Rugrats, the hilarious Nickelodeon show about a group of adventurous and imaginative babies, is on its way to DVD in two brand new collections! The first two seasons of this iconic 90s cartoon hit stores May 2nd, and if you are a fan of these babies, you are going to want to add these DVDs to your collection.
When I was a kid in the 90s, my family didn’t have cable, so one of the big draws of spending the weekend at grandma’s house was access to tons of TV channels that we couldn’t watch back home. One of those channels was Nickelodeon and one of the main shows we always watched was Rugrats. It was kind of a weird show compared to all the PBS shows we watched at home, but that was part of the charm. It wasn’t like anything we could watch back home, and all the characters were funny and likable.
The design of Rugrats wasn’t as polished as the Disney movies we borrowed from the library, but I don’t think we payed much attention to that back then. I noticed it more as I got older, the characters weren’t really at all cute, some of them could probably even be called ugly, but I kept watching, because the show just had something about it that kept me coming back.
I hadn’t watched Rugrats in literally years before I got these DVDs to review, so I really had no idea how it was going to hold up. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it actually holds up pretty well! Perhaps even better than I expected!
I mentioned that the design wasn’t exactly what you could call polished, but the show does seem to be improving little by little. The animation in the beginning, especially the first episode, doesn’t really seem the greatest, but I think that it is slowly but surely getting better. The movements are getting smoother, and the character designs seem to be stabilizing. The very first episode seemed really wonky, but you can really see the show’s animation improving as the show progresses.
Within the animation, one of the greatest things I have noticed is how dynamic the camera angles are. The show will go from a standard wide shot of the room, to a baby’s eye view of the adults towering over it, or a bird’s eye view of the action taking place in the room below. The camera will also often move with the babies, giving us a 3D (ish) scene really unlike most cartoons of today. You can watch the opening theme to get a good idea of what I mean.
In addition to the interesting animation, the show also excels at giving us interesting characters. Every character is completely unique, and completely believable as a person, especially the adults! All the parents in the show have their own personalities, and they all act like real people. Odd people with eccentric quirks, but all still pretty realistic in their own way.
And speaking of the parents, I didn’t remember from when I was a kid, but, at least in the episodes I have watched so far, the parents get almost as much screen time as the babies, sometimes even more! This is kind of genius, because it gives parents who may be watching with their kids, characters to identify with and laugh at. I have found myself getting just as much out of the parents’ stories now as an adult as I got out of the babies’ stories when I was kid.
Another thing I’m noticing as an adult that completely went over my head as a kid, was how realistic the interactions between the kids and the parents are. It’s especially noticeable with Angelica, the only child who can actually talk to the parents, but everything she says to them sounds like something an actual kid would say to an adult. The writers seem to be taking every weird thing that real kids do or say, and giving it context for the show. It’s actually rather genius!
While these sets are great for someone looking to own the series, if you are looking for in depth documentaries, or behind-the-scenes featurettes, you’re going to be disappointed. These sets have no extras whatsoever, which is especially disappointing given that there is an unaired pilot episode out there somewhere that could have easily been added to the first season with minimal effort.
Despite the lack of extras, if you don’t own this series, and you were a fan of Rugrats back in the 90s, you owe it to yourself to check out these new collections. They hold up surprisingly well, and might be just as funny now as they were back then, sometimes for completely new reasons!
Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his Podcast and YouTube channel, where he reviews animation, movies, TV, or whatever else his guests feel like talking about. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @jonjnorth.