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An early Nickelodeon cartoon about the adventures of a group of toddlers.

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The World Through the Eyes of a Baby

  • Feb 24, 2010
  • by
During the 90's Nickelodean started showing what they called Nicktoons.  They had shows that came on besides say, Ren and Stimpy and the classic Merry Melodies.  Of the shows that stand out during this time period are Doug, AHHHH! Real Monsters, Rocko's Modern Life, Angry Beavers, Hey Arnold, Catdog, Rocket Power, and The Wild Thornberrys.  Of all the Nicktoons of the 90's, however, none saw success quite like Rugrats.  It went on to become Nickelodean's second longest running cartoon (Spongebob has run longer although Rugrats still has more episodes).  It doesn't take much to figure out that Rugrats has an incredible history and legacy. 

Let's get this out of the way first... the animation in Rugrats was terrible.  Unlike another certain show where the animation began as terrible that shall remain nameless and had a cast of characters who last name happened to be Simpson, Rugrats was not one of those shows that had, you know, witty dialog.  What it did have, however, was good characters and certain aspects about it that were so stupid you started to enjoy it.  In part because Rugrats centered on babies and not just kids.  And these babies communicated and went on adventures through the use of things like their imagination and the like.  In short, it seems like when they were making the show the appeal seemed to be, "What if babies did a lot more than just eat, sleep and poop?"  And thus you got Rugrats.  A show where the babies were far more aware of the world around them than the parents thought.  They communicated with each other, even without the parents being able to understand them.  That's right parents with toddlers.  Your baby that doesn't actually say anything, is still scheming with other babies behind your back.  Of course with Rugrats they're not like say.. Stewie Griffin where they plan world domination.  Actually Rugrats presented itself in such a way that while the babies were talking (despite their words still being incoherent mutterings to the adults in the show) they were still, well, babies.  They weren't geniuses.  Just babies who were enjoying their ignorance. 

With that in mind, it was amazing that the show could get off the way that it did.  As I said, they never forgot the babies were babies.  And the situations that they were put in were, for the most part, were toddler like situations.  Even the more "adult" situations were being seen through the eyes of the babies.  It was unique and somehow Rugrats was able to do it.  It rarely focused on the adults in the series.  That's probably a good thing since the majority of them, uh, so stupid that they couldn't watch their damn kids!  But if they actually DID the show would've been no fun.

The characters actually made the Rugrats enjoyable.  There was Tommy, the bravest of the babies and the leader.  There was also Chuckie, Tommy's best friend and the most scared of all the babies to do anything.  There was also Phil and Lil... the twins who always stick together and are a little disgusting in their own way (the boogers and all that stuff) and then there was Angelica.  The three year old who actually does talk to the babies, but also is understood by adults.  But she's also a spoiled brat. 

Then there were the parents.  There's Tommy's mother Didi, and his dad Stu.  Then there's Grandpa Lou.  Chuckie's father Charles (sometimes called Chaz).  Phil and Lil's mother Betty and father Howard.  Then there's Angelica's mother Charlotte and her father Drew.  Stu and Drew are brothers.  And that makes Tommy and Angelica cousins. 

There are also other characters that sometimes find their way in.  Somtimes you'll see Susie and her parents.  Although they're not in there a lot, they're just as important to the show.  There is also Tommy's dog Spike and Angelica's cat Fifi.  It seems like there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but you mostly just need to remember Tommy, Chucke, Phil and Lil, and Angelica.

Each episode of Rugrats were divided into two shorts that were usually around ten minutes long.  As I said, the creators never seemed to forget the main cast were a bunch of babies.  This is what works so well with Rugrats.  Part of it's charm is the fact that the babies just don't understand much of anything.  They're just toddlers with one hell of an imagination.  The world is an adventure to them.  The show perfects this by making sure that they can hardly pronounce many words correctly and that what they see they see as real, even when it is clearly fake.  Simply put, things like bills and whatnot just aren't a factor for the babies.  And while there's this big huge theme that goes through in which the babies want to grow up, there's another theme going through which reminds us that little toddlers are viewing the world in a different way.  This also allows for the use of imagination that has hardly been done in many television shows, mixing it with a sprinkling of pop culture references.  For example, Tommy can grab a jump rope and run around his backyard pretending he's "Okie Dokie Jones" (clearly a reference to Indiana Jones) or he can pretend that when he's in a van in a used car store it's a submarine while the man selling the van to his father is an evil shark that is out to get his dad.  Yes, Rugrats uses a lot of clever metaphors as well for the older people watching (who doesn't see a used car sellsman as a shark at one point?). 

The Rugrats also had its own little world contained.  Each of the adult characters (save for Grandpa) had a job.  We rarely learned just what those jobs are, however.  The only one that ever gets attention is Stu.  He's an inventor who invents toys and other things.  It was strange to see this, although sometimes the show would make it integral to the plot.  Other things within the show included how they enjoyed their hero Reptar (an obvious reference to Godzilla).  Reptar comes up in the world of the Rugrats constantly.  So much so that even Stu invents things are centered on Reptar (two of which play major roles in the two films).

When the show first began, the popularity was unique in the sense that even Nickelodean didn't seem to be quite that aware of just how popular the show was.  It had a way of appealing to kids and adults.  There was a sense of adventure.  And it touched on many themes such as friendship, innocence and at times even parenting.  Though that last one is perhaps the worst thing about the Rugrats.  The adult characters are not the least bit relatable in anyway.  It's also one of the funnest things to poke at the show for.  With how often Grandpa Lou falls asleep watching the kids... Stu and Didi are still surprised to find out they've gotten into something... and then immediately leave the kids with Grandpa AGAIN!  How none of the adults ever manage to notice four kids (FOUR) stacking up on top of each other is a mystery.  Simply put... these parents have got to be the worst parents in the world and some of these adults have got to be the dumbest in the world.

Yet, as I said, if the show didn't do that... it would be boring.  It would be uninteresting.  In short the show would've probably been terrible as all hell.  Besides we're not tuning in to see the adults.  We're quite literally tuning in to watch these babies.  And we see as characters learn valuable lessons.  There are two shorts per episode and in 1994 it was a bummer when they stopped making new episodes for the first time.  From that moment on what you primarily got were specials.  These included a Passover special in 1995,  A Hanukkah Special in 1996 and a Mother's Day Special.  Rugrats didn't get back to form until 1997 because of the increasing popularity.  And Rugrats soon became one of Nickelodeans longest running cartoons.  The only show on Nickelodean to run longer is Spongebob Squarepants. 

With it's popularity came a movie in 1998 which finally showed just how popular The Rugrats Movie was.  At the time it was the only animated movie that wasn't made by Disney to pass $100 million at the box office.  In the film, Tommy has to get used to the fact that he was getting a baby brother.  His name is Dil Pickles (get it?  The family's last name is Pickles and the baby's name is Dil?).  The movie itself is actually pretty good for Rugrats fans, but it was also the turn.  And the magic of the show began to run out as more stranget hings happened.

Since the movie introduced Dil, the episodes following also included him.  Problem was, Dil just wasn't much of an interesting addition to the show.  Where as the other babies talked among themselves, Dil was just the same old typical baby that just ate, cried and pooped.  He didn't add much to the show at all.  In fact, he made some episodes of Rugrats less intersting as a result.  I don't like describing it this way, but I'll throw it out there, anyway.  When Dil came along for the ride it felt like the older sibling who brings his brother along because his mother tells him too.  The older brother doesn't REALLY want the younger brother there... and neither do his friends, but they take him along because mommy said so.  To put it more simply, Dil just felt like a character forced upon us.  And in other episodes he happened to be there being happily watched by Didi and doing nothing.  Was the cast of Rugrats becoming too big?  Seemed that way.  Strangely enough... if Dil actually DID anything he might actually be interesting.

In 2000 the show once again went to the big screen with "Rugrats in Paris," and while many seemed to like that movie more, it was only more of a testament to how ridiculous the show was getting when the climax of the movie involves the babies running amok through Paris in one of Stu's crazy inventions that quite literaly destroys much of Paris because the babies are in it.  Worse yet, was how it also introduced Kimi.  Unfortunately by the time Kimi came along to the show, Rugrats was overpopulated with characters.  And suddenly each episode felt like one of those shows where you watch people on it but everyone needs a little bit of air time.  You had to make sure that Dil would do something stupid like fart or burp in every episode (because that's, quite literally, ALL HE EVER DOES) and then make sure that Kimi could be the sort of female lead character.  She eventually became nothing more than a female version of Tommy.  Not only that but the episodes became boring.  Even in the face of the babies still using their imagination, the ideas we got began to center more on making sure everyone in each episode did something because each time an episode aired they insisted that every baby be in every one.  There would've been nothing wrong, for example, if there was an episode where Phil and Lil didn't come over and were mentioned in passing, I don't think anyone would've cried over it.  For a show where the episodes span 30 minutes, making sure to include every character to some degree isn't hard.  Except Rugrats wasn't that kind of show.  Each episode consisted of two shorts that were, for the most part, only ten minutes long.  And within those ten minutes they tried to include every character.  You can see then, why trying to include six characters and give them all ample time to do something would've been hard.

More than that, the show just ran out of a lot of steam.  It wasn't so much that the characters refused to change as it was that they began rarely ever doing anything different.  In older episodes you'd see Chuckie show an ounce of bravery when it was called upon him.  As the show progressed Chuckie rarely had that call to action known for him.  Rather you got the feeling that Scooby Doo was missing his Shaggy.  Along those lines, the show just started to become boring as the jokes became centered primarily on what sort of strange bodily functions would happen to the babies (and, of course, Dil farting or something).  Kimi and Dil took more away from the show than they actually added.  Even stranger was that in the midst of all this, the show still had characters such as Susie and Angelica to tackle as well... and STILL TRIED TO INTRODUCE MORE CHARACTERS!  Rugrats became so overpopulated with characters that the shows characters just began to become dry.  

Rugrats then had a spinoff called "All Grown Up," which showed that there was a certain charm to the Rugrats.  In the first place, they kept the same voice actors.  At least there, Dil became more than a character who farted, burped, drooled, cried and pooped, and it actually had a thirty minute run time.  But "All Grown Up," became something which really showed what was so charming about the Rugrats.  Because they used the same voice actors... it was actually very odd to hear Tommy, for example, pronounce words correctly.  That sounds incredibly strange to say, but it is.  When you've watched a show for more than ten years you get adapted to the lanuage of said show.  The sudden change, despite being minor to many, was actually major if you grew up watching the Rugrats. 

It's hard to talk about the Rugrats because of that sort of thing.  The show was excellent... until they began stuffing more characters in.  Dil and Kimi in particular were adding to a cast of characters that was already rather huge.  Not to mention that many episodes became boring in the shows attempt to make sure everyone participated in some way.  What really began to harm the show was that it felt as though it was running out of ideas.  Not necessarily that it was overstuffed.  Which may be just WHY they were introducing new characters.  To give the show edge.

Rugrats is still, strangely enough, enjoyable to this day.  At least the classic episodes before Dil came along.  The show ended before it became terrible.  While I've said the show became over populated and it wasn't good anymore after a while... it kept from being absolutely terrible.  It just seemed that as the show went further along it lacked imagination.

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February 24, 2010
I love the old-school Nickelodeon shows like this. Too bad they ruined all of them in the late '90s and early 2000s. Damn Sponge Bob!
February 25, 2010
I love the 90's Nicktoons.  That was when Nickelodean was awesome... now it's pretty forgettable stuff.
February 25, 2010
I was a huge fan of "Rugrats", "Doug", "Are you Afraid of the Dark?", and "Rocko's Modern Life". Good stuff. I miss the old Nickelodeon before they resorted to stupidity as entertainment.
February 26, 2010
Loved Doug and Rocko's Modern Life.  I didn't watch much Are You Afraid of the Dark (and I'm actually not sure why) but I remember they had some movie that pretty cool.  Don't think I ever got scared by the show (of what I saw) but I like the concept of the show a ton.
February 27, 2010
The show was never really scary, but they did have some eerie stuff in there. Was it the movie they did about the pirate's ghost?
February 24, 2010
Although I have seen this show around, I have to say that I haven't seen a single spisode. It sounds pretty good, but it doesn't seem like it is geared for me. I sure do miss SAMURAI JACK (another with sub-par animation but great entertainment value). Great review!
February 24, 2010
I actually kind of liked the animation in Samurai Jack.  It had a style about it which I actually enjoyed considerably. 
February 24, 2010
Although I guess from an anime standpoint it's not nearly as good as a slew of other things out there!
February 24, 2010
I too liked the style in SAMURAI JACK...looks like a coloring book turned action movie!
More Rugrats reviews
Quick Tip by . January 23, 2013
posted in Pass The Remote!
Even though the Rugrats would have gone down in quality by alot by the late 90's until its end in 2004, there were a lot of episodes from the first half of the 90's that ranged from good to great.  Rugrats was simultaneously funny and relatable, despite having some aspects of the show that felt pretty ludicrous.    When I was a kid, I especially related to Chuckie since like him, I'm a redhead with glasses that was phobic about so many things (though I'm not nearly …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Genre: Animation
Studio: Nickelodeon, GaborCsupo

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