Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh Talk Updating ‘Rugrats’ Music for Cartoon’s Revival
When Rugrats, the classic Nineties Nickelodeon cartoon, returns later this month, it will have a new CGI animated look, but much of the show will be familiar. Several members of the original cast will be reprising their roles on the show, while brothers Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh will also be back on hand to provide the show with its charmingly off-kilter music.
In anticipation of the reboot’s May 27th premiere on Paramount+, Rugrats has released its new title sequence, featuring an updated theme song by Mark Mothersbaugh. Mothersbaugh has tweaked the instrumentals a bit and added some contemporary percussion to boost the tune’s pace; but he hasn’t done anything to the main melody, allowing the theme to retain the elements that made the original so special.
“It had like a childlike quality to it, and we were looking for something that would be Pavlovian for little kids,” Mothersbaugh says in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. “They could be in the other room, looking through the refrigerator or something, and they’d hear the theme song start up and then they go, ‘Oh, that’s my show!’”
The Mothersbaughs got involved with Rugrats the first time around because one of the show’s co-creators, Gabor Csupo, was a fan of more out-there music. He’d originally approached Mark about using a song from his 1988 solo album, Muzik for Insomniaks, as the show’s theme, but Mothersbaugh, who’d just started composing music for television at the time, got the approval to record a new theme instead. Soon, Bob Mothersbaugh was enlisted to compose the show’s incidental music and score.
For the reboot, the Mothersbaughs were tasked with updating the music while still staying true to the original. Bob says the new score incorporates more modern elements like beats, but he notes that when he actually sat down and began composing for the revival, “It was like a horse walking back to the barn — I just went to the old Rugrats sounds immediately, and it felt right.” (To show what he means by those original sounds, Bob hits a few keys on a keyboard and a goofy, melodic groan jumps out, familiar to anyone who watched the show the first time around.)
Calling his brother “the sound of Rugrats,” Mark adds, “I think Bob’s done a good job of keeping [the music] in the world and in the universe of Rugrats, that the adults would know. Adults could watch this show and could go, ‘Oh they change the picture, but the music still sounds true to the original Rugrats.’ I think music has a lot to do with grounding the show.”