ByMatt Kranis, writer at Creators.co
President of the Salacious Crumb Fan Club. Staff Writer at Movie Pilot. Twitter: @Matt_Kranis
Matt Kranis

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Nickelodeon's original Nicktoons, with Ren & Stimpy, Doug and Rugrats celebrating a quarter century of entertainment. Of course, those shows weren't alone in making Nick a must-watch network for '90s kids. They had a little help from Rocko's Modern Life, the fourth original Nicktoon which followed the surreal life of an Australian wallaby named Rocko and his eccentric neighbors.

The show may not be celebrating an anniversary today, but Rocko fans are in luck, because Nickelodeon's just announced plans to bring Rocko's Modern Life back to the network for a brand new hourlong special.

Creator Joe Murray — who's involved with the revival — seems particularly pleased with the project, and in a statement said:

"I’m very happy to be rejoining Rocko and my friends from O-Town again. What I have found by bringing these characters back is that it’s not so much about nostalgia, but a sense that they still feel relevant and fresh to me, and after 20 years, they can’t wait to comment on modern life in the 21st century. They still have a lot to say."

The announcement comes as the latest in a series of revivals from Nick, which includes new projects based on Hey Arnold! and Legends of the Hidden Temple. The network's even shown interest in reviving its first three cartoons, though official plans have yet to be announced. And while the revivals might seem like nostalgia-fueled brand building, the network could have a bigger goal — namely, creating a slew of new animated icons to stand alongside Bugs Bunny and even Mickey Mouse.

How Are Animated Icons Made?

Bugs Bunny is the King of Cartoons.
Bugs Bunny is the King of Cartoons.

Characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny may be classic cartoon creations today, but they didn't start out that way. It takes a long time for an animated character to transcend the world of cartoons to become a cultural touchstone, with years of adventures and fun passed between generations to cement a cartoon's classic status.

Most of our most beloved cartoon characters come from earlier eras, and there's good reasons for that. Back in the '30s and '40s cartoons were just another part of the experience when heading to the cinemas, playing alongside newsreels and feature films. Naturally, that helped toons of the time reach huge audiences, with the casts of Disney shorts and Looney Tunes rising to fame. Of course, Disney and Warner Bros. have both leveraged that early fame in the decades since, using continued cartoons, moves to television and plenty of merchandising to create characters recognized around the globe.

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The rise of TV in the '50s and '60s brought cartoons to the small screen, with Hanna-Barbera hits like The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! launching their own popular characters. Luckily, limited viewing options helped the shows reach kids and adults alike, once again over the years brewing new classics.

Harnessing The Power Of Nostalgia

Happy birthday, Nicktoons!
Happy birthday, Nicktoons!

It's more than obvious that Nickelodeon's revivals are banking on nostalgia to help them succeed. In fact, Chris Viscardi of Nickelodeon Franchise Properties directly referenced nostalgia when commenting on the upcoming Rocko special:

"Greenlighting a 'Rocko’s Modern' Life special is another strong example of how we are bringing our library content back for both new audiences and the generation that grew up on them in the ’90s."

There's nothing wrong with nostalgia, and using it to get the older generation to pass along its favorites to the younger crowd is the perfect way to build up the clout of a character, film or TV show. It might not be animated, but the Star Wars franchise illustrates that perfectly. From 1983 to 1999 we didn't get any new Star Wars films, but older fans kept the franchise alive through their love of the original trilogy, passing that love down to new fans before the prequel trilogy began. If Nickelodeon can replicate a similar passing of the torch when it comes to its original toons, it could have a slew of new successes.

Nickelodeon actually has a leg up on its competition in an entertainment industry obsessed with revivals, remakes, reboots and nostalgia. Its audience of '90s kids may be in their 20s and 30s today, but many still love what they grew up with and are ready for more. With new specials for Rocko's Modern Life, Hey Arnold! and Legends of the Hidden Temple, Nick can harness that crowd's love to bring a younger group of viewers to its earlier hits, creating a new generation of fans and making its characters one step closer to iconic status.

There's currently no release date for Nickelodeon's Rocko's Modern Life special. Are you excited for more nostalgic revivals and remakes? Let us know in the comments below.

[Source: Entertainment Weekly]