Nickelodeon unleashed a pair of nostalgia-infused trailers at last week’s San Diego Comic Con, promoting TV movies that will revisit fondly remembered series from the 1990s and early 2000s: Hey Arnold! and Rocko’s Modern Life.
“Nickelodeon rolled into Comic-Con 2017 with the most effective weapon they could possibly unleash on millennials: nostalgia,” wrote Katie Buenneke in L.A. Weekly. “As always, Nick isn’t just catering to kids — and now they’re specifically targeting the generation of now-adult kids who grew up on Nick’s animated programming.”
Hey Arnold!, which ran on Nick from 1996 to 2004, is set in the streets of Hillwood, a sort of Portland-Brooklyn-Seattle mash-up where fourth grader Arnold lives in an inner-city boarding house with his grandparents. Kind and unassuming, Arnold is a low-key bully-battling hero who is perpetually helpful to those in need.
This no-judgement, all-are-welcome Mr. Fix It persona endeared Arnold to a whole generation of Nick viewers. “90s kids who grew up with the show Hey Arnold! love it because main man Arnold is earnestly cool and selfless to everyone in his neighborhood and PS 118,” writes Inquirer.net’s Niña V. Guno.
It turns out that nice ages well. Fast forward to 2017. Arnold has aged one year. He is prepping to enter sixth grade. Best bud Gerald has organized a rooftop tribute to Arnold’s relentless do-goodery. And then we find out that this crew is sending their urban hero to the (fictional) Central American nation of San Lorenzo, where his parents disappeared back in the 90s.
Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett talks a bit more about the characters’ updated styles and teases Arnold’s destination:
Rocko’s Modern Life, which ran on Nick from 1993 to ’96, followed the titular anthropomorphic immigrant wallaby and his crew – Heffer the steer and Filburt the turtle – through the fantasyland of their fictional city, O-Town. Despite its short-ish run, the series retains a loyal fanbase.
“The fourth Nicktoon to debut, Rocko’s Modern Life boasts a sizable cult to this day, largely thanks to the fact that it tosses a bunch of goofily animated animals straight out of a brightly colored Sunday comic strip into the midst of decidedly mundane situations, from visiting the DMV to flying on a plane to cleaning an apartment,” A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote more than a decade and a half after the final episode aired.
That final episode – or at least what the creators intended to be the final episode – sent Rocko and his posse deep into space, where they have been floating about (along with an impudent monkey and bunches of bananas) ever since.
In the just-released trailer for Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, the crew lands back on the high-paced Earth of 2017, re-emerging into a barely recognizable world: drones zing through the skies, ubiquitous smartphones command life’s every cadence, and existence is one perpetual caffeine high. While his friends glide right into this high-tech matrix, Rocko struggles to keep up:
One very important thing is the same, however: the characters’ voices, as all of the original actors reprise their animated roles.
As Nick’s run as the top-rated kids’ network continues well into its second year, the network continues to mine its vast library for TV movie material: a Legends of the Hidden Temple movie, based on the hit 90s gameshow, debuted last year, and Invader Zim is set to once again attempt to conquer human civilization, this time in movie-length fashion.
Meanwhile, Nick continues to crank out compelling new series such as Nella the Princess Knight and Welcome to the Wayne, kill it with their kids-first award shows, and branch out into new realms – SpongeBob will visit Broadway beginning later this year.
The new Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie will air in November, while the reprised Rocko film will drop on Nick sometime in 2018. The trailers were part of a much larger fan activation at Comic Con, which included panels, talent signings, interactive experiences, and life-sized replicas of some of Nick’s most iconic characters and places.