So I was looking for funding to finish one of my films called "My Dog Zero", and I sent a copy of the pencil test to Nick to see if they would pre-buy the TV rights so I could finish it. Linda Simensky (in charge of animation development) called one day, and asked if I would be interested in turning it into a series. She told me about this Nicktoons thing they were doing (they had yet to come out). I was sceptical. I had seen TV cartoon shows, and I really wanted nothing to do with them. She told me that these were going to be different. I told her I didn't think "Zero" would work as a series anyway, but I would think about something else. I went to the library and researched Nickelodeon, and found that there attitude was different than regular TV. So I went through my sketchbooks, and developed a show that I would like to see, and most importantly I would like to do. It was very odd, and nothing like the normal stuff, and I didn't give it much of a chance. About 3 or 4 months had gone by, without ever a peep that they had even seen it, and I had forgotten about it because I was in production on my film, and suddenly Linda called and said they wanted to do a pilot. I was shocked. They were going to give me money to make this really odd show? Well, I still had little thought of it going to series, but I thought it was great that my next short film was going to be paid for. I figured the pilot was as far as this little bizarre thing was going to go. Just wait till they show this weirdness to the Executives!! I originally wrote "Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic" as the pilot, which they liked, but thought that green haired cow was a little too wierd for test audiances. I said I would rather write a new episode than do Sucker without Heffer. So I wrote "Trash-O-Madness". It was all animated by my crew in San Francisco, and I was proud to have it on my reel. When they said it was going to series, my eyeballs dropped to the floor. We later expanded the pilot to 11 minutes for the series, and if you look, you can see how Rocko changed from a small studio one film character, to a series character that needed to be drawn by 70 people in the US and over 200 in Korea.
I have never talked publicly about this, but I had a horrible tragedy happen to me two months before I started production on Rocko. There were many unresolved issues when I moved to LA to work on the show, both emotionally and physically. I felt like I left to run a marathon with my pants around my ankles. I figured I would work on a season of Rocko (because I really didn't believe it would go on longer) and then move back to the bay area and clean up the loose ends I had left hanging. Well, the show got picked up for another season,, and then another. I was preaching the hand-crafted approach to series television, which takes a lot of work, and I just got to a point where the other part of my life couldn't wait any longer. The producer gets no hiatus (break) and the job is often a 7 day a week commitment. It was a very difficult decision to make, but I didn't think I was serving the show very well. We had an incredible staff that was able to keep the show going, so I told the network that 3rd season would be my last. I encouraged them to keep the show going. They asked if I would executive produce on the 4th season, which would mean overseeing writing, approving storyboards, and still be overall responsible for delivering the show on-time and on budget. I gave the creative directing and producing responsiblities to Steve Hillenburg and Ken Kessell, who did an incredible job, and I was able to work a little less, and the 4th season was great!! Although I was going to step away completely after 4th season, I encouraged the network to keep the show going...It was on a great roll.. but they thought 52 episodes were enough, and put an end to production.
A good thing is I feel all 52 episodes are top notch, and I am proud of all of them. There is always a risk of turning out mediocre product after a while when you are dealing with volume. But our team was intact until the end, and kept up the quality! Another good thing is Steve Hillenburg is working on a pilot for a possible new series with Nick, and if it goes it will be a blessing to us all! He's the best!!
I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do the show, feel sad if my personal experience helped put an end to Rocko, but I really had no choice. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't walk away from a commitment, but I had a commitment to myself. Yes, there were times Nickelodeon made it more difficult than it needed to be, but there were also times they made it easier.
Plus there is always the world's largest still-life that is waiting to be carved.
The scene in snowballs where Rocko Springs off his ski's and flies into the air actually happened to me on those ski's. And when I grew tall, my center of gravity kept shifting, and my head grew farther from the ground. After a ten year sabitical, I recently tried it again and... well... kind of liked it. But most of the episode "Snowballs" comes from the deranged and brilliant minds of Steve Hillenburg and Mark O'Hare!!
I do have two somewhat major projects going on now that I'm really excited about, (and I get superstitious talking details and the relationships involved until I get closer to the finish line) But my focus right now is research, education, development and of course my new baby!
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