Nicktoons: Rugrats, Doug, Ren & Stimpy reboots discussed
On the 25th anniversary, four show creators reveal their reboot wishes for three Nicktoons.
It’s Nicktoons week on EW.com, and we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Nickelodeon’s debut of Doug, Rugrats, and The Ren & Stimpy Show in a big way: With some exclusive intel on that outrageous orange splat of shows that helped define your childhood. Pick up this week’s EW or stick around EW.com all week long for exclusive Nicktoons content and our mega-sized oral history of the ’90s animation block.
The three nascent Nicktoons officially turn 25 on Aug. 11, but we’re kicking off this special week not by looking back, but by looking ahead — to what may yet become of your favorite titles.
Hot off the heels of the return of Hey Arnold!, there’s a big question this nostalgia-crazed world wants to know: Could Doug, Rugrats, or The Ren & Stimpy Show receive the reboot treatment?
Vanessa Coffey, the former Nick exec who’s largely credited as the inventor of Nicktoons, says yes. “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.” Here’s what the show’s creators say:
Two of Rugrats’ three creators (and only two because we didn’t have time to ask the third one) agree there’s definitely a way to bring the baby adventures of Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and Angelica back — although they differ on how.
Co-creator Paul Germain says it’s a possibility, if Nickelodeon is so inclined. “It’s completely up to them, but I think it could be interesting,” he tells EW. The hitch here is Germain, who was largely the creative voice of Rugrats once it went to series, left after the original order of 65 episodes. “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.”
Arlene Klasky, who co-created the show with Gabor Csupo and Germain but left showrunning to the latter, said a revival is something she and Csupo “think about, 100 percent.” But Klasky and Germain would disagree on one of the first fundamental questions that would face Rugrats, just as it faces every reboot: whether the show should acknowledge the passing of time and, in the case of this show, how technology has seeped its way into child-rearing. (You know Dr. Lipschitz is all about those baby apps.)
“Life has changed 25 years later, so the technology has changed,” says Klasky. “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.”
Germain says he’d rather keep a Rugrats reboot as a time capsule. “One of the things I think might be fun would be to just make the show a retro ‘90s show,” he says. “I think that’d be cool. 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. It takes a really fun writers’ obstacle away and makes it too easy.”
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In the case of unassuming tween Doug, the show’s future is much like its main character: a possible, albeit wildly unrealistic, fantasy. The rights to Doug went over to Disney in 1996, and creator Jim Jinkins says the Mouse House isn’t looking to re-bag this Neematoad.
“Disney owns the right to make anything new, and they have no interest right now in anything to do with it,” says Jinkins, who’s already one step ahead of reboot-happy fans: He’s written a treatment and key scenes for a movie follow-up that would check in on what Doug’s been up to all these years later.
For Jinkins, time has certainly passed, and Doug would be living in a New York City metropolis. “I haven’t written the whole screenplay, but some stories are written,” says Jinkins. “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 also revealed whether Doug ends up with Patti… but you’ll have to check back on EW for that full story on Tuesday.)
But, as Jinkins stresses, the outlook is grim despite his best efforts. “Maybe if I wrote it like a book and put it out there, Disney would give me permission to do that,” he says. “I keep qualifying it, I guess out of being a cock-eyed optimist, but right now they explained they’re not interested in moving Doug forward. In the past, they have expressed interest in a play. Now, that would be a great play. So, I don’t know! But I do think I have a great story for fans to get a feel for where Doug is headed, and I thought that would be an awesome thing to deliver.”
THE REN & STIMPY SHOW
The final candidate for a reboot — and perhaps the one furthest from fruition — is The Ren & Stimpy Show, which infamously survived a troubled history with Nickelodeon almost from the start.
When the network first sought creator-driven shows to launch the Nicktoons block, Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi was one of the most clear in his creative vision for the debauched dog-and-cat comedy. But, as has been well-chronicled over the years, Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon had a messy parting of ways over the nature of the show. The de facto straw that broke the camel’s back: the boundary-pushing, “unairable” episode “Man’s Best Friend,” which synced with Kricfalusi’s departure from the network.
In 2003, Ren & Stimpy was revived on Spike/TNN as Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, which purported to resurrect lost episodes and produce new ones, elevating the show to the adult territory it was always destined to inhabit. But that experiment lasted less than two months.
EW asked Kricfalusi whether Ren & Stimpy could ever return for a third go-round on TV, or a second run on Nickelodeon.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Kricfalusi says. “At least not without the creator of this creator-driven show.”