The New Yorker's Facts About Rugrats

In the 11/30/98 issue of The New Yorker, Mimi Swartz told about the Rugrats' long and winding road to success in her article, You Dumb Babies! -- How Raising The "Rugrats" Children Became As Difficult As The Real Thing. I won't be reprinting the article here, but I'll point out some important highlights from the article.

Angelica Pickles eclipsed Tommy as the most favorite Rugrats character, and even becoming more popular than the old-fashioned stand-bys, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. In addition to adverising appearances for Ford and Burger King, Angelia also made an appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show to plug the new movie. Girls, Inc. (the female version of The Boys' Clubs Of America) honored Angelica as a positive role model. Even other animation companies are taking noticed, trying to squeeze characters similar to Angelica into their cartoons. But there's one person who doesn't like Angelica -- Arlene Klasky.

Klasky, one of the creators of the series, actually hates Angelica, a character not created by Klasky. In the article, Klasky said, "I think she's a bully. I never liked Angelica." Klasky never fully approved of her character development, honed by Paul Germain, Gabor Csupo and the staff that worked on the classic 65. Angelica terrorized the babies, but her resourcefullness and her bonding with her businesswoman mother, Charlotte, is what makes her a positive role model.

The troubles of deciding what's appropriate for Angelica on the series eventually led to the dissolution of the series' original creative team.

In the article, it was mentioned that the humor in Angelica's bullying is what caused Klasky to express her distaste in her.

Paul Germain mentioned in 1992, Nick wanted a Christmas special from a Jewish perspective; Germain balked at that idea, suggesting that a Passover episode would be more enjoyable. Germain said, "They wanted the Jewish version of a Christmas episode. I told them, 'You know, that's not an interesting story.'"

While in charge of development for producer James L. Brooks, Germain helped bring The Simpsons to Brooks' Tracey Ullman Show. Germain later left Brooks in 1989 to develop various projects for K-C. His mission was to bring quality into children's programming.

Shortly afterward, Nick invited K-C to give them ideas for new shows, which would eventually become Nicktoons. Klasky, on maternity leave from K-C at the time, suggested a show about babies. Germain perfected the idea by suggesting a show about babies that talk when their parents leave the room. It was a good idea, but not their first choice. When Germain and Gabor Csupo met with Vanessa Coffey, who, at the time, was creating the Nicktoons concept, they pitched various show ideas, like a boy who leaves a gas station on another planet, so he can go exploring; or a show about a life in a bug city (this one became Santo Bugito, and was picked up by CBS in 1995). When Coffey balked at both ideas, they suggested the Rugrats concept, which Coffey liked.

After putting together a pilot film, Tommy Pickles & The Great White Thing, it was shown to executives at Nick, and to a test audience of children. After expressing their approval, Nick ordered what was to be the first 13 episodes of Rugrats. For the series, more characters were added, including Chuckie and Angelica. Angelica was added, since Germain felt that the series needed a bully. Angelica was based on a bully in Germain's childhood, who was a girl. In addition to that, it was Germain that decided that Angelica would be, to put it gently, a spoiled brat.

As for Angelica's  familiar "You dumb babies!" phrase, Nick originally requested that characters not to be called "dumb" or "stupid", but the rules were eventually bent a little. Because of the Nicktoon guidelines, which favored women, so much time was spent developing favorable female characters while males are fashioned as wimps.

Since the time she was created, Angelica started to become a problem for the Rugrats staff. In some instances, her voice, Cheryl Chase, had trouble portraying a mean Angelica. To help Chase out, Steve Viksen, one of the writers, would mention that Angelica is the Rugrats' J.R. Ewing.

During the first season, Klasky started to express her distaste in Angelica, questioning the writers, "How would I feel if my kids were watching that?" With that in mind, the Rugrats' view of childhood is everything but innocent. Klasky also protested Angelica's actions in episodes like Barbecue Story (where she threw Tommy's ball over the fence) and in episodes where Angelica gets mad and screams "You dumb babies!"

Angelica establish her role as The Queen Of Mean in The Trial, where she forced a confession out of Chuckie before confessing that she broke Tommy's clown lamp. After that episode, Klasky complained that the Rugrats are starting to act too old for their age. In various instances, Csupo often acts as a mediator in arguments between Klasky and the writers, with the writers often having it their way at the end.

At the start of the 2nd season, Germain has put an end to the "wreak havoc" episodes, where the Rugrats roam around, only to make a big mess (At The Movies, Momma Trauma and Incident In Aisle 7 are prime examples of "wreak havoc" episodes); Germain was getting tired of them. Instead, he wanted to explore the Rugrats emotions, getting into why they behave like that.

Some of the off-screen tensions eventually found their way into the scripts and, of course, into the show. One example is Didi's overdependence on child psychologist Dr. Lipschitz; that was based on Klasky's dependence on various child-care experts.

In 1993, shortly before Nick premiered the last of the original 65, production of Rugrats episodes ceased, and Germain and most of the Rugrats writing team left Klasky-Csupo. As for the reason why they left, the creators can't talk about it, as per a legal settlement. After the first run days were over, Nick had enough episodes to show everyday, and did just that in 1994, scheduling the show in the early evening, when kids and the parents will be watching. After 2 years of repeats, the show went back in production. However, the tensions between K-C and their former writers still exist. When various articles mentioned only Klasky and Csupo as the Rugrats' creators, eight former Rugrats writers submitted a letter of protest to the Los Angeles Times, requesting that Germain should be credited as well. Since then, you can't give K-C credit without mentioning Germain as well.

When the show went back into production, a new team of writers were hired. They loved Angelica just like the old team, but the new team, under story editor Kate Boutilier, now has more control not only over Angelica's attitude towards the other Rugrats, but over her diet of cookies and candy as well. According to Boutilier, the phrase "You dumb babies!" makes her seem as if she's cruel, which she acually isn't.

The Rugrats Movie is a departure from the series, not only because the babies crack more jokes about urination, but Angelica is kinder and gentler (the movie's details are too revealing, so I won't give it away here; take my word for it). After seeing the "new" Angelica in the film, Klasky changed her tune; "I think she's great for the show; I love Angelica."

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