Josh’s Take – Deep Dive: 90s Cartoons

As Renata mentioned in her *ahem* extremely thorough ode to a (questionably) sentient sea sponge, our topic this week is a discussion of 90s cartoons, specifically from Nickelodeon. And, of course, you can’t talk about 90s Nicktoons without bringing up Mark Mothersbaugh. 

And, yes, I am well aware that most of you are scratching your heads wondering who in the hell Mark Mothersbaugh is, and those of you that happen to be as ancient as I am are equally confused and saying, “wait, you mean the guy from Devo that sang Whip It?” And, to you I say… come on! Devo had so many better songs than that! What about Girl U Want, huh? Or Freedom of Choice? Or freakin’ GATES OF STEEL!!?? Gates of Steel is goddamn masterpiece!!! And– sorry… I just get very passionate about Devo.

Anyway, aside from the plethora of new-wave, synth-pop hits Mothersbaugh gave us through Devo, even more overlooked is his truly genius work as a composer. Seriously, think for just a second about the show Rugrats. That theme song just popped into your head, didn’t it? That wonderful mix of simplistic sounds expertly blended together to evoke memories of the joyous and explorative wonders of childhood. That theme, which so effortlessly converts sound waves into pure emotion, Mark Mothersbaugh gave us that. 

And he didn’t just do a “one and done” job. Mothersbaugh served as the main composer (sometimes joined by other industry veterans, including his fellow Devo alum and brother, Bob Mothersbaugh) for the entire series. Out of the whopping 172 episode run. And he didn’t stop there either. The Rugrats movie? The follow-up series, All Grown Up? The upcoming Rugrats reboot!? Check, check, and mother-lovin’ check (Renata won’t actually let me use my typical level of profanity on this blog)! He did them all!

Rugrats wasn’t Mothersbaugh’s only project with Nickelodeon, though. He also worked on the less popular cult-favorite, Rocket Power, mixing relaxing island themes with the essence of music from the California skate and surfer scene. Beyond that, he’s also worked on such hit shows as Regular Show, PeeWee’s Playhouse, and Tiger King (among many others). He composed the music for all three main series Crash Bandicoot games as well as the studio’s follow-up Jak series. On top of all that, he’s even scored some major motion pictures, including The Lego Movie and it’s sequel/spinoffs, Thor: Ragnarok (wherein he got to lean heavily into his 80s synth roots), the Hotel Transylvania series, and both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films (which are some of Renata’s personal favorites).

And there you have it. Mark Mothersbaugh, often dismissed as just another 80s “one hit wonder” was secretly composing the soundtrack to our childhoods all along, and he now continues to do the same for our children. So kick back, pop on a Devo album (I personally recommend Freedom of Choice, but Devo’s Greatest Hits works just as well) and thank the man who helped teach us to never let go of our inner child.

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