In 1995, I was a newly hired intern at Nickelodeon Animation Studios. I got the chance to work very closely with Joe Murray, who was the creator of one of my favorite cartoons, Rocko’s Modern Life.
When I found out that I would be viewing the new episodes before they were aired, of course I was ecstatic. He had told me of the plans for the upcoming episodes of the show, and showed me some early sketches of the characters that the children of that era, along with myself, and surely some parents, had all come to know and love. The first few episodes I had screened were great, and I always bragged to my friends, who were also fans of the show.
But then one day, things seemed a bit off. Joe looked exhausted and hurriedly handed me the tape before going home, claiming to feel sick. I shrugged it off, and put the tape into the VCR, wondering what shenanigans Rocko and his friends would get into this time. But when the title card came up, I was shocked to say the least.
The card read “Filbert’s Funeral” and had only black bg and white text and no music.
Act one began with Rocko sitting on the couch in his living room, which was unusually messy and swarming with flies. Spunky was slowly walking across the living room, looking unusually thin, weakly barking at Rocko.
There was no sound but a soft static noise, and instead of the usual perky, pastel colors, the overly vivid hues bled into each other, giving everything a morbid, chaotic look. The silence continued until the episode was about a minute in, but was broken when the phone rang in a distorted tone.
“Hello?” Rocko asked in an unnervingly monotonous voice.
The soft sound of another voice could be heard on the other line, and for a single frame, an image appeared, but was gone before I could get a good look.
“Yes, I understand. Tuesday at 3, right,” he said in the same tone before hanging up. The camera zoomed in to show his face in disturbing detail, and he silently mouthed the word “Filbert” before starting to cry.
The image flashed again, and my already heavy heart skipped a beat when I saw what it was. Filbert was drawn in a hyper-realistic manner, his eyes gone and blood oozing from the deep scratches on his fly-and-maggot ridden face.
Rocko started screaming Filbert’s name, the word getting louder and louder with each cry.
Heffer then entered, in his normal happy manner.
“Hey, Rock. What-” His sentence ended abruptly, and he looked at Rocko for maybe 30 seconds in silence, then directly at the camera for the next 30.
Rocko then coldly said “Filbert’s dead.”
Heffer then went into hysterics, but not in the normal, cartoonish way of his. He sounded genuinely pained, and it was hurting me to see this, to hear the beloved characters in this horrible state.
The screen then faded to black, and soon cut to the inside of a funeral home. The characters were all inside, sobbing, the sounds of them all filling the screening room. It zoomed in on the same shot of Filbert, and stayed there for the remainder of the video.
Then it stopped and showed nothing but black screen.
As I sat there staring at the black screen, text came up.
“You killed Filbert. Guess what, You're next."
I was scared. I quickly turned off the VCR, grabbed the tape and burnt it.
After seeing this, I sat in shock for a moment before getting violently sick. This episode was fortunately never aired, but it still haunts my dreams till this day.