Nickelodeon has confirmed that it is developing a TV movie based on “Hey Arnold!” Variety reported Monday, Nov. 23 that other animated series from the cable network’s past, including “Ren & Stimpy and “Rocko’s Modern Life,” could also be coming back in some form, though network executives declined to comment on other projects other than the “Hey Arnold!” reboot.
The popular animated series ran from 1996 to 2004, and focused on a fourth-grader with a football shaped head who lived with his grandparents in a boarding house. The upcoming TV movie will pick up where the show left off, resolving several unresolved plot lines, including the whereabouts of Arnold’s long-missing parents. As Entertainment Weekly reports, the mystery was most fully explored in the two-part episode “The Journal.”
The network failed to disclose a specific premiere date for the telepic, which follows a 2002 feature film. Interestingly, it came into existence thanks to a meeting between “Hey Arnold!” creator Craig Bartlett and Nick executives where he was pitching new content. Bartlett, who will return as a writer and executive producer on the movie, remarked how characters from the old shows continued to get mentions online via YouTube, fan fiction, fan art and other forums, spurring the idea for the new project.
Nickelodeon recently hired “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” co-creator Chris Viscardo to fill a new role at the network as its senior vice president of content development for franchise properties. He will oversee creative strategies for such important properties as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Dora The Explorer,” but will also turn to shows from the network’s past to develop new versions for modern audiences.
“Kids who grew up on these characters are now of the age that they are having kids and families themselves,” said Russell Hicks, president, content development and production, for Nickelodeon Group. “Our library has come to fruition and it’s time for it to start coming back to life.” Hicks and Viscardi maintain that they are not exactly gearing the new versions of the Nick classics to older millennials, but rather readying them for the current audience that they have. “You have to remember people who are going to watch really don’t have a recollection of ‘Hey Arnold,’” Hicks added. “You have to make it relevant to them but also nod to the audience that is going to be interested.”
However, Viscardi promised that the spirit of the older shows will remain intact for their new incarnations, praising the “very irreverent, and surreal and wonderful” qualities and “punk rock” attitude found in many of them. He is also open to reviving live-action series such as “Clarissa Explains It All” and “You Can’t Do That On Television.” Viscardi also said that they are open to looking at content that aired on Nick but is owned by someone else, such as “Doug,” which is controlled by Walt Disney, but cautioned that not everything will be resurrected.
“We are very selective about the series, what we go back to, and think about how we can take them and make them special,” he explained. “It’s really important to us to be really consistent with the storytelling that was there long ago on the series but also work to reimagine it, even just a little bit, and make it appealing and thrilling for today’s audience.”
The news comes after Nickelodeon recently added “The Splat!,” a primetime and overnight block of classic programming, on its sister network Teen Nick. The network is currently reaching out to creators of other older shows, hoping to work with or partner them with a younger creative who grew up on the programs. “We are in discussions with them now and will probably have more to say in the next few months,” said Viscardi. “There’s a good likelihood we’ll be doing more than just ‘Arnold’ in terms of doing specials.”