When “Rugrats“Went off the air after a decade in 2006, with a handful of Daytime Emmy wins for an animated program, half a dozen Kids Choice Awards, and a star of its own on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was also the second-longest running animated series on Nickelodeon (“SpongeBob SquarePants” is the longest), made three films, and the franchise’s licensing and merchandising potential seemed endless.
In other words, resurrecting the comedic adventures of the animated dead was a breeze for Nick. Nick has already wiped “SpongeBob” off the shelf and is becoming one of the biggest subscription drivers for the newly launched Paramount Plus.
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However, when Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil and Angelica return to the screens, they look brand new thanks to the CG animation style. Executive producers Eryk Casemiro and Kate Boutilier (both worked on the original series) reinterpreted “Rugrats” for new and adult audiences, aiming to create a world in which Arlene Klasky’s groundbreaking animation would be appreciated, however has been updated. Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain in 1991.
“The unusual line and design style has often been described as ugly-cute, and included many forced angles from the camera to the floor-level babies’ eyes as they embarked on their adventures,” says Casemiro. “CG allowed us to give it a really fresh look and feel contemporary compared to the original 2D.”
As a result, the main characters’ assets and designs were conceived in Burbank, California before being sent to Technicolor in India for animation. This process allowed the team to achieve those extreme “rugrats” camera angles and capture the original, asymmetrical Klasky-Csupó character design. It also allowed for more animation tools and lighting. The result is a larger environment, more realistic shadows and settings, and a greater “mood” as the characters experience their unique, fantastic adventures.
The story goes on
“Because of the sophistication of the kids and the movies they saw, we wanted them to have the same experience of being right there with the babies under the table,” adds Boutilier. “The show feels very tactile. You are really in her world, with her view of the crumbs under the couch and all that. “
The EPs add that the new “Rugrats” take into account the color palette and design of the original, but the CG style also allows for more details that further build on these characters’ worlds – from the walls or furniture to the children’s clothing wear to the scratch marks on their shoes.
Plus, the creatives can take storytelling to exciting new places themselves.
“There is an episode where the babies imagine they are going into Chas’ ear because there is a song in his head and they want to get it out,” says Casemiro. “So they’re going on a journey through the body and it’s so much more, dare I say, grotesque than 2D. It’s not cute – it actually has a slightly insane quality to it that the show always had in its design style. “
Given how much the world has changed since “Rugrats” went off the air 15 years ago, it was easy for the creatives to update the stories to reflect a new generation. Instead of repeating all the stories they’d already told, they focused on how life has turned out since then. They also updated the adult characters so that the ages of the young parents are now in line with the millennial audiences who grew up with the series, creating a double viewing experience for young families.
“We slightly changed some of the adult dynamic and made more of a group of friends who are connected,” reveals Boutilier. “Although we start our stories from a baby’s point of view, adult stories can also influence or complement a story.”
“It’s safe to say that it was easier to generate stories now than it was towards the end of ‘Rugrats’,” adds Casemiro. “I remember this existential crisis like: ‘What else can you learn, we’ve done everything! ‘ back then. But the refresh was nice. It was a whole new set of circumstances, but the characters were like old friends. It was easy to imagine how these characters would face these new circumstances, since their core personalities have not changed. When we started writing it was like a hug from an old friend. “
“Rugrats” debuts May 27th on Paramount Plus and Nickelodeon.
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