As with a lot of comedy, Rocko's Modern Life is filled with pop-culture references.  Chunks of movies, TV shows and even other cartoons show up.  As I started mentally cataloging such things, I started to notice preferences for some specific sources.  The fact that the writers chose these sources can perhaps give us a little insight into what goes on in their slightly warped brains.  Anyway, here are what I found to be the favorite sources of the RML team.


This doesn't come as much of a surprise.  Disney has been saturating the world with animation for almost seventy years.  Many people in the industry have either been influenced by or worked for Disney.  Some enjoyed it, others came to despise it, but everyone has a least seen it. Here are some  places it shows up in Rocko's Modern Life:
  • In Sugar Frosted Frights, Filburt's sugar-frenzy segment is based on the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment of Fantasia.
  • Ralph Bighead's ballet dancing deli meats in Wacky Delly come from the "Nutcracker Suite" portion of Fantasia.
  • Rocko's credit card nightmare in Who Gives a Buck is taken from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", also from Fantasia.
  • The "Hopping Hessian" segment in Sugar Frosted Frights is based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
  • We see a dead Mickey Mouse in Seymore's attic in Zanzibar (see the pic on the Did You Notice page).
  • The Bighead Studios tour guide (a rhinoceros) has Mickey's voice.


    Alfred Hitchcock:

    There's nothing like a little dark humor to keep a show from getting too light-hearted and sappy.  Horror-based humor gets us a little closer to reality.  It can also border on poor taste; but if it's funny who cares?  Anyway, here are some of the references to Hitchcock films to be found:
  • "Psycho" seems to be the favorite. we see a dead-mother-in-the-chair image in Rocko's garage in Keeping Up with the Bigheads, and in the Bigheads' basement in Ed is Dead, A Thriller.  Also, Road Rash features a stop at the  "Bait's Motel".
  • The opening scene in Bye, Bye Birdie, with the ominous gathering of blackbirds around Rocko's car refers to a similar one in "The Birds".
  • The plot of Ed is Dead, A Thriller is right out of "Rear Window".  The "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" intro by Heffer should have been a clue that something like that was coming.


    The Wizard of Oz:

    I am speaking here of the 1939 MGM movie version.  Anything that could be shown on American television for forty years can't help but become imbedded in our collective pop-culture subconscious.  It's hard to believe that anyone could have missed these; but I'll throw them out anyway:
  • The skywritten "Surrender Rocko" message in Junk Junkies corresponding to the "Surrender Dorothy" message from the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Various elements of Short Story, including the basic plot (getting knocked senseless and waking up in your own bed surrounded by friends after various adventures).
  • The scene in I Have No Son where Rocko and Filburt come to the gates of Bighead Studios is based on Dorothy's arrival at the Emerald City.
  • The way the house falls on the wicked witch in Yarn Benders, and the way her feet curl up and disappear.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:

    The influence of this British comedy team is not as easy to see as some of the examples above, but it is more pervasive; it is woven into the fabric of the show.  The whole timid-ordinary-guy-gets-into-an-embarrassing-situation concept behind a lot of Rocko stories is a very British one.  Monty Python, even at the peak of its popularity, was not universally popular.  It was more of a cult thing, but evidently most of the RML writers were into it.  Here are some examples:
  • The ending scene of Rinse and Spit has Filburt talking of how he would rather be a chimney sweep than a dentist, and then starting a musical number.  This is based on "The Lumberjack Song", originally used in Monty Python's TV episode 9, about a homicidal barber (based on "Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" - how's that for a reference within a reference) who never wanted to be a barber but dreamed of being a lumberjack.

  • The german-accented driving instructor cat scene in Skid Marks bears a striking resemblance to the "Hospital run by an RSM" sketch in Monty Python episode 26. In the Python sketch, a loud forceful "Sergeant Major" type doctor is seen dressing down a group of bandaged patients. At one point he says
  • "Now, I know some hospitals where you get the patients lying around in bed. Sleeping, resting recuperating, convalescing. WELL, THAT'S NOT THE WAY WE DO THINGS HERE, RIGHT!"
     The driving instructor has the corresponding line
    "Now, I know some traffic schools where the students are allowed to take their tests like intelligent human beings. WELL THAT'S NOT THE WAY WE DO THINGS HERE!".

  • Similarly, compare this line from Cruisin' where Heffer thinks his grandpa is dead to the famous "Dead Parrot Sketch" from Monty Python episode 8. In the Python episode, a dissatisfied pet shop customer (John Cleese) says
  • "...This is a late parrot.  It's a stiff.  Bereft of life, it rests in peace.  If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies.  It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.  This is an ex-parrot."
    Heffer's line is:
    "My grandpa's gone, taken by the angry sea.  He's howling with the angels now.  He's...he' ex-grandpa!".

  • Some little details show a Monty Python influence, like the newspaper story about Eric Halfabee which appears on the page with Rocko's "Employee of the Month" picture in Hair Licked.  This is a reference to the song "Eric the Half-a-bee" sung by John Cleese on (I believe) "Monty Python's Previous Record".

    A couple of episodes seem to have borrowed from The Crimson Permanent Assurance, a short supporting feature seen at the beginning of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.  The film opens in London in "the bleak days of 1983". The elderly accountants and secretaries of a long-established British insurance company, now run by The Very Big Corporation of America are slaving away at their desks, pulling the cranks of their outdated adding machines like the galley-slaves in the roman ship in Ben-Hur, while their ruthless American managers drive them on. Their initial resignation turns to anger, and finally to violent mutiny.  When one of the aging clerks is ruthlessly fired, the employees spontaneously revolt, killing their new managers in a violent struggle.  Cutlasses made from ceiling fan blades are passed out and memo spikes are turned into daggers as heroic music swells. The Crimson Permanent Assurance/Sailing the Seven Zzz's The film is gradually turning into a pirate movie. Now sporting bandanas and eye-patches, they climb to the roof, weigh the aging buildings anchor from the sidewalk below and slowly begin sailing down the street.  This image was no-doubt the inspiration for Bev Bighead's trip with the Conglomo building in She's the Toad.  Now loose on the corporate seas, they begin preying on other buildings, firing broadsides into their hapless victims using filing cabinets as cannon.
    The Crimson Permanent Assurance
    Sailng the Seven Zzz'sThe scene in Sailing the Seven Zzz's where Ed Bighead "sinks" Rocko's house with cannon-fire from his washing machine uses the same imagery. (Interesting note for fans of  the TV show Max Headroom: Matt Frewer plays the part of the last American executive to be killed.) If you can find The Meaning of Life anywhere, and you're not easily offended or squeamish (a scene which features doctors coming to a man's house to collect his liver after he's filled out an organ-donor card comes to mind), by all means rent it and watch it.
  • Finally, there appears to be some influence on the animation in general.  Monty Python included the Minnesota-born animator and director Terry Gilliam (whose credits include Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen, The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys).  Two similarities between RML and Gilliam's animation come to mind.  One is the use of gigantic hands that reach into the shot and move the characters around - this was used in the opening titles of both the Monty Python TV episodes and RML.  The other thing that both shows seem to share is the use of "eyeball tricks".  Everyone since Tex Avery (and even before) has been using eyes-jumping-out-of-the-head tricks.  What Gilliam and RML both did that I can't remember seeing anywhere else, was the use of the "eyes-retreating-into-their-sockets trick", as in when Dr. MacFropter tell Rocko he needs an eye transplant in Eyes Capades.  Terry Gilliam also coincidentally created a cartoon wallaby named Walter.  "The Adventures of Walter the Wallabee" appeared as a one page strip-cartoon in The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok.  Walter also has two friends, (not steer and a turtle though) they are Roger the Rabbit and Isembard the Iguana.  Click HERE  to see Walter the Wallabee (A whole page - about a 300k gif.)

  • The Rocko Zone:      Last updated 12/3/97