L-r: Chuckie, Phil, Dil, Lil, Tommy, Angelica.


Original medium: Television animation
Produced by: Klasky-Csupo
First Appeared: 1991
Creators: Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo
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On August 11, 1991, Nickelodeon, a leader in kids' programming for cable TV, debuted three new …

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… cartoon series, all of which went on to fame. Doug was later acquired by Disney, and broadcast on ABC TV every Saturday morning. Ren & Stimpy pioneered a '90s style of gross-out humor, without which Beavis & Butt-Head and South Park probably wouldn't have existed. But it's Rugrats that's well on its way to becoming an enduring classic.

Rugrats was created and produced by Gabor Csupo and Arlene Klasky, who credited their own infant son, Brendon, with having inspired the 1989 pilot episode. Brendon was far from alone in affecting the course of toon history this way. Hank Ketcham based Dennis the Menace on the antics of his own son, also named Dennis. Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott based Baby Blues on Kirkman's response to parenthood. And Sheldon Mayer created Sugar & Spike after watching home movies of his own children.

It's the latter that stands as the closest antecedent to Rugrats. Like Sugar and Spike, the Rugrats babies communicate easily with one another, but can scarcely comprehend the arcane lingo used by the grownups in their lives. And those grownups, like the Plumms and Wilsons of Sugar & Spike, sometimes marvel at how closely the apparently meaningless babble of their children resembles adult conversation.

The Rugrats include, but are not limited to, Chuckie Finster, Angelica Pickles, Angelica's cousin Tommy, the twins, Phil and Lil DeVille, Susie Carmichael, and the youngest of the Pickles kids, Tommy's brother Dylan (aka Dil Pickles). Voice actors regularly heard on the show include, but are far from limited to Nancy Cartwright (who also voices Bart Simpson), Joe Alaskey (Plucky Duck), Cathy Cavadini (Tanya Mousekewitz), Hasse Jonsson (several voices in Pirates of Darkwater), Deanna Oliver (The Brave Little Toaster), Tara Charendoff (Bertha in Beetlejuice) and Kath Souci (Bubbles in Powerpuff Girls).

Klasky-Csupo, Inc. (whose other credits include Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Stressed Eric and the animated version of Duckman) made 65 episodes before the show went to an all-rerun format, in 1994. That same year, however, it was first aired in prime time, and proved so popular there, it was put back into production in 1997. The first Rugrats feature-length film, released to theatres in 1998, became the most successful non-Disney animated feature of all time, and spurred more production of new episodes. And the second, which came out in 2000, has kept the show on the production schedule ever since. The third movie, released June 13, 2003, crossed them over with a newer Klasky-Csupo cartoon, The Wild Thornberrys — which, considering how big the Rugrats property has become, can only work to the benefit of Thornberrys.

The property has not been quite so wildly successful in American comic books (tho in Britain, it's licensed by no less an industry giant than Marvel). Still, the comics version goes back as far as 1993, when it first appeared in Nickelodeon magazine. It hit the magazine's cover for the first time in '95. Rugrats Comic Adventures became a magazine-size monthly with a November, 1997 cover date — but was so little noticed in the superhero-oriented so-called "mainstream" comic book market, it wasn't until 1999 that Diamond Comics Distributors, which maintains a virtual monopoly in that market, deigned to offer it to client stores. The comic ended in 2000. A daily and Sunday newspaper strip was launched April 5, 1998 by Creators Syndicate, which also handles Heathcliff, Ms. Peach, Andy Capp and other popular newspaper features. The strip was supervised by veteran comics writer/editor Lee Nordling (Mickey Mouse, Masters of the Universe), who farmed out the work to several writers and artists until the strip went into reruns, on May 3, 2003.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Rugrats on Nickelodeon, Klasky-Csupo produced an episode titled "All Growed Up". In it, the characters were seen ten years later, on the edge of puberty. A three-episode try-out for a spin-off series, based on this concept, aired on Nickelodeon in 2003.

But kids who enjoy the current show (and their parents, many of whom enjoy it with them) have nothing to worry about. The Rugrats' baby adventures will undoubtedly continue for a long time to come.


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Text ©2002-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Nickelodeon.