Nearly every 90s kid loved Rugrats, the classic Nicktoon presenting the daily adventures of Tommy Pickles and his friends. The show's nine seasons and its trilogy of movies are now fully available on DVD and iTunes, and for US viewers, Rugrats airs regularly on TeenNick's NickSplat programming block, so revisiting the series has never been easier. With plenty of popculture references and slightly naughty jokes, Rugrats remains just as enjoyable as enjoyable to watch as an adult.
Something that may surprise some older fans rediscovering the series is just how clever the subtext of the show really is. In celebration of the news that Rugrats may be about to get a reboot (for real this time), here are things you may not have noticed about Rugrats as a child.
1. Tommy is brave because he was born premature.
"A Baby's gotta do what a baby's gotta do!"- Tommy Pickles.
Tommy Pickles, the central character of Rugrats, was always leading his friends off on daring adventures with little thought for the danger that may result. As children, viewers probably gave little thought to why Tommy was brave, and most likely missed the subtle explanation that was given in the show's fourth season: Tommy is brave because he was born premature.
In the Mother's Day special, Tommy describes the first time he remembers seeing his mother. A flashback sequence shows him in what appears to be an incubator, with various wires attached. This shows that Tommy was born premature, or with some other health issue, and therefore explains his endless courage. After possibly having had to fight for his life at birth, what else could really scare him? Tommy's early birth could also explain why Didi gets a bit overprotective in some episodes.
2. Chuckie is scared because he can't see properly, and may suffer trauma from losing his mother.
Chuckie, Tommy's best friend and the hero of the second movie, Rugrats In Paris, is his polar opposite. Where Tommy is brave and always up for adventure, Chuckie is afraid and tries to avoid it. Just like Tommy's bravery, the reason for Chuckie's fear is explained if the viewer can read between the lines. He is afraid because he spent the first part of his life unable to see clearly.
In the episode 'Chuckie Loses His Glasses,' we get a glimpse of what the world looks like for Chuckie without his glasses. Everything is blurred, and most look like monsters. Being so young, it would have taken the adults a long time to realise he needed glasses, so he would have been stuck seeing things this way for at least the first year or so of his life.
The loss of his mother also contributes to his fear. In the Mother's Day special, Chuckie reveals that in his dream/memory of his Mother she makes things less scary for him. When she died, this comfort was ripped away from Chuckie, and his fears probably became worse. Some have even suggested that Chuckie's fears are the result of PTSD from losing his Mother
Taking this idea further, Chuckie's poor eyesight probably explains why the other babies aren't afraid, and their lack of understanding for why Chuckie is. From Tommy, Phil, and Lil's perspective, Chuckie is always overreacting. But their eyes are healthy. They never saw the world the way Chuckie did before he got his glasses.
3. The very different personalities of Angelica and Susie make perfect sense when you consider each one's upbringing.
Angelica Pickles, Tommy's three year old cousin, is a selfish, spoiled brat, and a bully. Susie Carmichael, a little girl from across the street, is sweet, generous, and always kind to the babies. While its probably not something kids thought about too much when the show first aired, the girls different temperaments make a lot of sense when you look at the ways they grew up.
Angelica is an only child born to rather well off parents. The majority of the time, she gets whatever she wants. She never had to share her things, because there was no one there to share them with. In flashbacks during the episode 'Moving Away,' we find out that Stu and Didi didn't even move near Drew until Angelica was already three years old. Suddenly, she was expected to share with her younger cousin, and this upsets her, as she is not used to it. This may have also contributed to her coming to view Tommy and the otherRugratsas dumb babies.
Susie, on the other hand, was the youngest of the four Carmichael children. While her parents are still well off, with her mother being a doctor and her father writing for a popular TV show, more children probably meant less likelihood of them being spoiled, with the money instead of being saved for their futures. It's also possible that their mother, Lucy, didn't want to spoil them too much. In the Rugrats 'Kwanzaa' special, it is revealed that she came from a more lower-class background, and could only afford medical school with the help of her Aunt T. As the youngest in a large family, Susie, unlike Angelica, was born having to share. She has had to share toys, as well as the time and attention of her busy parents, with her four elder siblings. Thanks to her early introduction the concept of sharing, it comes naturally to Susie in a way it never could for Angelica.
Susie is also shown to have a close relationship with her sister Elisa, and brothers Buster and Edwin. As the youngest, she has probably been cared for and protected by them, and like most little sisters, likely idolises them on some level. This possibly fuels her drive to care for and protect the babies from Angelica's cruelty.
4. Angelica was potty trained later than Chuckie.
In the season two episode, 'Chuckie Vs The Potty,' we see Chuckie begin Potty Training. In true Chuckie fashion, he is nervous and upset about this change. Angelica mercilessly taunts him for his struggles throughout the episode, trying to imply that Chuckie is behind by not being trained yet. However, she really has no right to do this.
In an earlier episode, 'Touchdown Tommy,' a diaper is clearly visible underneath Angelica's dress when she falls over, which implies that she is not done potty training yet. Angelica is already three years old when the series begins. Chuckie starts potty training at age two, and is shown as being fully trained from the end of this episode onward. This means that, despite Angelica's teasing, Chuckie actually finished potty training a full year earlier than her. Adding to this, Angelica's accident at the end of 'Chuckie Vs The Potty' suggests that she had only recently finished training when Chuckie starts. This could also explain why Didi shows some experience in potty training children, despite Tommy still being too young. With Drew and Charlotte both busy with work, she probably helped potty train Angelica.
5. Grandpa Lou was a bit of a player when he was young.
In the memorable episode 'Grandpa's Date,' Grandpa Lou sends Tommy and Chuckie to bed early when his former girlfriend, Morgana, comes to town and wants to catch up. As they chat, Lou, apparently confused, asks Morgana why she left him. Morgana replies that she saw him kissing another woman, Trixie McGee. Grandpa Lou quickly objects.
"Freckle-Faced Trixie who worked at the Fish Market? She was having an asthma attack, I was just giving her artificial respiration!
The 'truth' seems to bring Morgana comfort, but unfortunately for her, Grandpa was lying. After Dil is born a boy rather than the expected girl, the following conversation takes place:
Stu: I guess we won't be naming him after my mother. Didi: He doesn't look much like a Trixie.
This is either one hell of a coincidence, or Grandpa Lou was lying to Morgana. While it is also possible that he only started dating Trixie after Morgana's departure, it certainly didnt take him long to move on.
6. There is actually continuity in 'Rugrats.'
Often, children's cartoons do not have any real continuity, with everything returned to status quo by the end of the episode lest children be confused. This seems especially true with Rugrats, with the main characters remaining babies for nine seasons.
Pay close enough attention however, and it becomes apparent that there is some continuity at play, albeit on a small scale. In the season one episode 'Waiter, There's a Baby In My Soup,' Stu meets with the head of a toy company, Mr. Mucklehoney, to show him some of his designs. Mucklehoney and his company, Mucklehoney Industries, are then referenced sporadically by the adults throughout the rest of the season, with Stu contracted to produce a new doll for him.
In season five, a string of episodes feature plots involving the adults wanting to protect the children's teeth.
This sense of continuity picked up in the show's final few seasons, when it was revealed that a spin-off was to be produced based on the Rugrats 10th anniversary special, 'All Growed Up.'
Seasons eight and nine include a continuing plotline where Chaz and Kira purchase and open a Cafe, The Java Lava. The Java Lava still exists in All Grown Up! as the kids' regular hang out spot, moving with the times to become a cafe/juice bar.
From The Rugrats Movie onward, Susie Carmichael is seen developing a passion for singing. By All Grown Up!, singing has become Susie's dream. The Rugrats 'Kwanzaa' special, shows that Susie's mother, Lucy, used to sing in church, implying that Susie's talent was inherited from her.
This is expanded upon in the All Grown Up! episode 'Runaround Susie', where it is revealed that Lucy sang in blues clubs before she became a doctor. In 'How The Finster Stole Christmas,' Susie leads her church choir, bringing things full circle.
7. The reason the 'Rugrats' timeline is skewed is the point of view that the events take place from.
Everyone knows that the timeline of events in Rugrats is completely unrealistic. Tommy Pickles turns one year old in the series first episode. At the end of season five, Didi reveals that she is pregnant with her second child, and in The Rugrats Movie, Tommy's baby brother Dil is born.
Tommy is still just a year old. At first glance, this wouldn't seem right. From Didi revealing her pregnancy in season five, to being heavily pregnant at the beginning of the movie, close to nine months would need to have passed. In real life, Tommy should have been close to turning two, right? Well, not necessarily.
The reason that the timeline of Rugrats seems off is because the series takes place from the point of view of babies, who would have no real concept of time, or the more subtle changes going on around them. Didi was probably pregnant for the whole series leading up to Dil's birth, which explains the episodes where the adults are worried about money- they need extra to prepare for the new baby.
From Tommy's point of view, however, his mother's large belly, talk of his new sibling, and finally Dil's arrival probably seemed to happen quite suddenly. The same concept can be applied to Kira and Kimi's arrival, and why the Rugrats seem to celebrate Christmas twice in a single year. In reality, these things all probably happened over a longer period of time, but blend together in the babies' fuzzy memories of the period.
This is somewhat confirmed in the All Grown Up! episode 'Fear Of Falling.' At one point, Kimi states that:
"There's always been five of us."
Longtime viewers would know that there weren't always five of them. As long as any of them can truly remember though, there has.
8. The 'All Growed Up' special is how the babies imagined their future would be. 'All Grown Up,' the series, is what really happened.
In celebration of Rugrats tenth anniversary in 2001, the two-part special 'All Growed Up' was produced'. 'All Growed Up' featured the babies imagining themselves 10 years into the future, as eleven and 12-year-olds. The special was so popular that it lead to the production of a full spin-off series, All Grown Up!.
Unfortunately, some fans were not happy when All Grown Up! began airing, upset that some of the grown up Rugrats were being portrayed differently than they had been in the 'All Growed Up' special. It all makes a lot more sense though, when you remember that 'All Growed Up' is a fantasy of the babies, and no one can ever really know where they will be 10 years in the future. All Grown Up! shows the reality.
In 'All Growed Up', Angelica still teases and bullies the younger kids, as the babies had no reason to think she would be any different in the future. In All Grown Up!, however, Angelica has grown and developed, at least a little. While she still teases her cousin and his friends, it is more a mild annoyance to them than true antagonism by then. She also usually helps them without as many strings as when she was a child, except for occasions when she happens to need something, as in 'Project Chuckie' or 'Yu-Gotta-Go!.' Susie happily helps Tommy escape when he is supposed to be grounded in 'All Growed Up', but in All Grown Up! she has become the voice of reason, usually trying to keep her friends out of trouble.
This theory also explains the huge difference in characterisation between Dil Pickles in the Special and Dil Pickles in the series. Dil was too young to imagine how he would be. Tommy probably imagined him, hence why he mostly appeared as just a tag-a-long little brother in 'All Growed Up.' This is in stark contrast with the reality of All Grown Up!, where Dil is his own fully developed character. If classic Rugrats fans were to watch All Grown Up! again now, with these points in mind, they may find themselves having a much more pleasant viewing experience.
Discoveries like this are why there is no shame at all in revisiting the favourite shows of your childhood. Give it a go, and you may notice a piece of brilliance you never saw before.