Thesis Paper

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 Self-Reflexivity in the "Wacky Delly" Episode of Rocko's Modern Life


This thesis uses Frank Burke's postmodern analysis of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 as a theoretical
framework to deconstruct the self-reflexivity in the "Wacky Delly" episode of Rocko's Modern
Life. Through this analysis within the context of the show's creator, Joe Murray, "Wacky Delly"
eludes to tragic events which haunted Murray's work and contributed to his eventual diluted
involvement with the show. Studying this deeper level of self-reflexivity, I have set out in my
film, Heard, to reflect my own thoughts creative process and share the experience of creation
with my audience.


Just as 8 1/2  mirrored the experiences and convictions of Federico Fellini, the "Wacky Delly" episode of Rocko's Modern Life uses self-reflection to comment on the process of animation and express a deeper sentiment of the show's creator, Joe Murray.


In my thesis film, Heard I explore self-reflection in animation to give voice to my thoughts and commentary as an artist. This approach mirrors the same self-reflective nature of the animated show Rocko's Modern Life, specifically in the vein of the two part episode "Wacky Delly". This particular episode presents an entire narrative built on self-reflection which comments on everything from the medium of animation to the industry which commercializes it. Self-reflection has long been used this way in filmmaking with particular emphasis to Federico Fellini's 8 1/2.  Just as 8 1/2  mirrored the experiences and convictions of Federico Fellini, the "Wacky Delly" episode of Rocko's Modern Life uses self-reflection to comment on the process of animation and express deeper sentiment of the show's creator, Joe Murray. These deeper sentiments not only provide commentary on Murray's experiences with Rocko's Modern Life but also elude to tragic events which haunted his work and contributed to his eventual diluted involvement with the show. Heard takes cues from the self-reflective approach of Fellini and Murray, depicting the shared struggle of growing artists as well as my own commentary on animation.  My film explores how the animation process unfolds as an artist journeys through creative development where drive, resolve, and experience help him on a mission to find his own voice. Using self-reflection similar to Federico Fellini allowed Joe Murray to express his private struggles as a commercial artist and has inspired me to depict my own journey through artistic growth.


I. Introduction
A. Self-expressive becomes self-reflective in art built on process
                1. Self-Reflection in Art
                                i. Norman Rockwell's "Triple Self-Portrait"
                                ii. Define "Self-Reflection"
2. Environments and Experiences
                i. Art Reflects the Artist
                ii. The Artist is a Series of Environments and Experiences
                iii. The Artist Lives Their Art Process
                3. Animation Process
                                i. This is Especially True of Animation and Filmmaking
                                ii. The Animation Process as an Extensive Collaboration/Lifestyle
                4. My Thesis Film, Heard
                                i. My Thesis Film Illustrates the Animation Process
                                ii. This Reflection is an Allegorical Narrative Tool
B. Finding meaning from "Wacky Delly" next to Federico Fellini's 8 1/2
                1. "Wacky Delly" and 8 1/2 reflecting the process
                                i. "Wacky Delly" gives the Animation Process Step-By-Step
                                ii. 8 1/2 Demonstrates More Internal Struggle
                2. "Wacky Delly" and 8 1/2 reflecting the artist
                                i. Doppelgangers
                                ii. Personal Allegories
3. 8 1/2 through Frank Burke sets up “Wacky Delly” through Frank Burke
                i. 8 1/2's Pedigree
                ii. Using well-known Self-Reflection to Approach "Wacky Delly"
II. 8 1/2 Sets an Analytical Framework
A. Federico Fellini's thoughts on 8 1/2 as an autobiographical opus
                1. Interviews with Fellini
                2. Fellini's thoughts on others critiques of 8 1/2
B. Frank Burke's Postmodern critique and multiple meanings found in 8 1/2
                1. Frank Burke's analytical work
                                i. His Dissertation on Fellini
                                ii. His Three Books on Fellini
                                iii. Numerous Contributions to Other Works on Fellini
                3. "Fellini's Films"
                                i. Dissection of Fellini's Films
                                ii. Knowing Fellini Through his Films
                                iii. The Postmodern Approach
C. Defining Postmodern and Deconstruction theory as an analytical approach
                1. Postmodernism
                                i. Used to dissect everything from painting to Religion
                                ii. Several Schools of Thought
                2. Jean-Fracois Lyotard
                                i. The multiplicity of communities of meaning
                                ii. Multiple Meanings Within Different Structures
                3. Postmodern Deconstructivism
                                i. Analyzing within the context of each community of meaning
III. Rocko’s Modern Life and “Wacky Delly”
A. Why further analyze "Wacky Delly"?
                1. Shallow self-reflection of Mid 80s Early 90s Television Animation
                                i. "Shallow" self-reflection
                                ii. Roger Rabbit
                                iii. Warner Bros.
                2. Multiple layers of self-reflection
                                i. "Shallow" self-reflection in RML
                                ii. Delving Deeper
                3. Deeper meaning for Joe Murray juxtaposed in a light-hearted cartoon
                                i. Joe Murray Reflected Previously
                                ii. Significance of Wacky Delly
B. Joe Murray's back-story
                1. Joe Murray's beginnings in Animation
                                i. Editorial Comics
                                ii. Aspiring Animator
                                iii. Shorts
                2. Pitching into Production: Rocko's Modern Life
                                i. Nickelodeon
                                ii. Funding his Short
                                iii. Ramping up RML Production
                3. Murray's wife's suicide
                                i. Murray's wife's suicide
                                ii. The Aftermath
                                iii. Building Production / Building Depression
                                iv. Season 3
C. First Half Episode Breakdown
                        1. Joe Murray is Ralph Bighead
                                                i. Ralph Bighead's First Appearance
                                                ii. Fact from Fabrication
2. The disappointment of wanting to escape success for some deeper driving reason
                i. First Layer
                ii. Second Layer
            3. General ribbing at the animation process through Rocko’s perspective
                i. First Layer
                ii. Second Layer
4. The low-brow poorly animated piece is praised the same as his own creation
                i. First Layer
                ii. Second Layer
5. Intermission/set-up to Part II
                i. Reflecting Murray's Story
D. Second Half Episode Breakdown
                1. A critique of industry practice and audience taste
                i. First Layer
                ii. Second Layer
                2. Continued praise for sub-par animation
                i. First Layer
                ii. Second Layer
                3. Escaping success for greater artistic fulfillment
                i. First Layer
                ii. Second Layer
             E. The Aftermath
                                1. How it affected Joe Murray
                                                i. Stepping Back
                                                ii. Taking Care of Unresolved Issues
                                                iii. His Career Since
                                2. Murray and Fellini
                                                i. Men Haunted by Past Events
                                                ii. Confronting Through Art
                                                iii. Putting Myself Into My Art
IV. My Thesis Film, Heard
A. Exploring Self-reflection as a narrative tool in Heard
                1. Back to the basic concept of self-reflection
                                i. self-reference and self-reflection
                                ii. Experience and Commentary
                2. Within the Process
                                i. Living the Process
                                ii. How the idea evolved
B. Deconstructing the first layer of self-reflection
                1. The Basic Narrative
                                i. The Character's Journey
                                ii. The Artist's Journey
            C. Breaking down the multiple layers of self-reflection through Postmodern critique
                1. Aesthetic
                                i. Evolving Aesthetic
                                ii. Tying Into the Character's Journey
                2. Embedded Allegories
                                i. The Artist's Journey
                                ii. Toxic Atmosphere for an Artist
                                iii. False Promises
                                iv. Every Artist Battles
             D. 8 1/2, "Wacky Delly," and my thesis film, Heard
                                                i. Three Filmmakers, Three Messages
                                                i. Three Filmmakers, Three Films
                                3. Use of Self-reflection
                                                i. All Use Doppelganger Characters
                                                ii. Fellini's Approach
                                                iii. Murray's Approach
                                                iv. My Approach
v. Conclusion
A. Federico Fellini's final thoughts on 8 1/2
                1. Interview with Fellini
                                i. Biographic Filmmaking
                                ii. Clear Self-Reflection
B. Joe Murray' final thoughts on "Wacky Delly"
                1. Interview with Murray
                                i. Wacky Delly
C. How this all ties back into Heard
                1. Self-reflection
                                i. How process representation affects the audience
                                ii. How art is perceived