It is no secret that children live in an entirely different world than adults, with its own rules, dangers and thrills. The best way to understand the complexities of kiddie imagination is to see life through their eyes and at their own (short) level. Rugrats, Nickelodeon’s excellent and long-running animated series, managed to give us a peek inside a toddler’s (soft) head.
First airing in 1991, Rugrats starred one-year old Tommy Pickles, a lean, mean, crawling machine, Chuckie Finster, and twins Phil and Lil DeVille. Chuckie had bright red hair, buck teeth and glasses and spent his days worrying about everything. The twins were positively identical, even though Phil was a boy and Lil a girl, right down to their fondness for eating worms and drinking out of the toilet. Angelica Pickles was Tommy’s older cousin and bane of the rugrats. She was three years old, with a physical and cognitive edge of the babies and boy, did she use her advantage. Since Angelica was able to communicate with adults more effectively, she delighted in lying to the little ones and distorting the truth, knowing that they had no way check on her facts. The only one able to stand up to Angelica was Susie Carmichael, a three-year old neighbor and all-around nice girl.
The toddlers often found the adult world incomprehensible or just down right weird. They couldn’t make themselves understood to the adults around them, though they could talk up a storm between them using baby talk (which was fortunately translated for older viewers at home). Idioms completely baffled the rugrats and many times they took figures of speech quite literally. Tommy and his friends often fell prey to Angelica’s manipulations because of the communication barrier.
Adult character appearing in Rugrats included Tommy’s parents, Stu and Didi, Angelica’s parents, Drew and Charlotte (Angelica got her personality from her mother apparently), Grandpa Pickles and Chuckie’s dad, Charlie. Two feature length films in the late 90s, The Rugrats Movie and Rugrats in Paris, brought two new characters to the rug set, Tommy’s little brother Dil and Chuckie’s stepsister, Kimi. There were also two spin-offs from the original show, All Grown Up! and Angelica and Susie’s Pre-school Daze, which both enjoyed success.
If you were a loyal fan of all things Rugrats-related, we welcome your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this classic 90s cartoon.