This week marks the inception of greatness as it is the 25th Anniversary of the debut of three original Nickelodeon classics: Rugrats, Doug and Ren & Stimpy! Feeling old yet, '90s kids?
With the recent news that Hey Arnold! would soon be making its way onto the silver screen with Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie next year, those who grew up in the '90s have begun wondering whether other definitive shows from our childhoods will receive the same treatment.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, former Nickelodeon executive Vanessa Coffey — who played a major role in the creation of Nicktoons — responded favorably after being asked if Rugrats, Doug and Ren & Stimpy could possibly return to primetime programming:
"Absolutely. We’re talking 25 years later about these shows for a reason. And it’s not because they were different, but because they were good. They are good. I’d love to see all three of them come back.”
Let's break down these cartoons and take a look at the likelihood of their return — and then ask ourselves the age-old question: Should they?
Will it ever happen? Maybe! Of the three cartoons celebrating their milestone anniversary, Rugrats is by far the most likely to receive the reboot treatment. Recently, one of the show's three co-creators, Arlene Klasky, stated that she and Gabor Csupo, “think about, 100 percent.” Which certainly bodes well for the show.
What we need to see from a reboot: I guess technically Rugrats was already rebooted with All Grown Up!, but, if anything, its five-season run was a lesson in what to avoid. For one — and this might be a personal preference — the characters should have never grown up. In large part, the charm of the series was going on adventures and seeing the world through the eyes of these infants.
Thankfully, interviews with co-creators Paul Germain and Klasky indicate that anything in the works is already taking this notion into consideration. From Germain:
"A lot of the direction that they took the show in after I left in 1993 – the second 65 episodes and then the All Grown Up series – I thought those episodes were poor. I thought they lost the spirit of it. I think the way to go [for a reboot] would be to take it back to where it was. I don’t know if we could really do that, but that’s what I would like to see. I think it’s possible."
Klasky's premise is a bit different and does note the passage of time, but doesn't quite place the characters in pre-teen years:
Kids’ worlds have changed. Now kids are in kindergarten learning how to code. I mean, that’s amazing. Imagine [the Rugrats] going to pre-school and they’re coding and what could possibly come out of some kind of crazy thing they invented or did something viral. I think [a reboot] would need to mirror our time now.
As an OG Rugrats fan, I'm completely fine with a reboot on the following two conditions:
- 1. The main cast will still be babies, or relatively young.
- 2. They go more of the The Peanuts Movie (2015) route instead of the TV Garfield route in regards to animation style. While not quite as in vogue with the kids these days, I trust Nickelodeon to bring us back to the days of classic 2D animation.
Love all things animation? We think these Movie Pilot articles might interest you:
- Hey Arnold Gets A New Look For His Upcoming Jungle Movie
- 10 Adult References in Rugrats That (Probably) Went Right Over Your Head
- Doug Celebrates 25th Anniversary! Look At What The Cast Have Been Up To Since!
Will it ever happen? Probably not. As some of you keen-eyed Doug fans may remember, the show was acquired by Disney and all new episodes were labeled as Brand Spanking New! Doug. And if by "brand spanking new" they meant "not quite as good," then the rebranding was apt. The show was eventually canceled in 1996, and — despite best efforts from creator Jim Jinkins — Disney has no current plans for resurrecting the series.
"Disney owns the right to make anything new, and they have no interest right now in anything to do with it.
“I keep qualifying it, I guess out of being a cock-eyed optimist, but right now they explained they’re not interested in moving Doug forward. In the past, they have expressed interest in a play ... So, I don’t know! But I do think I have a great story for fans to get a feel for where Doug is headed, and I thought that would be an awesome thing to deliver.”
Although Jinkins is all for a reboot, I sadly don't see Disney bringing back Doug, no matter how much we want to see what became of his budding relationship with Patti Mayonnaise.
What we need to see from a reboot: When it comes to imagining a reboot, Jinkins has already done all of the hard work for his avid fans. The Doug creator outlined what he would ideally write in any follow-up.
“I haven’t written the whole screenplay, but some stories are written. Skeeter’s his roommate. Judy would be a performance artist off, off, off Broadway, just kind of doing weird stuff. Porkchop would be there – we’re not going to talk about dogs and their real lifespans, but I’ll just let him be.”
This has a very Boy Meets World in the college seasons vibe to it — and I dig it. Unlike Rugrats, Doug's storyline is one that fans want to see progress. Although being a fresh-faced and unlucky-in-love 11½-year-old is part of Doug Funnie's charm, his identity doesn't hinge on that time period the same way being a baby does for Tommy Pickles. Even though the chances are slim this Adult Doug would get off the ground, it has my support if it ever does.
Ren & Stimpy (1991-1995)
Will it ever happen? Nope. I don't mean to be blunt, but there's next to no chance that John Kricfalusi's dark and twisted brainchild will ever again grace us with its presence. If the show were to be rebooted, it wouldn't be the Ren & Stimpy we grew up with. Showrunner John K. had an infamous falling out with Nickelodeon in 1992, and the show's creator-driven content swiftly lost its original creator.
In a 2015 interview with the A.V. Club, SVP of content development for franchise properties and The Adventures & Pete And Pete co-creator Chris Viscardi listed original creator involvement as their number one concern when rebooting a series.
"One of the biggest considerations is, if we look at one of those past properties and we think it has a lot going for it in terms of present-day kid-fan appeal, the second most important thing to us is the original creator. Do they want to come back and do something with it? If the original creator does not want to, we’re not going to go anywhere near it, because we only want to use the original creators that brought these things to life originally the first time around."
The series was briefly aired on Spike in 2003 under the title Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, but the show was never the same after John K.'s termination and it's initial cancelation. In short, Ren & Stimpy just isn't Ren & Stimpy without John Kricfalusi. When EW asked if the series would ever return, he made his answer clear:
“Doesn’t look like it. At least not without the creator of this creator-driven show.”
What we need to see from a reboot: Even for the off-color and sexual innuendo-heavy animation in the early '90s, Ren & Stimpy was in it's own league. Keep in mind, this was before adult animation powerhouses like Beavis and Butt-Head, South Park and Rick and Morty made their way to the mainstream. Ren & Stimpy was ahead of its time, but I imagine it would suit today's vast landscape of adult animation.
If — by the grace and benevolence of John K., and execs being willing to bring him back — Ren & Stimpy were to ever get rebooted to a new network, it should stick even closer to the satirical violence and dark humor that garnered its cult following in the first place. I can already picture an episode where Ren sees cats becoming popular on the internet and goes to extremes to turn Stimpy into YouTube star. Of course, this plan would go awry and the cat/dog duo would accidentally create a popular snuff film.
As a whole, I'm not someone who views movies and TV shows from their childhood as untouchable. I believe that every generation deserves the chance to experience the stories and characters we all enjoyed in our adolescence. With that in mind, however, I do take my Nicktoons pretty seriously and humbly request that Nickelodeon handle these beloved titles with care.
Happy 25th anniversary, Nicktoons!