Hey Arnold! is a videogame and online game franchise based on the Hey Arnold! tv series created by Craig Bartlett for Nicklodeon. The franchise became an American animated television series that aired on Nickelodeon from October 7, 1996 to June 8, 2004. The show centers on a fourth grader named Arnold, who lives with his grandparents in an inner-city boarding house. Episodes center on his experiences navigating big city life while dealing with the problems he and his friends encounter.
Bartlett's idea for the show is based on a minor character named Arnold whom he created while working on Pee-wee's Playhouse. The executives enjoyed the character, and Bartlett completed the cast by drawing inspiration from people he grew up with in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Bartlett created the pilot episode in his living room in 1994 and official production began in 1995. The animators worked to transform Arnold from clay animation to cel animation, leading to the series premiere. The show finished production in 2001 after 5 seasons and 100 episodes. A feature film based on the series, Hey Arnold!: The Movie, was released in 2002. All five seasons have been released on DVD.
A television film continuation of the series, Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, was green-lit. It picks up from where the series ended and resolved unanswered plot lines of the story. The film premiered on November 24, 2017.
Hey Arnold! stars nine-year-old Arnold (voiced by Toran Caudell; Phillip Van Dyke; Spencer Klein; Alex D. Linz and Mason Vale Cotton) and his neighborhood friends: Gerald (voiced by Jamil Walker Smith and Benjamin Flores Jr.), a street-smart character who generally serves as the leader of the group, and Helga (Francesca Marie Smith), a girl who bullies Arnold in order to hide the fact that she is in love with him. Bartlett drew inspiration from people he grew up with when creating the characters for the show.
Arnold lives with his eccentric but loving paternal grandparents, Phil (Dan Castellaneta) and Gertrude (Tress MacNeille), proprietors of the Sunset Arms boarding house, in the fictional city of Hillwood. In each episode, he often helps a schoolmate or boarding home tenant solve a personal problem, or encounters a predicament of his own. Many episodes involve urban legends usually told by Gerald, such as superheroes or headless horsemen.
Other characters include students and faculty at P.S. 118, Arnold's school, and citizens of Hillwood. Certain episodes focus on the lives of supporting characters, such as the tenants of the boarding house that Arnold's grandparents own.
Hey Arnold! takes place in the fictional American city of Hillwood. While its geographic location is never revealed outright, some episodes suggest that the city is located in Washington State. Bartlett described the city as "an amalgam of large northern cities I have loved, including Seattle (my hometown), Portland (where I went to art school) and Brooklyn (the bridge, the brownstones, the subway)". Bartlett, having grown up in Seattle, based many of the show's events on his own experience growing up in the city. Evan Levine of the Houston Chronicle commented on the series, "backdrop of dark streets, nighttime adventures and rundown buildings, all seen from a child's point of view".
Animator Craig Bartlett graduated from Anacortes High School and obtained a degree in communications from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. During high school and college, he studied painting and sculpture at the Museum Art School in Portland, and his first job after college was at Will Vinton Productions, a claymation house. Originally, Bartlett intended to become a painter "in the 19th-century sense", but he became interested in animation during a trip to Italy.
In 1987, while working on Pee-wee's Playhouse, he created claymation cutaways about a character named Penny and her friend Arnold, and made three "Arnold" shorts: Arnold Escapes from Church (1988), The Arnold Waltz (1990) and Arnold Rides His Chair (1991). Six years later, Bartlett teamed up with five writers from Rugrats to develop animation projects for Nickelodeon. These meetings were generally difficult and the writers became frustrated; Bartlett recalled: "Our ideas were OK, but such a large and motley group couldn't get far at pitch meetings. Network execs got migraines just counting us coming in the door." As a last resort, Bartlett played the "Penny" tapes, intending to highlight the Penny character. However, the executives were more impressed by Arnold, despite him being a minor character.
After the meeting, the group began developing Arnold, creating his personality and evolving him from claymation to cel animation. Bartlett stated: "We did a lot of talking about who Arnold is. We came up with a reluctant hero who keeps finding himself responsible for solving something, making the right choices, doing the right thing." After creating ideas for Arnold, Bartlett began work on the supporting characters, drawing influence from his childhood: "A lot of the characters are an amalgam of people I knew when I was a kid. The girls in Hey Arnold! are girls that either liked or didn't like me when I was in school."
In 1994, Bartlett created the pilot episode of Hey Arnold! in his living room, and showed it to producers at Nickelodeon. A year later, the network decided to begin work on the series. The character was previously featured in a trilogy of clay animation shorts from 1988 to 1991: Arnold Escapes from Church (1988), The Arnold Waltz (1990), and Arnold Rides a Chair (1991), the latter having been aired as a filler short on Sesame Street in 1991. The 10-minute pilot episode, titled Arnold, was shown in theaters in 1996 before Nickelodeon's first feature-length film, Harriet the Spy.
Apart from the animation style, Nick's Arnold wears a sweater, with his plaid shirt untucked (resembling a kilt). Only Arnold's cap remains unchanged from his original clay-animation wardrobe. Arnold comic strips also appeared in Simpsons Illustrated magazine, by Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, who is also Craig Bartlett's brother-in-law.
Production of Hey Arnold! wrapped on December 7, 2001. A dispute over a second planned Hey Arnold! movie, The Jungle Movie, then resulted in Bartlett leaving Nickelodeon. The last season's episodes were released over four years, beginning in 2000. The series aired its final episode, unannounced, on June 8, 2004.
The show aired in reruns on "Nick on CBS" for 2 years from September 14, 2002, to September 2004. In 2011, the Canadian Nickelodeon channel began airing episodes of Hey Arnold!. In September 2011, TeenNick brought Hey Arnold! reruns to "The '90s Are All That" programming block (which has been rebranded "NickSplat").
Main characters (Arnold Shortman | Gerald Johanssen | Helga Pataki) | Supporting characters (Phoebe Heyerdahl | Harold Berman | Stinky Peterson | Sid | Rhonda Wellington Lloyd | Eugene Horowitz) | Lila Sawyer)
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