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, the 2021 revival, and 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 favorite animated films, 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 – and for some reason the subject of an action figure – Mothersbaugh has also spent over 30 years as an in-demand composer for film and TV. HIs career in the closing credits started in 1987, when all of 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 … 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. Though he’s still never been in the Oscars conversation, he has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys (for the 1997 Stephen King miniseries Quicksilver Highway, and the Netflix pandemic fever dream Tiger King). With over 200 credits for TV episodes and feature films to his name — including HBO’s popular pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death — we haven’t heard the last from him. Literally.
A version of this article appeared March 15, 2022, on the news page of Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. We’re reposting it now because that action figure just popped up in our IG feed. (We may or may not have bought one.)