'Rugrats' Reboot: Why Were All The Adults Recast?
New 'growed-ups' for a new generation.
The long awaited reboot of the beloved 90s cartoon Rugrats has finally become available to stream on Paramount +. While the series seems to have found fans among its target audience, the reception has been more mixed from fans of the original series.
Most of the mixed reception is related to new CGI art style, which is quite different from what fans remember. However, one aspect of the show that has earned near universal acclaim is the fact that the babies sound just as they did in the original series. All of them are voiced by their original voice actors, save for Chuckie Finster, who is voiced by his second actor, Nancy Cartwright (Cartwright took over during season eight of the original series, after original actress Christine Cavanaugh retired. Sadly, Cavanaugh has since passed away).
With the positive reaction to the return of the original voice actors for the babies, some have been left puzzled at the reveal that all of the adult characters in Rugrats have been recast for the reboot.
Looking into the matter, there are some valid reasons behind the choice to recast the adults.
Some of the adults' original voice actors have passed away
For some characters, recasting was not a choice, but a necessity. Jack Riley, the original voice of Tommy's Father Stu Pickles, Ron Glass, the original voice of Randy Carmichael, and Joe Alaskey, who took over as Grandpa Lou after the death of his first actor, David Doyle, have all passed away since the original Rugrats completed its run. If the characters were to appear in the revival, they had to be replaced, resulting in Tommy Dewey being cast as the new Stu, Omar Benson Miller as the new Randy, and Michael Mckean as Grandpa.
Some of the surviving voice actors, such as Melanie Chartoff who voiced Didi Pickles, and Michael Bell, the original voice of both Drew Pickles and Chas Finster, are now in their late 70s or early 80s. While they are still with us, they are either retired, or no longer able to perform the voices as they once did. Also, with their advancing ages, recasting them now prevents a more painful forced recast later.
The Adult characters have been re-imagined
The Rugrats babies are so iconic and beloved that it would have been a terrible move for the reboot to change any of them dramatically. With the babies untouchable, the new series' producers were left with two outlets with which to flex their creative muscles: The series new time period, which brings it forward to the present day, and of course, the adults.
Stu, a Toy Inventor in the original series, is now an avid gamer, while Didi, who used to be a Teacher, now runs an online store. One of the more dramatic changes is Grandpa Lou, as the present day setting resan update of his backstory. While the original Grandpa Lou was a veteran of an unspecified war, the reboot's Lou takes on what fans have described as a hippie persona, often engaging in yoga, and wearing his hair in a long braid. The new version of the character meant a lot of thought was put into Grandpa's casting before Michael Mckean, who lived through the same eras as the new Lou, was chosen.
In some cases, the reimagined characters have prompted a recast for different reasons, such as..
Unlike some other animated series, the original Rugrats rarely had a problem with appropriate racial representation. Where characters of a different race existed, they were not white-washed. African-American Susie Carmichael was voiced by a Black actress (Cree Summer, who reprises her role in the reboot), while Kimi Watanabe-Finster was voiced by a Japanese-American actress, Dionne Quan.
Now, in the reboot, Rugrats offers a chance at greater representation to the LGBTQ community. In the original series, Betty Deville is a staunch feminist married to the sensitive Howard. She was voiced by Kath Soucie, who also voices the twins. In the reboot, Betty has been reimagined as a Lesbian single Mother who runs a coffee shop. While Soucie still voices Phil and Lil in the reboot, she gave up the role of Betty to lesbian actress Natalie Morales, who could bring real life experience to the role.
While many things have changed, reviewers have noted that the spirit of the show remains the same. Maybe that will be enough to convince both old and new viewers to give the Rugrats reboot a chance.