Nickelodeon Bets on ‘Rugrats’ Revival in Animation Ramp-Up

Brian Steinberg
·3-min read

They may be young, but the young animated characters who make up the Rugrats are not to be dismissed.

Nickelodeon stopped making original episodes of the iconic series in 2004, but will re-launch the program in 2021, reuniting many of the actors who gave the toddlers at the center of the series voice and adding a wide array of new actors to many of their parents. “It’s an enormous responsibility. It’s such a beloved franchise,” says Brian Robbins, president of ViacomCBS’ Nickelodeon, in an interview. “We have a lot of the original creative team back including the voice cast of all the babies. That’s exciting and that’s a giant stamp of approval.”

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The kids-media giant is betting on a wide range of new animation projects — it has hired more than 500 people in the past year at its animation studio and put more than 50 projects into development — to attract both kids and parents as Nickelodeon and its rivals refashion themselves for an era when an increasing amount of their audience watches new programs via broadband, in addition to linear TV. Some of the new Nickelodeon series may surface first on Paramount Plus, ViacomCBS’ new streaming-video hub and Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer of its U.S. ad sales, says the company is open to devising packages that encompass both traditional TV and streaming inventory.

Nickelodeon will introduce animated series based on “Star Trek,” “Monster High,” “The Smurfs” and “Big Nate,” along with a “SpongeBob SquarePants” spinoff that puts character Patrick Star at the center of things. The network announced a new series, “ZJ Sparkleton,”a buddy comedy produced by Nelvana that follows a ten-year-old vlogger and her space alien best friend. “The Hamster Show” is aimed at preschoolers, and follows a crew of hamsters who protect an eight year old they believe is their king.

The network will also continue to develop its live-action series. “That Girl Lay Lay” will debut this summer and features hip hop artist Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High in a new comedy about an avatar from a personal affirmation app who comes to life. “Warped!” is a new buddy comedy that follows co-workers at a comic-book shop. Nickelodeon renewed two of its best-known current live-action series, “Danger Force,” its best watched live action program among kids between six and 11, and “Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan,” for second seasons. The network also ordered six additional episodes of “Side Hustle,” bringing the first season to a total of 26 episodes.

Robbins believes the new “Rugrats” will attract parents who watched the series as kids as well as their offspring. And the show will have many familiar elements, including original cast members E.G. Daily, Nancy Cartwright,, Cheryl Chase, Cree Summer and Kath Soucie. They will be joined by Ashley Rae Spillers and Tommy Dewey, who play Tommy’s parents; Tony Hale as Chuckie’s father; Natalie Morales as Phil and Lil’s mother; Anna Chlumsky and Timothy Simons as Angelica’s parents; Nicole Byer and Omar Miller as Susie’s parents; and Michael McKean as Grandpa Lou Pickles. The series, which will appear first on Paramount Plus, is set to debut this spring.

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