The outpour from the internet and long time viewers who kept hope alive that they would get to see a second movie did not fall on deaf ears. Fans of the Hey Arnold! series will finally be able to find out the answers to all the show’s greatest mysteries and find closure after nearly a decade of waiting.
Hey Arnold! has had a long and interesting journey over the years. Arnold had his humble start as a handmade claymation short created in Craig Bartlett’s own living room. Bartlett’s early experience working at the Will Vinton Studios in Portland, Oregon and his work on the “Penny” shorts for Pee Wee’s Playhouse made him no stranger to animating in clay. Arnold’s signature football head shape and the wild designs and silhouettes of the characters and all seem to make sense in a colorful 3D claymation universe.
Bartlett created three shorts, “Arnold Escapes from Church”, “The Arnold Waltz”, and “Arnold Rides His Chair” which revolved around Arnold’s frequent and colorful daydreams. Bartlett was also prone to being a daydreamer as a child and noted that he saw a lot of himself in the character. These shorts helped paint a picture of the rich world inside Arnold’s head and introduced many of the other children that would later appear around the neighborhood in the show.
Hey Arnold! aired on Nickelodeon and lasted for a hundred episodes. It was a show that was like no other on TV at the time and resonated deeply with a new group of viewers. The show was diverse and socially conscious and talked about community outreach, but in the exact opposite way cartoons like Captain Planet had tried to be.
People weren’t perfect, friends were sometimes also the bully, everyone was kind of a geeky kid but in their own world they were also kind of cool. In the end, what mattered was that they were all there for each other and they cared about their neighborhood and the people in it. And that made you care about them too.
The kids on the show lived in a big funky city in apartments and rode public transportation by themselves, they had crazy hair and and strange bodies with bumps and lumps and unibrows, they came from all different backgrounds and walks of life and all still hung out together. The kids didn’t have typical families, everyone had their own unique lives they went back to each day at home. It even was implied some adults had drinking problems or that some characters struggled with mental health issues, but they all had each other and they all made it work.
Arnold didn’t grow up with parents and lived with his Grandparents in a boarding house, struggling with that and with finding out what happened to his parents ended up being one of the biggest questions in the show. That question is one of the centerpieces that gets explored during of his adventures in The Jungle Movie.
The Jungle Movie takes place a year after the series ends. In real life there was a ten year gap but the world of Hey Arnold! doesn’t change all that much. The characters got redesigned and updated a bit for the movie but they still feel very much like the folks people knew and loved still. The movie starts as Arnold and his classmates are about to go on Summer break. On the last day the class finds out about a contest where they have to make a video about helping in their community. The movie uses this as an opportunity to give viewers a tribute video about the ways Arnold has been an important part of their lives and the heart of their community. This is very touching and a good way to let the fans have a bit of a farewell to a show that was such a big part of many lives.
There is a community outreach element in the movie just as there was in show. This was an aspect that was important to Bartlett as the show’s creator to see included. The importance of being able to have the power to help each other and stepping up when things are tough to solve problems and being engaged was always a strong message in the show.
The movie still feels friendly to newcomers and those that may be a bit hazy, making sure no one is left out of the loop while die hards still get the movie they have been waiting for. The Jungle Movie feels like Arnold’s dreams finally get their time to come to life. It’s full of adventure and color and new experiences that can’t be contained within the old neighborhood and spill out to places beyond, but this time Arnold gets to take his friends along too. It is a perfect end to a legacy, and a wonderful way to bring closure to a shared journey we won’t forget.
Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie airs on Nickelodeon Friday, November 24th 7pm ET/PT