To Gen X-ers, musician Mark Mothersbaugh will forever be the Devo frontman who yelped out the lyrics to new-wave classics like “Whip It” and “Freedom of Choice.” For millennials, he’s the soundtrack superstar who wrote the theme and score for all 172 original episodes of Rugrats, for last year’s Rugrats revival, and for the three full-length films in the series. And although younger kids may not know it yet, Mothersbaugh composed the music for some of their fave animated flicks, like Hotel Transylvania, The Lego movies, and The Croods: A New Age.
So yeah, in addition to being one of the guys in a bright red energy dome, Mothersbaugh has also spent over 30 years as an in-demand composer for film and TV. We’re blabbing about him today because he did the music for Pitch Perfect 2 — which is mentioned in our latest Video Rewind — but his career in the closing credits started in 1987, when Devo were tapped to do the music for Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. (What an Oscar snub that was. The Last Emperor can get bent.)
They took the gig, despite having zero film experience, and without knowing how…any of that worked. “We started it kind of like how Devo wrote an album,” he told Rolling Stone in 2020. “That meant we were doing it so slow that we ate up all the time we had to write the movie until it was two weeks before I had to deliver a final score and we only had about five or six minutes of the thing done. I finally had to stop working with the band and just go in at nights and score the whole film myself in two weeks.”
When Devo called it quits in 1991, Mothersbaugh formed his own music production company, Mutato Muzika. With over 200 credits for TV episodes and feature films to his name — including HBO’s brand-new pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death — we haven’t heard the last from him. Literally.