Hey Arnold! is one of the most beloved Nicktoons, but why did it end? Created by Craig Bartlett in the late 1980s as a claymation character, Hey Arnold! was developed as an animated series in the early 1990s and finally made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1996. The series followed fourth grader Arnold, who lived with his grandparents in an inner-city boarding house, and his daily adventures along with his best friend Gerald Johanssen and other characters such as bully Helga Pataki.
Hey Arnold! came to an end in 2004 after five seasons and a total of 100 episodes, as well as a feature film simply titled Hey Arnold!: The Movie, which takes place during the final season of the show, following Arnold, Gerald, and Helga on their quest to save the neighborhood from a developer who wanted to turn it into a huge shopping mall. Hey Arnold! became one of the best Nicktoons not only from its time but in Nickelodeon’s history, so why did it come to an end after five seasons?
When Hey Arnold! was renewed for a fourth season in 1998, Nickelodeon offered Bartlett the chance to develop two films based on the series – one would be a TV or direct-to-video film, and the other one would be slated for a theatrical release. Bartlett worked on what became known as Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, but Nickelodeon and Paramount executives decided that the TV film Arnold Saves the Neighborhood (later retitled Hey Arnold!: The Movie) would instead get a theatrical release. The network also asked Bartlett to make a special “prequel” episode, called “The Journal”, which would lead to the second film. However, Hey Arnold!: The Movie didn’t do well with critics, and Jungle Movie was cancelled. This, along with other disagreements between Bartlett and Nickelodeon, prompted him to leave, and thus the series was cancelled.
Bartlett then worked for Cartoon Network and produced an animated TV film called Party Wagon, and served as writer and story editor for Johnny Bravo. Meanwhile, “The Journal” was left as the cliffhanger series finale of Hey Arnold!, making way for many theories on what it truly meant and who Arnold’s parents really were. Luckily, Bartlett and Nickelodeon joined forces one more time to finally make Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie happen, and it saw the light in 2017 as a two-hour TV film.
After all the obstacles Bartlett and the series went through in their last years at Nickelodeon, he finally got to tell the story he wanted with Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, which answered many questions left by the series and also serves as a prelude to a revival – if he decides to do it, of course. In the end, Hey Arnold! got the closure it deserved, even if it happened over a decade after the series ended.