When you turn the channel to Nickelodeon, you won’t be hallucinating when you see popular ’90s cartoons such as Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life or Hey Arnold! occupying your television screens. Riding the prominent nostalgia wave that most networks seem to be riding these days, Nickelodeon is planning on rebooting many of our favorite childhood cartoons in both movies and television shows.
“One of the amazing things about having a library of animated shows that is so beloved is that the love has not thinned as the years have passed,” said senior vice president of programming and development at Nickelodeon, Chris Viscardi, who oversees the Nickelodeon Animation Studio and all of the animated properties the network develops and produces. “The first three animated shows that we ever made in 1991 were Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy and Doug and their fans today are just as avid about those shows, now, as they were back then.”
The key to having a successful reboot is having a property that would please the adult fan base but would also work for the kid generation of today.
“We looked at some of those properties and we talked to some of the creators of the original content and kind of ear marked a few of them that we thought would have the best potential for success and then we went down the path of exploring them,” explained Viscardi.
According to Viscardi, having the original creators be a part of the reboots was very important to the network. Creators Craig Bartlett of Hey Arnold!, Joe Murray of Rocko’s Modern Life, Jhonen Vasquez of Invader Zim and Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó, Paul Germain of Rugrats have all returned to the network in some capacity for their respective shows.
“Some of them [reboots] are television series and some are specials or movies that we’re doing,” said Viscardi. “We looked at it through a few different lenses, but ultimately it came down to our original fans loving them, us feeling that kids today would love them and then having the original creative team coming back and driving the new version of them.”
This isn’t the first time that the network has cracked their vault open in regards to their ’90s properties. In October of 2015, Nickelodeon aired a late night line-up called The Splat, which featured many popular ’90s cartoons and live-action shows.
“The Splat was a response to so much social media attention and love for some of those old Nick properties,” said Viscardi. “We have all these properties and series and it seemed like an opportunity for us to put that content back out into the world to the fans and target the fans who originally loved it and it was successful.”
One ’90s property that is still going strong is SpongeBob Squarepants, who will be celebrating 20 years on the network in 2019.
SpongeBob is like The Simpsons,” explained Viscardi. “It’s such a part of our culture and its part of our pop culture history and it’s one of those properties that is once in a lifetime. SpongeBob is in pretty rarified air when it comes to the longevity of its success and how well it is still doing all these years later.”
The rambunctious Rugrats will also be returning to Nickelodeon in the near future with a rebooted 26-episode television series and movie in 2020.
“The creators were interested in exploring more with those characters, but more than anything the original audience for that series was always asking for more,” said Viscardi. “Probably more than any property that we have from our library, Rugrats is the one that continues to get amazing response from today’s generation of kids. The concept [of Rugrats] has been proven to be timeless, magical and thrilling. That was one that was at our top of the list to bring back.”
Last year, the network aired the television movie special Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, which proved to be a success to the network. Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim will also be getting their own special movies in the near future.
“The interesting thing about Hey Arnold! and Rocko’s Modern Life is that Craig Bartlett and Joe Murray had a story that they wanted to tell,” explained Viscardi. “Craig had a conclusion to his story that he wanted to tell [about Hey Arnold!] and it seemed like it was best suited as a movie to tell the story.”
Rocko’s Modern Life ended when the three core characters were shot into space, which proved to be an exciting jumping off point for Murray and his creative team to imagine what would happen 25 years later when they returned from space according to Viscardi.
“The same thing can be said for Jhonen Vasquez for Invader Zim. Those three creators had a story that they wanted to tell, which was best suited for a one-off movie. We’re still open to exploring them as new episodes moving forward but first we wanted to tell a great movie,” said Viscardi.
Two properties that the network is excited to launch is the reboot of Blue’s Clues and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which premieres Monday, Sept. 17.
“Blue’s Clues is coming in the near future and was such an iconic preschool hit for us. It was certainly a first for its kind. Everyone at the network is thrilled about where that new series may go,” said Viscardi. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that Nickelodeon acquired a number of years ago and this is the second series version that we had out there. It’s funny, light and has new voice actors. We’re really excited to provide a new take on the turtles for a new generation of kids and adult fans as well.”