On August 11, 1991 Nickelodeon premiered Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy, three vastly different cartoons that would go on to achieve massive success and become a benchmark for animated television. Rugrats thrived on the imagination and innocence of the child mind and turned everyday events into grand adventures, Doug captured the struggles and joys of relationships in the adolescent life, and Ren & Stimpy became a pioneer of off-color, dark, and absurd humor that remains unforgettable to kids, teens, and outraged mothers. Just on the the cusp of the 25th anniversary of these three iconic Nicktoons, former Nickelodeon executive Vanessa Coffey, the de facto creator of Nicktoons, discusses the possibility of rebooting these shows for the current generation.
According to Entertainment Weekly, when asked about the possibility of rebooting the fan favorite Nicktoons Coffey stated “Absolutely. We’re talking 25 years later about these shows for a reason. And it’s not because they were different, but because they were good. They are good. I’d love to see all three of them come back”, but the potential for each different shows return are not all on the same level.
For Rugrats, the possibility of a reboot seems pretty likely, with two of the three original creators stating that the room for new adventures from the pre-school gang was definitely there, if Nickelodeon showed interest in bringing the series back. According to co-creator Paul Germain, “It’s completely up to them [Nickelodeon], but I think it could be interesting”. Fellow co-creator Arlene Klasky also stated that the idea of a reboot was something she, and third co-creator Gabor Csupo, “think about, 100 percent.”
The biggest issue that could hinder the development of a new series would be the direction each co-creator wants to take the show. Germain stated “One of the things I think might be fun would be to just make the show a retro ‘90s show.” “Cell phones can be interesting, but technology has a funny way of making it very difficult to write around because people are always in constant communication with each other in a way that works against drama”, “a lot of the direction that they took the show in after I left in 1993 – the second 65 episodes and then the All Grown Up series – I thought those episodes were poor. I thought they lost the spirit of it. I think the way to go [for a reboot] would be to take it back to where it was. I don’t know if we could really do that, but that’s what I would like to see. I think it’s possible.” Klasky feels that “life has changed 25 years later, so the technology has changed,” “kids’ worlds have changed. Now kids are in kindergarten learning how to code. I mean, that’s amazing. Imagine [the Rugrats] going to pre-school and they’re coding and what could possibly come out of some kind of crazy thing they invented or did something viral. I think [a reboot] would need to mirror our time now. And it would be relevant with the fans, from what I hear. They like all the nostalgia. But I think at the heart of it, the core of this story is about these kids’ little souls and how they’re feeling. So I think if you have that, but skewed with all the technology and what the world is like now, all the pop culture and what’s current in psychology and raising kids, I think it can only be fun. It only gives us lots of stuff to work with.”
The future of Doug is much more unlikely, despite the fact that creator Jim Jinkins has expressed interest in reviving the day dreaming tween’s life. Unfortunately for Doug fans, the rights to the series went to Disney back in 1996, and according to Jenkins, Disney has “no interest right now in anything to do with it”. Jinkins has even written a treatment for a new series, imagining Doug now living in a New York City metropolis. Jinkins stated “I haven’t written the whole screenplay, but some stories are written. Skeeter’s his roommate. Judy would be a performance artist off, off, off Broadway, just kind of doing weird stuff. Porkchop would be there – we’re not going to talk about dogs and their real lifespans, but I’ll just let him be.” Jinkins still remains optimistic, hoping that if he “wrote it like a book and put it out there, Disney would give [him] permission to do that”.
On a side note, Entertainment Weekly has also reported that Jinkins has revealed whether or not Doug and Patti end up together in the future. According to Jinkins, the show was birthed back in the 80s as a cartoon version of his life, akin to Quailman being Doug’s alter ego within the show. The fate of Patti and Doug also follows the story of Jinkins and the real life Patti the character was based on. In real life, Jinkins would reunite with the real Patti in New York, describing her as “perfect. Just perfect.” Then, in the midst of overwhelming emotion rushing over him, the real Patti said to Jinkins “I want you to meet my husband.” There you have it, but as Jinkins puts it “it doesn’t happen because, really, most people don’t end up with their first love”, even in the cartoon world.
In regards to Ren & Stimpy, the chances of a revival seem pretty bleak. The show suffered a tough history during its initial run, with many complaining the sexual innuendos and dark humor were too much for the kids network, which in turn caused a huge amount of tension between creator John Kricfalusi , which led to a parting of ways between the two that left a lingering bitter taste in both parties mouths. The show saw a brief revival on Spike with Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, but the project was soon canceled. When asked if the show would ever return to Nickelodeon or TV, Kricfalusi said ““Doesn’t look like it. At least not without the creator of this creator-driven show.”
With the recent influx of old school content flooding in with reboots and continuations like The Tick, Samurai Jack, Gilmore Girls, The X-Files, DuckTales, and Nickelodeon’s upcoming Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, there is definitely a precedent and market for these Nicktoons to come back to the small screen. Just hold on to the hope that fan demand can make a difference and make these studios see the money in nostalgia.