.Craig Before the Creek and San Jose Taiko

Craig Before the Creek sheds some light on local musicians

This month, the Cartoon Network released Craig Before the Creek, a full-length animated feature that is a prequel to CN’s short format television show Craig of the Creek. This film, which is a prequel to the show, is now streaming on CN, Max and major streaming platforms like Prime, Hulu and Apple TV+.

Fans of Cartoon Network’s Craig of the Creek love the show because it captures the intensity and drama of childhood without being condescending, and for the bangin’ ska music of the Jeff Rosenstock Band that provides the soundtrack and score for Craig and his friends’ cartoon antics. 

Called “shamelessly wholesome and hilarious” on Commonsense Media, the show reminds audiences of the wonders of playing in nature without a lecture, in a way that makes people of all ages laugh.

Although the show was canceled in the middle of its 5th season, fans can still look forward to this prequel, which features the origin story of a thoughtful, shy Craig—a young boy who moved to an idyllic town in Maryland with his brother, sister and parents. The town has a creek straight out of our childhood dreams, and gives me fond memories of tromping through the Los Gatos creek as a kid, picking up frogs and walking across rocks. 

San Joseans—along with Craig fans all over the world—can especially look forward to the soundtrack by Rosenstack and his band (including Metro’s former A&E editor, guitarist/author Mike Huguenor, and “about 100 other people,” said Huguenor), as well as San Jose Taiko.

Now, for those of you San Jose locals who have ever had the privilege of living in Japantown, or are savvy enough to visit for the annual Obon Festival, have experienced the power, rhythm and visual elegance of San Jose Taiko. Blending creativity and innovation with tradition, they are always a treat. Their big sound is well-utilized.

Show creator Ben Levin is a longtime fan of ska, a musical genre with roots in Caribbean and Reggae that has branched into jazz, R&B and punk rock. The main signifiers of the style is a walking bassline and an emphasis on the off-beat.

Levin was a part of the ska scene in the late 90s and early aughts, and met Rosenstock, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, bandleader and songwriter, when the latter was playing a show in LA. 

“Going to [ska] shows was such a beautiful, almost religious experience for me,” said Levin in an interview on Aaron Carnes’ “In Defense of Ska” podcast (wait, it needs defending? Apparently so, because it’s also a book.) 

He went on to reminisce about his days in mosh pits, screaming lyrics in unison with fans while energetically bouncing around. He really makes it sound fun (it was!). Kind of like…riding a bike through creek beds with odd friends, navigating the villains and bullies of childhood and adolescence as best you can; contemplating your simultaneous desire to grow up and stay young while running around in the forest, back when your legs were faster. Being with other kids that feel safe enough to be rough and vulnerable with.

Levin has writing credits on Steven Universe (the television show and the movie) and also co-created Jessica’s Big Little World. Both Steven and Craig are known for their empathy, sweetness and progressive characters. 

Rosenstock said on his Instagram: “I love writing songs for [shorter episodes of] Craig of the Creek and I was beyond stoked when I was given the chance to write something grander and fuller.”

His songs include lyrics, like the Steven Universe Movie, and is a musical. Not only that, but there’s a sequence in Craig Before the Creek where some of the music blends with the film, which he showed as a sneak peek on social media, saying, “Seeing the Taiko animated was sick.”

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