Every week (and nearly everyday) throughout the ’90s, American kids watched a group of rag-tag talking babies navigate through their larger-than-life world and learn the ups-and-downs of growing up. Rugrats (which is now streaming on Hulu), was Nickelodeon’s second ever cartoon – was preceded only by Doug, and they premiered on the same night – ran for 9 seasons and 172 episodes. It racked up awards and led to movies, endless merchandise, and a spin-off series.
Conceptualized by the then-married animation team Klasky Csupo (producer Arlene Klasky and animator Gábor Csupó), who had created The Simpsons, the show captivated not only their youthful audience, but also the targets’ parents with sight gags and witty pop culture references.
The former couple went on to create some of Nick’s most beloved series (Rocket Power, The Wild Thornberrys), and are down to give it another shot (hear that, The Splat?!). While it remains to be seen if the pair could recreate the magic of the initial 1991 phenomenon, it’s safe to say that they gave the network a lot of firsts. Read on for more on that, and some other interesting tidbits about The Rugrats.
Angelica caused the show’s original creative team to break up.
There’s no question – terrible toddler Angelica was a brat. While her naughty behavior led to guaranteed laughs, and she was usually reprimanded (either by her parents or the universe), the character quickly became a boiling point for the creative team.
Arlene Klasky admitted that she hated Angelica, finding her “too mean” and distasteful with her signature insult: “you dumb babies.” She hated her so much that she soon began to face off against her ex-husband/co-collaborator and the show’s writing team, who all wanted to keep up Angelica’s antics in an effort to stay modern and unique.
Things reached a boiling point in 1993, and most of the writers either left or were kicked off the program. The show went into a nearly three-year hiatus of airing merely reruns (save from some specials), before a team was pieced back together.
The lead singer of Devo wrote the show’s theme song.
Remember those guys from the ’80s who wore red cones on their head and sang about whippin’ it good – well, the group’s co-founder is the same man behind the Rugrats theme song.
Mark Mothersbaugh left his Devo days behind to help score the series – coming on board while the characters were still being conceptualized.
“They would sit on these crates that I had because I didn’t have enough chairs for everyone,” Mothersbaugh (who inspired Chuckie with his wild hair and thick glasses) said of creating the playground sound during the early days of the show.
Mothersbaugh quickly picked up on the Klasky-Csupo vision, and wowed the team with his first draft of the song.
“I sampled a lot of human sounds early on for Rugrats,” he revealed. “I was sampling noises made from humans that became percussion and became bass instruments and things like that.”
Rugrats is the only Nickelodeon series to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As of 2015, Rugrats is the only Nickelodeon television series to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not even Spongebob – which ousted Rugrats as the network’s longest running series a while back – has received the honor.
The diaper gang finds their place among numerous animated greats like Disney’s Snow White, Peter Pan character Tinkerbell, Winnie the Pooh, and the Muppets.
All the main characters were voiced by women.
Although the main babies are mostly male (save for twin Lil and Angelica), the show’s voice cast was entirely female. Lead adventurer Tommy was brought to life by Elizabeth Daily, Kath Soucie played both Lil and Phil, Cheryl Chase voiced Angelica Pickles, Tara Strong spoke as Dil, and Christine Cavanaugh was Chuckie Finster.
All the women are well-established in the world of voice actors, and are behind some of the most famous animated characters. Soucie was the fabulous Lola Bunny in Space Jam; Daily was Buttercup on The Powerpuff Girls; and Cavanaugh (who sadly passed away last year) was Dexter on Dexter’s Laboratory.
Lisa Loeb, Iggy Pop, Lenny Kravitz, and Lou Rawls all played singing babies in The Rugrats Movie.
1998’s The Rugrats Movie, which introduced younger brother Dil to the Pickles’ family, was the first feature length film to be made from one of Nickelodeon’s toons. The movie included a slew of musical numbers – produced by Mothersbaugh.
One song in particular, called “This World is Something New to Me,” employed the vocal talents of several successful Hollywood musicians and Grammy-winners.
The tune, which was about newborn babies in the hospital discovering the world for the first time, included circumcision jokes and short, rhyming lyrics.
“Just in general, it’s a song about reactions to being newborn,” Iggy Pop said in a “making of” feature (above) about the track. Yes, that Iggy Pop.
Other babies included Lisa Loeb, Patti Smith, Lou Rawls, Laurie Anderson, Lenny Kravitz, Beck, and Jakob Dylan. Like a “We Are the World,” but for preschoolers!
Klasky originally had a different title in mind for the show.
A fan of ’80s ensemble show Thirtysomething – which followed the lives of a group of friends in their (you guessed it) ’30s – Klasky thought it would be quirky to title the show Onesomething.
Obviously, the group decided to shy away from adult humor when naming their new kids’ program.
“In the end, we decided on Rugrats, a phrase used to describe kids crawling about on the floor, which wasn’t so well known at the time,” she told The Guardian.
Klasky first had the idea for the show in 1989, when she had two under-four children of her own at home. The series was born from a simple thought: “If [my kids] could speak, what would they say?”
Originally published on November 15, 2015