Upon hearing that Nickelodeon was looking to start their own line of animated shows dubbed “Nicktoons”, Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain decided to create their own show inspired by the antics of Klasky and Csupó’s infant children. The result was Rugrats, a series which centered on a group of babies whose imaginations and limited understand of the world around them sent them on amazing adventures that the adults were blissfully unaware of.
|The babies: Tommy, Chuckie, Susie, Angelica, Dil, Phil and Lil with Spike the dog.|
The babies were comprised of 1-year-old Tommy Pickles (E.G. Daily, Tami Holbrook in the pilot), who was brave and adventurous with a strong sense of justice; his older best friend Chuckie Finster (Christine Cavanaugh until she retired, then Nancy Cartwright), a timid and clumsy boy full of cowardice and insecurities; and twins Phil and Lil DeVille (both Kath Soucie), who loved dirt, bugs and arguing with each other. Germain, feeling a bully was needed, added Tommy’s older cousin Angelica (Cheryl Chase) to the mix. She was a spoiled brat often stuck with the babies, although there were times she enjoyed their company and even defended them. The circle was expanded with the addition of sweet but competitive Susie Carmichael (Cree Summer) when her family moved in across the street. The adults, who only understood Angelica and Susie when they talked, were Tommy’s parents Stu (Jack Riley), an absent-minded toy inventor, and Didi (Melanie Chartoff), a part-time teacher who constantly took advice from child psychologist Dr. Lipschitz (Tony Jay); Angelica’s parents Drew (Michael Bell), an investment banker that spoiled her, and Charlotte (Tress MacNeille), a workaholic who was always yelling over her phone at her assistant, Jonathan (René Auberjonois & Dan Castellaneta); the DeVilles Betty (Soucie), a former wrestler and extreme feminist, and Howie (Phil Proctor), perpetually unemployed and constantly overpowered by his wife; Chuckie’s single father Chas (Bell), a bureaucrat who was Stu’s childhood friend; and the Carmichaels Lucy (Cheryl Carter, Lisa Dinkins in 1 episode), a Harvard-educated doctor, and Randy (Ron Glass), a screenwriter for the Dummi Bears cartoon (based on the Care Bears but named after Gummi Bears). Tommy’s grandfather, Lou (David Doyle until his death, then Joe Alaskey), also lived in the Pickles household and was the frequent babysitter—although he tended to fall asleep and left the babies to their own devices.
|Candy fight in the kinda Old West.|
Rugrats debuted on Nickelodeon on August 11, 1991 right after Doug, becoming the second Nicktoon. Episodes took up to a year to produce, going through several approval processes before entering recording and animation, The series was animated by Wang Film Productions, Shanghai Morning Sun Animation and Anivision, and the process was streamlined with the use of animatics to help convey the look of the series to the overseas animators; one of the first series to do so. The series’ theme was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, who also composed the series’ music with Bob Mothersbaugh, Denis M. Hannigan and Rusty Andrews. After four seasons and 65 episodes, production on the series ceased and most of the writing staff, including Germain, left Klasky Csupó Productions due to constant tensions in regards to the content of the stories and the character of Angelica (whom Klasky hated).
Two Jewish-themed holiday specials were aired in 1995 and 1996. Between them and the constant reruns on the network, Rugrats gained a significant boost in popularity; enough to warrant production resuming on the show and the first theatrical feature. The Rugrats Movie released in 1998 and became a box office success, introducing Tommy’s new younger brother Dil (Tara Strong), who was integrated into the series. The sequel, Rugrats in Paris, gave Chas a new wife in Kira Watanabe (Julia Kato) and Chuckie a new stepsister in Kimi Watanabe (Dionne Quan), both of whom also transitioned to the series. The second sequel, Rugrats Go Wild, was a crossover with another Nickelodeon production, The Wild Thornberrys. To celebrate the 10th anniversary, a special episode set 10 years in the future was aired and became the basis for the only successful spinoff idea, All Grown Up! The series finally ended in 2004 after 9 seasons, becoming the third longest-running Nicktoon after SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly Oddparents. In 2021, a computer-animated revival debuted on streaming service Paramount+ with the original baby cast returning and all-new voices for the adults, although Howie and the Watanabes have been written out.