If you were a child in the '90s, chances are you grew up watching Rugrats, one of the three original Nicktoons aired by Nickelodeon. Anyone who grew up watching Rugrats will definitely remember Reptar, a fictional dinosaur idolized by the show's main characters. What our innocent young minds may have failed to realize at the time is that Reptar is an obvious parody of the Japanese icon Godzilla. Despite this, for many '90s kids, Reptar has become a fondly remembered figure in his own right.
The Origin Of Reptar
Conceptualized by #Rugrats story editors, Reptar first appeared in the episode "At The Movies." After seeing a commercial for a new Reptar film on television, Tommy leads the other babies on a quest out of the G-rated The Dummi Bears In: The Land Without Smiles, to find Reptar, which is playing in the same theater. On this occasion, the brief glimpses we have of Reptar show him as a villain, destroying the city.
Like Godzilla, this soon changes, with Reptar playing a more heroic role in later films, such as Reptar vs The Mole People and Reptar, Come Home!, probably intended as a play on Lassie, Come Home!. In the episode "Toy Palace," Tommy and Chuckie call upon a mechanical Reptar toy to save them from Thorg, a purple gorilla, thereby more firmly placing him as a hero in the eyes of the children.
Reptar's second appearance in the episode "Incident In Aisle Seven" begins a long tradition of using Reptar not just as a parody of Godzilla, but for product placement. Aside from the cereal introduced in the above episode, Reptar is used in the Rugrats universe to sell toys, candy bars, band-aids and countless other products. This reaches a ridiculous peak in the popular episode "Reptar On Ice," in which the babies attend an ice show starring their favorite dinosaur. Even the actor playing Reptar comments on how silly it is.
Over the course of the series, Reptar slowly begins to suffer, like so many real-life characters, as he's molded and softened to fit the needs of a young audience he was never actually intended for. As today's parents campaigned (unsuccessfully), for a PG cut of Deadpool, Tommy's mother, Didi, often complained about Reptar being too scary or violent for her children, ignoring the fact that the character's earliest appearance heavily implied that he wasn't meant for children anyway.
While Didi was back on Reptar's side by episode's end, her complaints — or the complaints of others — stick, leading to changes in Reptar's marketing. This leads to a later episode where Chuckie comes to possess Reptar Junior, a new, preschool-appropriate Reptar doll meant to teach the children how to play Follow-The-Leader.
Later in the series, the comparisons between Reptar and Godzilla become even more obvious, particularly in the TV movie Runaway Reptar, and the climactic scenes of the second theatrical film, Rugrats In Paris. Runaway Reptar was a rather brilliant parody of classic Japanese Godzilla films, complete with monster battles, terrible voice dubbing, and a news reporter with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The climax of Rugrats In Paris features a classic kaiju battle in the streets of Paris between giant animatronic replicas of Reptar and his nemesis, Robo-Snail.
While both examples are fondly remembered by Rugrats fans, they may have led to the character's downfall.
Klasky Csupo Versus Toho
In 2002, two years after Rugrats In Paris was released, Toho, the company behind Godzilla, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Klasky-Csupo, the creators of Rugrats, over the similarities between Reptar and Godzilla. As Toho is known to dislike Godzilla parodies and has been quick to sue on previous occasions, it is unknown why Reptar was around for almost 10 years. It is possible that the character simply escaped Toho's notice until the more overt parodies in "Runaway Reptar" and Rugrats In Paris brought him to their attention.
As a result of the lawsuit, Reptar appeared much less frequently in Rugrats' final season. He appeared just once in the spin-off All Grown Up! in the episode "Curse Of Reptar." In-universe, the character is implied to have faded into obscurity while the kids were still quite young, as Dil, only a year younger than the others, does not remember Reptar at all.
While he may have been a simple parody, Reptar has earned a place in the heart of many '90s kids. He will always be fondly remembered.