Thanks to the availability of older newsgroup articles at Google, I have recently found some articles on the initial reaction of the first 3 Nicktoons, when they first aired on 8/11/1991 -- Doug, Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy. On this page are some newsgroup articles from fans who have first witnessed this moment in TV history.
From Nick Sayer (rec.arts.animation, 8/11/1991):
Doug: I liked this one. It was relatively well drawn in a light-line, watercolor style. Jim Jenkins is the principal artist, as far as I could tell. "Doug Can't Dance" and "Doug Gets Busted" were the premiere stories. The show seemed a bit short to me - with only two stories and a bunch of adds. There was a hiden moral in each one, but they didn't pound the viewer over the head with it as is current fashion. Doug looks like it's made for a junior-high age level.
Rugrats: This one was done in a rougher line style that I don't usually like. At least the lines didn't wiggle around like some do. Lots of good perspective shots and point-of-view shots make up for the odd drawing style though. This one looks like it'd work a little better for an older audience than Doug would. The music is neat too. This one could be the next 'Simpsons.' At least there were fewer ads. Klasky/Cuspo was mentioned at the end, which was the same company that animated 'Do The Bartman.' They are a Yugoslavian firm, if memory serves. The actual animation didn't stick out beyond the actual character layout - which no doubt was not something Klasky had anything to do with.
Ren & Stimpy: This one is heavy-lined and ink (as far as I could tell). Very, very weird. There were some animation mistakes (lines showing through forground objects in particular), but this one is so weird that it could very well have been intentional. This one is so surreal it would have made Tex Avery flip out. It got off to a bit of a slow start though. There are a lot of static frames, but if you're into surreal humor, this one can't be beat. The humor is so weird that it is entirely ageless.
WARNING: Watching Ren & Stimpy on Acid may cause psychosis.
I don't know whether I like Doug or Ren better. Ren is
funnier, but Doug is more artistic. But Rugrats isn't bad either.
Let's hope Nickelodeon keeps up the good work.
Response from Brian Howard (8/12/1991):
We can't get cable on campus here, so I haven't seen Rugrats yet in its finished form (I did see an animatic once -- as an intermediate stage they film the line drawings that they have at that point, matched up to the voice track; it gives an idea of what the action is going to look like, 'though the animation is _very_ rough and there's no color, music, or sound effects), but I can clarify some points about its production. It is produced at Klasky-Csupo in Hollywood (Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo are from Hungary, by the way; I believe they're listed as producers along with Paul Germain (who created the show and is the actual day-to-day producer; he used to work for Gracie Films, co-ordinating the original appearance of the Simpsons shorts on the Tracey Ullman Show. He also married my wife's sister, which is how I learned about all this.)). K-C runs the whole show on Rugrats -- they write the scripts, record the voices, and do the animation ('though I believe the bulk of the fill-in work is done in Korea). This is in contrast to the way things work on The Simpsons, where K-C is contracted by Gracie to produce the animation given the scripts and voice tracks. In both cases, though, it is definitely the artists at K-C who deserve the credit for the character layout.
Response from Erik Olson (8/13/1991):
Klasky-Csupo Yugoslovian? I always thought they were hardcore american animators. They not only did "Do the Bartman", they are the animation studio that does ALL the Simpsons-related stuff (though they send out to Wang for lots of it, it seems). Hey, Nick, did you catch Kath Soucie doing the kid voices?
Response from Felix Lee (8/13/1991):
Doug. Is anyone tired of the kid-with-active-fantasy-life? Calvin and Hobbes, Muppet Babies, Bobby's World, Little Rosie, etc. It's an idea that works well in animation, and there's life in it yet, but it's becoming another cartoon cliche.
Doug is older than the run-of-the-mill, a junior-high kid. The other characters seemed unreal, caricatures of School Bully, First Love, Best Friend, etc. This is reasonable, given that everything is shown from Doug's point of view, but it might get tiresome.
Rugrats. I liked this. It's told from the point of view of a baby, just past the toddling stage. Many of the scenes are drawn from the baby's pov. The opening sequence is a dizzying continuous pov shot.
The babies in this aren't real babies, somewhat like the way Chip and Dale aren't real chipmunks. The babies' actions are consistent with real babies, but the cartoon provides them with rationales. They talk to each other, though not to adults, and they're fairly intelligent.
Ren & Stimpy. Surreal. Cliched. I don't know if I like it yet.
From Ron Rader (rec.arts.animation, 8/13/1991):
Well kids, I'm finally getting the animation monkey on my back again. I've discovered Liquid TV (so far, Aeon Flux is my favorite, but I've always liked Heavy Metal), the reruns on TNT, and now Nicktoons.
So what's the deal? Why did I miss out on this stuff for so long? The only reason I caught Liquid TV was because someone mentioned it as I was pining away for more prime time cartoons a la Simpsons. What else have I been missing?
Eastern times and channels, please.
Anyway, my impressions of the Sunday Nicktoons were favorable. I didn't catch Doug, but...
RUGRATS - Clever and amusing, but a little too thirtysomething for my tastes. The kids were cool, and the adults were fools. Animation style reminded me of Rick Geary (very cool). I'll continue to watch this one.
REN AND STIMPY - I've noticed other posters commenting "weird" and "not funny." R&S is certainly very very weird and surreal. Definitely pokes fun at nearly every 'cartoon stereotype' with a goofy cat and a twisted rabbit as the pro-tagonists, and lots of hidden jokes gleaned from classic 'toons. Stuff like 'meeces to pieces,' Yogi and the Ranger, and other goofy takeoffs.
But I've gotta say that I thought R&S was the funniest thing I've seen in a LOOOONG while! Absolutely hilarious! Mind you, I enjoy weird gross humor (you should see my comics collection) so this was right up my alley. Roaches on the walls, silly pop-out eyes (like Roth's Rat Fink), crazy surreal facial expressions, gooey hairballs, cat litter as panacea, totally insane!
R&S had an excellent soundtrack, they have nearly every 50's health class
and Yogi Bear cartoon song embedded in the background, along with some great
original music. The animation reminds me a lot of that late 50's-early 60's
jazz-type cool cat stuff. Heavy lines and insanity. I'll probably start taping
this one for posterity. I'd force my kids to watch it with me if I had any
("come on kiddies, it's Ren And Stimpy time again...").
From "Zube" (alt.tv.tiny-toon, 8/14/1991):
Re: the new Nick cartoons: I found 'Doug' to be the best of the bunch; Ren & Stimpy is very funny and reminds me very much of Bakshi's stuff, but I just can't stomach it; Rugrats did nothing for me.
Actually, probably the funniest part was the 'commercial' for 'LOG.'
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