Today we’re taking it back to the year 1991 as we revisit the imaginative adventures of four toddlers in diapers. Their journeys took place on Nickelodeon during the network’s, in my opinion, most memorable years. And their show was perhaps–again, in my opinion–the most well known and successful. Yep, it’s time to take a long look back at the classic cartoon, Rugrats in this week’s…
Now, although it’s August 10th, Rugrats actually premiered on the 11th in 1991. Close enough for a proper throwback. It premiered alongside other notable Nickelodeon classics, but stands out as perhaps it’s most universally known with the longest range of success and future. Rugrats was actually, up until just five years ago, the network’s longest lasting show–a feat that was topped by Sponge Bob Square Pants. But the toddlers in diapers, regardless of maybe not holding on to the title of the longest running Nickelodeon cartoon, are perhaps the icons that gave the network its notoriety in children’s television.
The show focused on four friendly toddlers, Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, and twins Phil & Lil DeVille, as they traversed their home environments, eyes wide with imagination. With Tommy’s leadership, Chuckie’s frightfulness, and the twins’ bickering, their adventures took them into a mirror to mirrorland, to the moon, in their backyard hunting a moose, and a slew of other wacky imaginative destinations. Their adventures were often intruded on by Tommy’s older cousin, Angelica, who’d work to thwart–unsuccessfully–the babies’ plans. She was the villain to their heroism, and this quite literally happened when the babies became super heroes in “The Mega Diaper Babies,” working to save their action figures from the villainous Angelica.
The babies weren’t the only focus of the show, however, as the adults played a major role in the babies’ antics. They were unaware of most of what went on, each child’s parents quite oblivious to their frequent play pen escapes. They’re also, when looked at more in depth, quite flawed. Angelica’s mother Charlotte is a nightmare, and her father Drew enables her sense of self importance, while Tommy’s father Stu is a somewhat depressing and struggling toy inventor. Chuckie inherits his father’s worries, fears, and nasally voice, while Phil and Lil often bicker for supremacy, much like their mother’s overbearing ways dominate over their father. It’s an interesting adult dynamic that transfers traits and attributes to the toddlers who really are the stars of the show.
As the series continued and grew in popularity, more characters were added to the roster. The most notable occurrence of this was in “The Rugrats Movie,” where Tommy’s younger brother, Dil, was introduced. Yep, the show spawned a highly successful film that allowed a new character to be born and new boundaries to be explored. But boundaries hardly existed, as a second film, “Rugrats in Paris: The Movie,” gave Chuckie a mother and sister, Kira and Kimi, causing the cast of friends, families, and characters to grow even larger.
And speaking of growing, Rugrats lasted so long that, after 10 years of being on the air, a special was created called “All Growed Up,” chronically the lives of these toddlers 10 years later as pre-teens. This special spawned a spin off, All Grown Up! which lasted for 55 episodes–only a fraction of the original series’ 172. In addition to the spin off series, Rugrats led to plenty of video game adventures, lots of merchandise, and a slew of awards and accolades. It’s notoriety in the children’s television world is still lingering today as a revival is currently in talks.
Rugrats is credited with giving Nickelodeon it’s 90’s power and was the networks highest rated show during the decade’s latter half. The show lasted for 9 seasons, 172 episodes, and 13 years, earned 20 awards, and is the only Nickelodeon show to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Despite whatever future Nickelodeon had after Rugrats, this was the show that the network is known for. Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Angelica, Dil, and Kimi still live within the memories of many 90’s kids, and if the current spark of classic revivals is any indication of what could still come, Rugrats may have today’s children (and adults) imagining a world beyond their play pens.