provide for a surprisingly deep episode.

I still enjoy Rocko alot, it was also a very character driven cartoony show with a unique style. Though I wish they were more liberal with the animation. Remember those crude yet rubbery bits of Trash-O-Madness ? I wish the show looked like during it's whole run, The animation was never as good as that.

Brubaker said...

It's something Joe wrote about himself. Due to the nature of outsourcing animation to another country, you can't really go beyond what's written in the x-sheets and storyboards. So story, characters, and designs are more important than ever.

Rick Roberts said...

I am not talking about going beyound. I am talking about staying loyal to what was on those storyboards. The reason why the animation is ren and stimpy was so terrific was because Spumco left alot of notes with the storyboards about how not water down the final product.