After nine seasons and two spin-off series, Rugrats came to an end in 2004, but the reason behind it is a mystery. Rugrats was one of the original Nicktoons along with Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show, and played a very important role in Nickelodeon’s success in the early 1990s, thanks to its original premise and the network’s decision to play it every day in the evening, which was a primetime slot.
Created by Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó, and Paul Germain, Rugrats followed a group of toddlers (Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil, and Angelica) and their day-to-day lives that turned into extraordinary adventures thanks to their imaginations. Rugrats is the third longest-running animated series behind SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents, which made its abrupt cancellation a bit surprising and the mystery around it even bigger.
Rugrats went beyond television with three films (one of them a crossover with The Wild Thornberrys), comics, video games, and lots of merchandise, but what truly hurt the original series were internal conflicts. According to YouTube user Saberspark, Klasky and Germain couldn’t agree on the direction the show should have taken, with Klasky wanting the babies to act as such instead of having them reenacting adult situations, and Germain wanting more plot-driven stories with well-developed characters. There was also one character in particular that was the center of many discussions: Angelica Pickles.
Klasky reportedly hated the character, who wasn’t even part of her original idea, and was actually added to Rugrats by Germain. Angelica has become a love her or hate her character, mirroring what was going on behind cameras (or more like storyboards). Once the team completed the first order of episodes, Germain and the rest of the writers left, and a new team was brought in. The change of style was pretty obvious, and along with the later addition of characters like Dil and Kimi, contributed to a decrease in quality and interest from viewers.
Nickelodeon then forced Klasky and Csupo to work on the spin-off series All Grown Up! and in order to get that, the main series was cancelled. All Grown Up! didn’t do as well as expected, and it came to an end in 2008. A second spin-off series, Rugrats Pre-School Daze, had only four episodes and aired between November and December 2008, marking the end of the Rugrats‘ TV run.
Of course, the arrival of other cartoons, especially SpongeBob SquarePants, also contributed to a decrease in viewership and the network deciding to focus on the spin-off (that could appeal to the audience that grew up with the characters) rather than on the main series. In the end, Rugrats has a very special place in the hearts of those who watched the daily adventures of Tommy and company, as well as in Nickelodeon’s history.
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