On This Day in History: Nicktoons
Time has a funny way of always sneaking up on you. Look no further than the fact that on this day, 26 years ago (1991), Doug and Rugrats debuted on Nickelodeon (Tommy Pickles is like 27 y’all, MIND BLOWN!). Their debut signified the birth of Nicktoons, which were a staple of all our childhoods. The great thing about Nicktoons were that there was a flavor for everyone, young and old, boy or girl, it didn’t matter, there was a Nicktoon (or several) for you. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at some of the most iconic Nicktoons of all time.
Officially the first Nicktoon, Doug focuses on the life of Doug Funnie, a young boy trying to find his way in his new hometown of Bluffington. Doug is a bit of a worrisome guy and constantly doubts himself. Because of this Doug often struggles to stand up to his archrival, Roger Klotz or profess his love for his crush Pattie Mayonnaise. But with the help of his dog Porkchop and best friend Skeeter Valentine, Doug tries to deal with those insecurities. Serving as the narrator for the show Doug closes each episode by writing in his journal, recapping the lessons he’s learned from the episode.
The Wild Thornberry’s (1998-2004)
Growing up, we all wondered what it would be like if we could talk to animals. The Wild Thornberry’s gave us a glimpse as to what that would be like. The show focused on Eliza Thornberry who was gifted the ability to communicate with animals from a shaman trapped in a warthog’s body. Eliza travels around the world with her family who are famous animal documentarians. As a result, Eliza, with her pet chimpanzee Darwin often venture into the wild. Where the pair encounter tons of animals, making some friends and enemies along the way. The show puts a very interesting spin on diversity and acceptance, as each episode shows Eliza and company finding more out about the way different species live.
Rocket Power (1999-2004)
There was no cooler squad than the Rocket gang: Otto and Regina Rocket, Sam Dullard and Twister Rodriguez, spent their time living life to the fullest in their hometown of Ocean Shores, California. Flanked by Raymundo (Otto and Reggie’s dad) and Tito Makani (self-appointed philosopher and friend), the group spent their days playing extreme sports, surfing and creating their own highlight films and magazines. Each episode focused on the groups competiveness which often led to arguments amongst themselves. In the end, they always came around and put their respective friendships above winning. Debuting at the height of the extreme sports craze, Rocket Power was a timely series, that always showed the true meaning of friendship.
The Fairly OddParents (2001-present)
Neglected by his parents and tormented by his evil babysitter (Vicky), Timmy Turner is granted two fairy godparents (Cosmo and Wanda), whose sole purpose is to grant his every wish. Of course as any 10-year old kid would Timmy often abuses his power and then must try to right his wrongs (with the help of Cosmo and Wanda, of course). Over the course of the series various celebrities have voiced characters on the show: Chris Kirkpatrick, Jay Leno, Rick Fox, Gene Simmons and Tom Arnold to name a few. Running for 16 years, The Fairly OddParents is the second longest running Nicktoon of all-time.
One of the original Nicktoons, Rugrats tells the story of a fearless toddler named Tommy Pickles and his friends, Phil, Lil and Chucky. Told from their prospective, the show depicts the babies going through what would be considered mundane task for you or I, but for them are imaginative adventures. Those adventures often result in Tommy fearlessly leading his crew away from their playpen, cribs or sandboxes and facing their problems head on. Since the story is told from the babies’ perspective, they often see things not as they are but how look in their minds (vacuums being monsters or autumn meaning that trees are sick). The Rugrats showed that an adventure is always right around the corner and that courage can come in any shape or size.
Hey Arnold! (1996-2004)
A timeless classic that has stood the test of time, Hey Arnold! tells the story of a bold kid with a football shaped head, named Arnold (curiously he had no last name). Each episode centers around Arnold helping his friends or attempting to navigate through his own troubles. A central theme of the show is how selfless/compassionate Arnold is when it comes to helping his friends and family. The show covered various topics from bullying, being different and crushes, each tackled in a way simple enough for a kid to understand, yet sophisticated enough for an adult to appreciate. Thankfully Arnold and crew will grace our screens one final time this fall, in a made for television movie that will tie up all loose ends from the series.
As Told by Ginger (2000-2006)
Severely ahead of its time, As Told by Ginger was the first Nicktoon to be written for and marketed to teenagers. The animated series follows the life of Ginger Foutley (and friends), as they navigate through junior high (and later high school) as social outcasts. Unlike many of the shows on this list, the episodes of this series have a definitive order. Characters celebrate birthdays, move grades and go through noticeable physical changes throughout the series. Ginger closes every episode by writing about her thoughts in her diary (meant to summarize the message/lesson of the episode). As Told by Ginger is a coming of age story, that attempts to answer the question if the grass is greener on the other side.
SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present)
As the longest running Nicktoon of all time (18 years and counting), SpongeBob SquarePants played a major role in all of our childhoods. There’s no doubt that we all have a favorite SpongeBob moment (or two). The series chronicles the life and times of the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom. It’s title character is a lovable sea sponge who has a pet snail (Gary), works as a burger cook and lives in a Pineapple. He spends his time jellyfishing, annoying his next door neighbor Squidward and getting into hijinks with his best friends Sandy and Patrick (the real star of the show). Praised universally for its light-hearted nature and playful themes, SpongeBob appeals to all age groups.
No matter how many years past, the memories from our favorite Nicktoons stay with us forever. Each bringing back a story and a smile.