3:38am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Rugrats' Revived at Viacom With New Nickelodeon Series, Feature Film
Viacom is bringing Rugrats back to both the big and small screens.
The media conglomerate on Monday announced that it is reviving the children's television series for a 26-episode greenlight at cable network Nickelodeon as well as a new live-action feature film featuring CGI characters for Paramount Players.
The TV series and movie will include new adventures with original characters Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Susie and Angelica, while also introducing a new world of characters.
Original creators Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain will return for the Nickelodeon series as executive producers. Production on the new animated series is already underway in Burbank, with casting, a premiere date and more to be announced in the coming months.
The Rugrats feature will be penned by David A. Goodman (Family Guy, American Dad, The Orville) and released by Paramount Players on Nov. 13, 2020. Paramount Players is a division of Viacom's Paramount Pictures that develops and co-produces co-branded feature films within the conglomerate's portfolio. Other Viacom brands getting the feature treatment from Paramount Players are Dora the Explorer (with the show airing on Nickelodeon from 2000-14) and Are You Afraid of the Dark? (which also ran on Nickelodeon). All told, Rugrats is the seventh feature on the Paramount Players slate, joining Nobody's Fool (due out Nov. 2), Eli (Jan. 4, 2019), What Men Want (Jan. 11, 2019), Dora (Aug. 2, 2019), Body Cam (TBD) and Are You Afraid of the Dark (Oct. 11, 2019).
The Rugrats revival arrives as the kids-focused cable network finds itself in new territory after 30-year-plus Viacom veteran Cyma Zarghami exited her post as president of the Nickelodeon Group. Sarah Levy is running the brand in the interim, as a replacement has not yet been determined. Nickelodeon, once the promised land for youth programming, has lost its perch as fellow cable (Disney Channel) and streaming outlets (Netflix, Apple) have entered the kids' programming space, driving up the price and demand for content. To compete, Nickelodeon, like other high-end scripted destinations, is leaning on reboots and spinoffs to compete and cut through the cluttered landscape. Rugrats joins other recently revived projects at Nickelodeon including Double Dare, Blues Clues, Rocko's Modern Life and Invader Zim, and a potential reboot of Clarissa Explains It All with original star Melissa Joan Hart.
"Rugrats is hands-down one of the most celebrated cartoons in TV history, and we are thrilled for a whole new audience to meet these iconic characters in brand-new adventures," said Levy, chief operating officer at Viacom Media Networks and interim president at Nickelodeon. "What was true in 1991 when the original show premiered is still true today: Kids are fascinated with the world of babies. We can’t wait for today’s kids to meet Tommy, Chuckie and pals.”
Rugrats originally ran for nine seasons and 172 episodes from 1991-2004, earning four daytime Emmys and six Kids' Choice Awards, among others, and launching a slate of consumer products. The success led to three features, starting with 1998's The Rugrats Movie, followed by Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000) and Rugrats Go Wild (2003). The films grossed $100 million, $76.5 million and $39.4 million, respectively.
"Now feels like the ideal time to reintroduce this iconic cast of characters to a whole new generation of young fans,” said Brian Robbins, president of Paramount Players. “Kids who grew up with Tommy Pickles and the Rugrats crew will now be able to share that experience with their own children."
Mining its library on both the film and TV side is part of a larger plan by Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to help revitalize the media behemoth amid dwindling linear ratings and increased competition. (Viacom's push for stage ended with the under-performance of its SpongeBob SquarePants Broadway musical, which closed and lost money.) The company's MTV recently unveiled MTV Studios, which will mine its library to reboot some of its iconic series for other outlets.
Goodman is repped by UTA and Fourth Wall Management.