In 1991, Nickelodeon began broadcasting their own original animated series. There were only three shows back then: Doug, Ren & Stimpy, and Rugrats. Doug was a very straight-laced show about a kid trying to fit in at his new school. Ren & Stimpy was absolute insanity contained within a 22 minute run time. Rugrats was somewhere in the middle, as it featured bizarre scenarios conjured up by the mind of an infant, but was set in your average American household.
All three of the shows would go on to be big hits. Rugrats would outlast the others, and would continue in some form or another until 2008. It is still being shown in re-runs across the globe, and has been enjoyed by children for twenty five years now.
You might think that a show about babies must have had a boring history, right? Wrong! Rugrats dealt with a lot of behind the scenes controversy, accusations of racism, and lawsuits. We are here today to look into the chequered history of this beloved kids show. From problems with Godzilla, to the rumours of its return, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Rugrats.
15. The Show Was Accused Of Being Anti-Semitic
TV show episodes that explain the origin of religious holidays are fairly common. While it is usually the Christian holidays that are focused on, some shows have attempted to do so with Jewish ones as well. Rugrats had two episodes based around explaining the Jewish religious holidays to children. The first of these was “A Rugrats Passover”, where Tommy’s maternal grandfather, Boris, explains the story of Exodus to him. In the story, we see Tommy as Moses, and Angelica as the Pharaoh. The second episode was “A Rugrats Chanukah”, where Boris explains Chanukah to Tommy.
You might think that a show that dedicates episodes to Jewish themes might escape criticism for its portrayal of the Jewish people, but that was not the case. The Anti-Defamation League complained about the design of Boris. They said that he resembled the drawings of Jewish people in Nazi propaganda. This is despite the fact that the episodes were received positively by almost every other media outlet.
14. Rugrats Was Sued Over Reptar
In Rugrats, Tommy Pickle was often seen holding a green dinosaur toy named Reptar. Tommy’s Reptar toy played a big part in the imagination scenarios of many of the Rugrats episodes. In the world of Rugrats, Reptar is a big deal, and his in-universe franchise has as wide a scope as Disney. It is obvious just from looking at him, that Reptar is based off of Godzilla. The design of the two characters is almost identical.
It seems that the resemblance between Reptar and Godzilla became more of an issue as time went on. This may have been due to his prominence in Rugrats themed merchandise. It’s one thing to have a Godzilla spoof on a TV show, where it can be protected under parody or satire. It’s when you start selling the Godzilla spoof in stores that it becomes a problem.
In 2002, Klasky-Csupo were sued by Toho, the owners of Godzilla. The result of this lawsuit is unknown. What is known, is that Reptar was used less and less from that point on. His presence on the show was downplayed, and his appearances became less frequent until the show’s cancellation.
13. It Used To Be Nickelodeon’s Longest Running Show
The idea for Rugrats came from one of its creators, Arlene Klasky. She developed the show while at home with her two infant sons. When Nickelodeon began contacting animation studios across America, one of the companies they spoke to was Klasky-Csupo. Arlene Klasky pitched an idea for a show about what it would be like if babies talked. The original title for the series was going to be “Onesomething”, but this was changed to Rugrats, as that was a name used for babies (as a reference to how they crawl around on the floor).
Klasky-Csupo produced a pilot episode for Rugrats. It was called “Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing“. This seven minute short featured Tommy breaking out of his crib in order to investigate the Great White Thing (the toilet). This pilot episode led to the first series of the show being commissioned. Rugrats became massively popular, and the staff working on it grew to 550 members by the end of the show’s run.
Rugrats ended in 2004, with nine seasons running over thirteen years. The final episode was “Kimi Takes The Cake”, which was the 172nd episode of the show’s run. At the time of broadcast, this made Rugrats the longest running Nickelodeon show. This record was not beaten until Spongebob Squarepants ran its 173rd episode in 2012.
12. There Were Huge Problems Behind The Scenes
Cartoons meant for children are not safe from behind the scenes drama. Mike Judge had issues with MTV due to the low compensation he received for Beavis & Butthead. Ren & Stimpy creator, John Kricfalusi, walked off the show due to creative issues with Nickelodeon. Matt Groening once had his name taken off an episode of The Simpsons due to it being a crossover with another show.
Rugrats was not spared from this kind of drama. The show about talking babies became the battleground for a war between its creators, and its writing staff. Paul Germain, one of the main writers and producers of the show, ended up walking out due to issues he had with Klasky-Csupo. He would go to Disney, where he would become the creator of Recess. The rest of the writing staff walked out with him. To this day, they are unable to discuss the reasons for their leaving, due to a legal settlement they reached with Nickelodeon/Klasky-Csupo.
11. Rugrats Has A Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Despite what you may believe, it is no sacred thing to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They give them out to anyone, no matter how worthy they might (or might not) be. Shrek has a star, despite coming from a mostly mediocre film series. Lassie has a star, despite being a dog. Even Donald Trump had one, before it was smashed to pieces.
In 2001, Rugrats earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as part of a celebration for the show’s tenth anniversary. This was meant as an accolade for the show’s many achievements. Without the success of Rugrats, then Nickelodeon may not have continued to produce original shows. Without Rugrats, there may not have been any Spongebob Squarepants, Hey Arnold!, Invader Zim, or Avatar: The Last Airbender. Along with being one of Nickelodeon’s longest running shows, Rugrats sold a ton of merchandise over the years, and had three successful movies to its name.
10. There Existed A Terrifying Rugrats Live Show
Some popular kids TV shows have moved into other forms of media. Video games are pretty much a given (and they usually suck), along with cheaply produced items intended as merchandise (like books and board games). Some kids shows even get big screen adaptations, with varying degrees of success.
The most baffling attempt at adapting a kids TV programme into another form of media is live shows. It might make sense when the show has real life actors (like High School Musical), but when you try and turn animated characters into flesh and blood, you end up creating… horrors. This Phineas and Ferb live show clip should only be watched in the daytime – don’t look at it if you are about to go to bed. Shows like Pokémon and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic also had terrible live shows in the past.
Rugrats once had an awful live show. Sadly, only a brief clip of Rugrats: A Live Adventure is known to exist. If you enjoy seeing adult sized versions of the Rugrats cast with dead, unblinking eyes (like a doll’s eyes), then we have you covered.
9. The (Debunked) Crazy Angelica Theory
The Internet allows fans of old and obscure properties to stay in contact, and helps keep the memories of the show alive. If there is one thing that fans love to do when they reminisce about old TV shows, it’s creating needlessly dark and grim fan theories about them. The web is full of forums and pages that talk about how characters from a kids show are actually dead, and the show is actually purgatory. People will passionately argue about how Ash from Pokémon is actually in a coma, or that Harry Potter made up all of his adventures to deal with the loneliness of living with a neglectful family.
Rugrats is no exception to this kind of thinking. A popular theory began circulating a few years ago that stated Angelica was crazy, and that all of the other characters were a figment of her imagination.
According to the theory, Angelica created the other babies in her mind in order to deal with her neglectful parents. She based their personalities based on the traits of their parents (as the original children suffered terrible fates, like Chuckie dying along with his mother), and she created the adventures in order to stop herself from going mad.
This was a rare case where the creators of the show actually addressed the theory, and debunked it. Arlene Klasky stated that the theory wasn’t true during an interview at San Diego Comic-Con.
8. Tommy’s Voice Actor Finished A Session… While Giving Birth
The effectiveness of an illness in making you unsuitable for work has a direct correlation to how much you love your job. A McDonald’s employee might be felled by a simple cold. The guy who’s job involves making sure Katy Perry’s dress clings to her boobs is probably still coming in, even if he gets stabbed and shot a few times on his way to work.
Elizabeth Daily, the voice of Tommy Pickles, definitely falls into the latter category. Some women would start taking maternity leave thirty minutes after a positive reading on a pregnancy test if they could get away with it. Not Elizabeth Daily, she continued to voice Tommy while in labour.
While recording a Rugrats voice session, Elizabeth Daily went into labour. She refused to go to the hospital until it was done. She had to perform the lines in-between her contractions. When the lines were done, she finally consented to going to the hospital, and gave birth to her baby daughter.
7. Chuckie Was Going To Be The Bully
Characters tend to go through many changes during the development process. The original “Ur-Text” of Game of Thrones discussed an incestuous relationship between Jon Snow and Arya Stark. A version of Dr. Robotnik wearing pyjamas was once considered for the role of Sega’s corporate mascot. Gordon Freeman from the Half Life was originally going to look like a biker, and sported a massive beard. A lot can change over time, and judging from those examples given, they can sometimes be for the best.
When coming up with the original designs for the Rugrats characters, Chuckie was originally pitched as being the bully of the group. Chuckie was eventually rewritten as a cowardly character, to act as a foil to Tommy (who was the brave one). Paul Germain was a writer on the show, and he was the one who objected to Chuckie being the bully. He felt like the bully should be a girl. There was a specific reason for this…
6. Angelica Was Based On A Real Person
When coming up for the design of the bully, Chuckie was the first choice. Paul Germain decided that the bully should be a girl instead. This led to the creation of Angelica as a character. Angelica is, perhaps, the most recognisable character on the show. Her bratty behaviour is something everyone has witnessed in real life (especially if we were the brats in question). Angelica’s ability to communicate with both the babies and the adults made her a vitally important part of the show’s formula. Having Angelica kick off the plots of the episodes was useful for when you needed a character smarter than the babies around.
Paul Germain has stated that Angelica was based upon a real person. When he was in the 4th grade, Germain was picked on by a girl that he knew. It was these traumatic incidents that led to the creation of Angelica.
Angelica was not the only character on the show to have be inspired by a real life person. As previously mentioned, Rugrats was inspired by the infant children of Arlene Klasky. Her youngest son, Brandon, is the direct inspiration for Tommy Pickles. Susie Carmichael was also inspired by something from real life, but it was not a person exactly…
5. Susie Was Made Of Leonard Cohen References
Susie Carmichael was introduced in the second season of Rugrats, and she would go on to become a recurring cast member on the show. She was originally created to be a foil for Angelica. Susie is Angelica’s age, and is also a lot smarter and nicer, even siding with the other babies when Angelica was bullying them. Despite their differences, Susie and Angelica were also friends (or at least as much as you can be a friend with Angelica).
While Susie did not have as big a role as the other Rugrats in the movies, she would return in All Grown Up! as a main character. It was revealed that Susie had a great singing voice, and most of her storylines from that point on were involved around music. It was hinted that there was burgeoning romance between Susie and Chuckie, but nothing came of it during the show (due to the characters still being in their early teens).
The name Susie was inspired by the song “Suzanne” by the recently departed Leonard Cohen, though the two names are spelled differently. Susie’s mother, Lucy, also shares the same initials as Leonard Cohen – L.C.
4. The Chocolate Pudding Meme
You can never tell what the Internet is going to take a liking to. The most innocuous of things can become an Internet meme, and go on to fill your social media feed with nonsense. A brief appearance of Spongebob Squarepants as a caveman took the Internet by storm. A Stormtrooper who shouted “Traitor” in Star Wars: The Force Awakens might be returning, due to the popularity of his one brief appearance.
Rugrats is one such series that underwent the meme treatment. In the season 3 episode “Angelica Breaks a Leg”, Angelica is being taken care of by Tommy’s parents. She fakes a leg injury in order to be waited on hand and foot. She asks Tommy’s father, Stu, to make her some chocolate pudding at four in the morning, leading to this exchange.
“Stu making chocolate pudding at 4 a.m” became a popular Internet meme in 2010. When Stu’s voice actor, Jack Riley, passed away in 2014, many of his memorials referenced the chocolate pudding scene. Don’t worry Jack, there is no chocolate pudding in Heaven (well, there probably is, but at least you won’t have to cook it).
3. The Rugrats Movie Was A Surprise Box Office Smash
Adapting a TV show into a movie is always a tricky proposition. You could end up with something amazing, like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. You might end up with something awful, like Charlie’s Angels. Most likely, you will end with something in the middle – a mediocre film that feels more like an extended episode of the show, rather than its own unique entity. Films like The Simpsons Movie, Doug’s 1st Movie, and Pokémon: The First Movie ended up in this category.
In 1998, Rugrats took its first venture into the motion picture industry. The Rugrats Movie introduced Tommy’s younger brother, Dill. The movie is about Tommy and the other characters dealing with Dill’s nonstop crying. The Rugrats Movie was a surprise hit at the box office, making over $140 million dollars worldwide.
The success of the first Rugrats movie led to two more sequels. Rugrats in Paris, released in 2000, and Rugrats Go Wild (a crossover with The Wild Thornberrys), which was released in 2003. The combined box office results make Rugrats the 25th highest-grossing animated film series of all time.
2. One Of The Show’s Creators Was Behind The Iconic Design Of The Simpsons
When Nickelodeon went looking for companies to produce original animation for their channel, they looked to people who had already has some success in the cartoon industry.
What could be more enticing for Nickelodeon than the company that was a big part of the success of The Simpsons?
Klasky-Csupo was the company responsible for animating a series of Simpsons shorts for The Tracey Ullman show. When the The Simpsons was picked up for syndication, Klasky-Csupo continued on as the principal animators of the show. This arrangement lasted for three seasons, before the show was given to a company called Film Roman to produce.
The creators at Klasky-Csupo are responsible for several of the most iconic design elements of The Simpsons. One of Klasky-Csupo’s animators, Gyorgyi Peluce, is responsible for the characters having yellow skin, and for Marge Simpson having blue hair. His ideas were brought before Matt Groening, who approved of them. The show went to air, and the rest is history…
1. Rugrats May Be Returning
We are currently in the grip of nostalgia for ’90s television shows. The success of Pokémon Go has led to Nintendo including as many elements from the Red & Blue era into their modern games as possible. Shows like Samurai Jack and Hey Arnold! are returning. Powerpuff Girls has come back already (to a mixed reception).
The Rugrats franchise had numerous stops and starts throughout its run, due to various factors. Originally, Nickelodeon would not produce any more episodes of a show after it hit the minimum needed for syndication (65). This stopped production of Rugrats episodes for two years. Rugrats officially ended when All Grown Up! stopped production in 2008.
There is a good chance, though, that Rugrats might be returning. There have been numerous reports over the past two years about Nickelodeon being in talks with Klasky-Csupo to revive the show. The most recent of which was a statement from Nickelodeon’s senior vice president of original movies, Michael Sammaciccia. He was asked about Rugrats during a panel at New York Comic Con, and he said that Rugrats was one of many shows being considered for a revival.
With so many other classic shows returning to our screens, can Rugrats be far behind? Only time will tell.