Friday, May 28, 2021

New Stills from CG-Animated 'Rugrats' Series Released

Hold on to your diapees, babies, as Rugrats returns in a brand new CG-animated series, premiering May 27 on Paramount+. To celebrate, Paramount+ has released a raft of new stills from the all new series. Check them out below, courtesy of Animation World Network!:

Paramount+’s new CG animated series, ‘Rugrats,’ premiering May 27. Photo Credit: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ © 2021, All Rights Reserved.

AWN also had the chance to executive producers Kate Boutilier and Eryk Casemiro about the all new show!

After 15 years, Nickelodeon’s most famous Reptar-loving, screwdriver-wielding, diaper-wearing, adventure-seeking infants are back. The four-time Daytime Emmy Award-winning series Rugrats, revamped in CG animation, returns Thursday, May 27 to Paramount+.

The series features the same fan-favorite characters – Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Susie, and Angelica - returning voice cast, and creative team lead by executive producers Kate Boutilier and Eryk Casemiro alongside creators Gabor Csupo, Paul Germain, and Arlene Klasky. Both Boutilier and Casemiro were producers and writers on the original series, which first premiered on Nickelodeon in 1991.

In the reimagined show, produced by the Nickelodeon Animation Studio, the babies continue to explore their world in new adventures that will both compliment and evolve the original series’ stories. Reprising their roles from the original series are E.G. Daily (Tommy Pickles), Nancy Cartwright (Chuckie Finster), Cheryl Chase (Angelica Pickles), Cree Summer (Susie Carmichael), and Kath Soucie (Phil and Lil DeVille). The original voice cast is joined by new voices, including Ashley Rae Spillers and Tommy Dewey (Tommy’s parents, Didi and Stu Pickles); Tony Hale (Chuckie’s father, Chas Finster); Natalie Morales, (Phil and Lil’s mother, Betty DeVille); Anna Chlumsky and Timothy Simons (Angelica’s parents, Charlotte and Drew Pickles); Nicole Byer and Omar Miller (Susie’s parents, Lucy and Randy Carmichael); and Michael McKean (Grandpa Lou Pickles).

Rugrats is undoubtedly one of Nickelodeon's crown jewels,” says Casemiro. “You know how it is when you have a really good friend and you go for years without seeing them, and then you pick up right where you left off? It’s been just like that. I can write Chuckie or Phil until the cows come home. I love a good sarcastic Phil line.”

For Boutilier as well, getting back to work on the series again was like returning home. “Because it’s such a big part of my life, it doesn't feel that distant to come back to,” she says. “And because the characters are so strong, I can jump right back to writing for Angelica like it was 20 years ago. I still remember stuff I wrote for her then and I am bringing some of it back to this Angelica. As bad as she is, I love her little games. I love the creativity in her schemes.”

Casemiro adds, “It wasn't difficult to set the tone of the new Rugrats because these characters actually are so well developed from the first time around. They really transcend time.”

The original Rugrats - which followed the adventures of babies Tommy, Chuckie, Lil, and Phil, as they were terrorized by conniving cousin Angelica - ran for nine seasons, with three feature films, two fairy tale-themed direct-to-video specials, and a 2005-2008 spin-off series, All Grown Up! The story of these babies went completely untouched for over 10 years, until Casemiro, Boutilier and the rest of the team began developing the CG reboot in the summer of 2019 for audiences young and old, still as fascinated with the world of babies as they were in the 90s. 

“It's the comedy of watching babies interpret the world,” Casemiro explains. “What we all do with babies is wonder what they're thinking when they look at you or as they toggle around. It’s like the fascination with dinosaurs and mermaids. It never seems to go away.”

Boutilier continues, “We weren’t trying to reinvent the Rugrats. We wanted to maintain their charm and the way the series was written and the kind of stories we did. We want these shows to stand side by side 34 years from now.”

While most Nickelodeon Animation Studios’ sequel or reimagined series stay true to their original 2D animation format, the show’s creative team felt there were foundational changes and add-ons that should be made to the show’s dynamics. 

“We started by saying, ‘Okay, if we can make adjustments, if we could change this world, how would we change it, knowing what we knew, we know from our past experience?’” says Casemiro. “A good example is, originally, the character Susie could speak to adults because she was as old as Angelica. But that was often an impediment for the story, because if Susie were aware of a plot that Angelica had hatched, she’d just tell the parents and then it would be over. So, we figured, if we made her more non-verbal to the parents, like the rest of the babies, and maybe more Chuckie’s age, then we could get a lot more Susie in the show.”

Inclusivity is a theme for the 2021 Rugrats, including giving the parents more of a role than just as guardians that happen to be around because it’s a given that where there are babies, there should be parents. 

According to Casemiro, “One of my big questions when I started on the series back in 1996 was, ‘Why are they always dropping these babies off at Didi’s for no good reason? So, we go into the backstory of the parents more this time, like how Didi works from home and she and Betty were college roommates and Chas and Stu have been next door neighbors since childhood. Drawing those lines deepened relationships the adults had, and it makes them feel more dimensionalized.”

But the biggest change to the series was also the team’s biggest challenge: giving Rugrats a modern-day visual upgrade. “When you think about it, it's 30 years old, and times have changed,” Casemiro acknowledges. “In the original, Charlotte Pickles is the only character that has a cell phone. Now, even Tommy’s iconic screwdriver has 20 programmable phrases it can say. When Nickelodeon approached us, it made perfect sense to do this series CG now because it allowed us to stamp that 21st century face-lift without losing any of the line language of the original 2D.”

Casemiro also notes it was a “painstaking process” translating the 2D caricatured children to 3D and trying not to cross over the lines of overly adorable and just downright weird. “If some of the asymmetry was not acknowledged, they got super cute, like too cute,” he says. “Because the Rugrats are slightly wonky and like ‘little monsters,’ according to our director, I think that translation was the hardest to get the tone right and capture the DNA of what was so brilliant about the original design work.”

He continues, “We had to make adjustments to the original designs too. Tommy originally had a very lumpy head, and it just didn't look right in the first CG translation. We probably could have debated and continued to finance these designs for months. It’s like a sculpture, you never feel it's finished.”

“But when we added the voices of the original babies for the next layer, I think it brought them to life,” Boutilier adds. “We needed no more convincing that this show would capture the spirit of the original.” She also says the new CG look inspired them as writers when it came to creating a fresh script, whether the babies are running around in their own backyard, exploring caves like Indiana Jones, having a Jurassic jungle experience or riding in mining cars. 

“Between the lighting, the design, the texture, the tactile, we're out in a new setting that just inspires so many more stories,” Boutilier says. “You know how the babies in the original are always pulling waffles or gummy worms out of their diapers? To see them do those gags in CG, it is more impactful. Those kind of character moments can be even stronger.”

For Casemiro, even the gags have a more artfully comedic charm. “The original show was really forced perspective, with the baby's point of view down on the ground towards the carpet, and CG instantly gives you that tool, so you can move the camera where you need,” he says. “CG also gives you a great depth of field. There's a scene in the pilot where Didi is being a little condescending about how Grandpa Lou needs to be more responsible with the kids and meanwhile, in the back, you see Phil and Lil raiding the refrigerator. It's such a funny moment of this happening under Didi’s nose. In 2D, you couldn’t play that same way.”

The added realism of the show’s CG also allows for more comedy exploration with subtle facial expression and body movements, like Chuckie’s thoughtful confusion as Angelica persuades him to steal cookies from the pantry. For the first time, viewers can see the thought process on Chuckie’s face as he works through the problem, finds a glitch in his vocabulary, and finally asks, “What’s a pantry?”

But Boutilier says these “facial articulations” with CG also have informed more emotional moments with the characters as well. “There’s a scene where Chuckie is worrying about something and you'll see Susie just sort of touch his hand and her compassion feels so real,” she shares. “We didn’t have time to do that with 2D. Before, we might have relied on voice acting to get those emotions across. And we still have great voice acting, but now we have the combination. CG allows us to get closer to watch these babies pondering big issues and have these deep friendships and deep thoughts.”

Amidst all the changes, The CG Rugrats is still chalk full of Easter eggs paying homage to the original series, and Boutilier and Casemiro hope this mix of old and new re-captures the hearts of long-time fans and stirs a familiar excitement for children of those original fans. “It's more than just a favorite show,” explains Boutilier. “We both felt it over the years from people who experienced the show. There’s something very deep about their love for Rugrats and we want that sort of magic to be reproduced in this form.”

“What would be such a success is to see the same joy from the new young audience that we once saw from the previous audience,” Casemiro adds. “There was such love and affection for these characters as if they were real friends. And, ideally, if kids come away understanding the power of friendship and how important friends are, and love this show as a representation of that, then that would be a super win for us.”

The New Rugrats Are Here!

***This article originally appeared in the June-July ’21 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 311)***

That sound you’ve been hearing is the collective cheers of the children of the 1990s who are celebrating the return of Tommy, Chuckie, Susie, Angelica and the rest of the Rugrats clan to the small screen. The folks at Nickelodeon and Paramount+ unleashed the reboot of the hugely popular Rugrats series this Thursday, May 27, in hopes of introducing the franchise to a new generation of fans.

The show, which originally debuted in the summer of 1991, was created by Arlene Klasky and Gábor Csupó (of the famous Klasky Csupo studio) and Paul Germain (Recess, Lloyd in Space). Thirty years later, the iconic babies and their families’ adventures are CG-animated and they have to deal with social media and all the trappings of life in the 2020s!

The 2021 show voice cast includes E.G. Daily (Tommy), Nancy Cartwright (Chuckie), Kath Soucie (Phil and Lil DeVille), Cheryl Chase (Angelica), Cree Summer (Susie), Tommy Dewey (Stu), Ashley Rae Spillers (Didi), Anna Chlumsky (Charlotte), Timothy Simons (Drew), Natalie Morales (Betty), Tony Hale (Chas), Michael McKean (Lou), Nicole Byer (Lucy) and Omar Benson Miller (Randy). [Check out the recently debuted The Stars of Rugrats Special here])

For Rugrats exec producers Eryk Casemiro and Kate Boutilier, who also worked on the original version three decades ago, the series has been a sweet homecoming. “Writing dialogue for characters that we wrote for some 25 odd years ago felt like getting a hug from an old friend,” says Casemiro, who is also Nickelodeon’s senior VP of preschool programming. “To have the original voices who played the babies come back to play them again was incredibly heartwarming for us.”

“It was truly goose-bump inducing to see and hear Tommy Pickles again,” adds Boutilier, whose many credits also include The Wild Thornberrys, As Told by Ginger, The Mr. Men Show, Olivia and Poppy Cat. “We know the fan base is super strong, and like them, we all have indelible memories of the show and these characters. We hope they like the new series, too.”

Just Like Old Times

Casemiro and Boutilier began working on the reboot in early 2019. “We actually met on the show back in the day and we’ve had a long career together,” reminisces Casemiro (Duckman, Rocket Power, As Told by Ginger, Rugrats: All Grown Up!, The Wild Thornberrys). “When we started planning the show, we didn’t even know it was going to be a CG iteration. It was simply exciting for us to be able to have these characters to play with again.”

Casemiro points out that the show’s original creators were also on board to offer their input and suggestions. “Arlene and Gábor were the architects behind the series, and we had their input along the way. They gave us a little bit of oxygen, too, to take our own spin on the characters and to re-imagine them for a new era.”

The show’s beloved characters were updated to fit the needs and social framework of audiences in 2021. “Because the original is nearly 30 years old, some of the social satire that worked back then doesn’t feel right today,” explains Casemiro. “For example, in the old show Charlotte Pickles was portrayed as this female executive who was always on this bulky, brick-sized cell-phone, and that needed adjusting. Grandpa Lou is now a veteran of Woodstock instead of World War II. We also revisited the relationships between the adults and made connections that weren’t clear in the original.”

Boutilier says the show creators knew that modern-day millennials who grew up with the show would be in their 30s. “We did the math of how old the new parents would be,” she notes. “We also changed what their friendships would be like. Everything had to be plunked in today’s world.”

Keeping Up with the Times

There were a few course corrections, too. They made the Susie character slightly younger so that she could no longer talk to adults and spoil Angelica’s plots. That gave the writers more freedom with the plot developments and kept Susie part of the core group of babies.

“We had a lot of fun weaving in new technologies into the show as well,” says Boutilier. “We had to imagine how babies react to a smart speaker or respond to a tablet when their grandparents show up on a video call.”

There’s also more diversity in the cast of characters. The Betty character (Phil and Lil’s mother) is now a Latina and is part of the Carmichaels’ main group of friends. Charlotte’s exec assistant Jonathan is now a Latinx character who plays a much bigger role in the show. Grandpa Lou also has a wider, more diverse group of friends that he interacts with throughout the series.

L-R: Grandpa Lou (voiced by Michael McKean), Betty DeVille (Natalie Morales) and Lucy Carmichael (Nicole Byer)

The series’ transition from 2D to CG animation had its own share of trials and challenges. According to the exec producers, it wasn’t easy to translate the wacky, distinctive “ugly cute” character design and animation to the more rigid CG universe. “The translation was quite tricky because one move to the left, and the show would be too cute,” notes Casemiro. “We didn’t want to just interpret the show in CG. We had to deliberately measure the original designs and made sure we had the right version in CG. Arlene and Gábor went back to the archives and looked at the original character designs to get all the details — which included the asymmetry of the eye sockets — just right. ”

The producers point out that they incorporated a very deliberate art direction so that everything, from the giant heads to the little pieces of food stuck in the carpet, feel perfect in this new CG Rugrats world. “Everything is still lumpy, but things are in CG,” adds Boutilier. “The color palette is still unusual, and the sets, the props, the colors of the sky, everything retains that special feeling — they’re fresh and updated in CG, but they feel familiar at the same time.”

Lighting also plays an important part in this new world. As Casemiro explains, “CG opened up a lot of possibilities in the lighting area. Our exec producer Casey Leonard (Breadwinners) and the directors helped create this new lighting schematic where the kids’ world is more shadowy because they’re closer to the ground, while the adults are lit differently because they’re higher up. This creates a special mood that is very different from other shows.”

Boutilier also explains that the lighting and CG animation also pushed the fantasy segments to a higher level. “You can really step inside the kids’ fantasies when they’re in the background, whether they’re inside a glowing cave of treasures or traveling in space,” she notes. “Between the lighting and the set designs, we think these set pieces are pretty vivid and spectacular.”

About 50 people worked on the first season (26 x half-hour) of the new show. “We have a small group of writers created for ideation in-house and used a pool of about 18 freelancers, some of which were original Rugrats writers, as well as some that were fans of the original show,” says Casemiro. “We were able to use a diverse writing pool. The front end of the animation was produced at Nickelodeon in Burbank. A lot of the original asset designs were done in house, and Technicolor and Xentrix in India helped out with the rest of the animation production. It takes us about 18 months to produce an episode from start to finish.”

Now that they are ready to release their new baby into the streaming wild (the show premieres on Paramount+ and airs on Nickelodeon later), the two talented showrunners are hoping that fans will embrace the new take on their beloved characters. “I hope it does what the original did,” says Boutilier. “It’s a co-viewing show, so we hope that adults love the grown-up characters and kids love the core friendship of the babies. Older kids like how much the babies get away with and the funny way they speak. We hope the show crosses overboard and entertains different audiences.”

Casemiro adds, “When the show first came out, it was very novel to see the world through babies’ eyes. Every one of those characters was an archetype that audiences could relate to. Angelica was the big sister at home, Tommy was a hero, Chuckie was the scared one … This was one of the first shows about the original modern family, with everyone interacting and the kids being each other’s best friends.”

“The whole setup was that these characters were babies, but they were pondering life’s big questions, just like a kid who was watching the show might be wondering about the same things,” adds Boutilier. “We hope to continue that tradition.”

The Rugrats premieres on Paramount+ on May 27. The show will also air on Nickelodeon later this year.


From Variety:

New Technology, New Generation of Viewers Inform ‘Rugrats’ Animation Style

When “Rugrats” went off the air after a decade in 2006, it did so with a handful of Daytime Emmy wins for animated program, a half-a-dozen Kids Choice Awards and its very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It also happened to be the second-longest running animated series on Nickelodeon (“SpongeBob SquarePants” being the longest), it spawned three movies, and the franchise’s licensing and merchandising potential seemed endless.

In other words, reviving the comedic adventures of the animated tots was a no-brainer for Nick, which has already dusted off “SpongeBob” from the shelf and is emerging as one of the biggest subscription drivers to the newly launched Paramount Plus.

When Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil and Angelica return to screens, however, they’ll have a whole new look thanks to the CG-animation style. In reimagining “Rugrats” for new and grown-up audiences alike, executive producers Eryk Casemiro and Kate Boutilier (who both worked on the original series) set out to create a world that honored but updated the ground-breaking animation created by Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain in 1991.

“The unusual line and design style was often referred to as ugly-cute and included a lot of forced perspectives of the camera at the babies’ eyes, at floor-level as they went on their adventures,” says Casemiro. “CG enabled us to give it a really fresh look and to feel contemporary compared to the original 2D.”

As a result, the primary character assets and designs were conceptualized in Burbank, Calif. before being sent to Technicolor in India for animation. That process enabled the team to achieve those extreme “Rugrats” camera angles and to capture the original, asymmetrical Klasky-Csupó character design. It also enabled more animation tools and lighting. The result is a bigger environment, more realistic shadows and settings, and a bigger “mood” when the characters go off on their signature, fantastical adventures.

“Because of the sophistication of kids and the movies they’ve seen, we wanted to give them that same experience of being right there with the babies under the table,” adds Boutilier. “The show feels very tactile. You’re really in their world, with their point-of-view with the crumbs under the couch and all that.”

The EPs add that the new “Rugrats” honors the color palette and design of the original, but the CG style also allows for more details that further build on these characters’ worlds — from what’s on the walls or furniture, to the clothing the children wear, to the scuffmarks on their shoes.

It also allows the creatives to push the storytelling itself to exciting new places.

“There’s an episode in which the babies imagine going inside Chas’ ear because there’s a song stuck in his head and they want to get it out,” says Casemiro. “So they go on a trip through the body and it is so much more, dare I say, grotesque than it would be in 2D. It’s not cutesy — it’s actually got a slightly demented quality, which the show always had in its design style.”

Considering how much the world itself has changed since “Rugrats” went off the air 15 years ago, updating the stories to reflect a new generation came easily to the creatives. Rather than revisiting all of the stories they’d already told, they focused on how life has evolved since then. They also updated the adult characters so the age of the young parents now coincides with the millennial audience that grew up with the series, creating a dual-viewing experience for young families.

“We changed some of the adult dynamics slightly, making more of a group of friends who are connected,” reveals Boutilier. “Even though we start our stories from a baby point-of-view, the adult stories also can influence a story or complement it.”

“It’s safe to say it was easier to generate stories now than it was near the end of ‘Rugrats’,” adds Casemiro. “I remember having that existential crisis, like, ‘What else can they learn, we’ve done everything!’ back then. But the refresh was nice. It was a whole new set of circumstances, but the characters were like old friends. It was easy to imagine how those characters would face these new circumstances because their core personalities haven’t changed. When we began writing, it was like a hug from an old friend.”

“Rugrats” debuts May 27 on Paramount Plus and Nickelodeon.


The all-new Rugrats will follow the even bigger adventures born from the colorful imaginations of Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Susie, and Angelica. Premiering exclusively Thursday, May 27 on Paramount+, and produced by the Nickelodeon Animation Studio, the reimagined babies continue to explore their world in brand-new adventures that will both complement and evolve the original series’ beloved stories.

Beginning May 27, the first set of episodes of the Rugrats debut season will be available on Paramount+, with the rollout of additional episodes to be announced at a later date. In the one-hour premiere episode, “Second Time Around,” Tommy leads the babies on a daring adventure to help Chuckie after his big attempt to be brave goes horribly wrong. Warning: dinosaurs are involved. Following the season’s run on Paramount+, the series will air on Nickelodeon at a later date to be announced.

The series stars E.G. Daily (Tommy Pickles), Nancy Cartwright (Chuckie Finster), Cheryl Chase (Angelica Pickles), Cree Summer (Susie Carmichael), and Kath Soucie (Phil and Lil DeVille), all of whom are reprising their iconic roles in this new series.

The original adventurous babies’ voice cast is joined by new voices, including Ashley Rae Spillers and Tommy Dewey (Tommy’s parents, Didi and Stu Pickles); Tony Hale (Chuckie’s father, Chas Finster); Natalie Morales, (Phil and Lil’s mother, Betty DeVille); Anna Chlumsky and Timothy Simons (Angelica’s parents, Charlotte and Drew Pickles); Nicole Byer and Omar Miller (Susie’s parents, Lucy and Randy Carmichael); and Michael McKean (Grandpa Lou Pickles).

Produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio, the all-new Rugrats is based on the series created by Arlene Klasky, Gabor Csupo, and Paul Germain. Eryk Casemiro (“Rugrats”) and Kate Boutilier (“Rugrats”) are executive producers and Dave Pressler (“Robot and Monster”) and Casey Leonard (“Breadwinners”) serve as co-executive producers, with Rachel Lipman (“Rugrats”) as co-producer and Kellie Smith (“The Fairly OddParents”) as line producer. Charlie Adler (“Rugrats”) serves as the voice director. Production is overseen by Mollie Freilich, Senior Manager, Current Series Animation, Nickelodeon.

The original “Rugrats” series launched in August of 1991 and instantly became a groundbreaking phenomenon, spawning consumer products and three hit theatrical releases, cementing its place in pop culture history through its iconic characters, storytelling, and unique visual style. “Rugrats” was in production for nine seasons over the course of 13 years. The series earned four Daytime Emmy Awards, six Kids' Choice Awards, and its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Other animated Nickelodeon exclusives on Paramount+ include the CG-animated SpongeBob SquarePants prequel series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under YearsThe SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and the upcoming Star Trek: Prodigy.

Don't have Paramount+ yet? You can sign up for the service here, which includes the streaming home of other classic Nickelodeon shows, and will also be the home of the upcoming iCarly revival, premiering June 17!

About Paramount+

Paramount+, a direct-to-consumer digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service from ViacomCBS, combines live sports, breaking news, and a mountain of entertainment. The premium streaming service features an expansive library of original series, hit shows and popular movies across every genre from world-renowned brands and production studios, including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and the Smithsonian Channel. The service is also the streaming home to unmatched sports programming, including every CBS Sports event, from golf to football to basketball and more, plus exclusive streaming rights for major sports properties, including some of the world’s biggest and most popular soccer leagues. Paramount+ also enables subscribers to stream local CBS stations live across the U.S. in addition to the ability to stream ViacomCBS Streaming’s other live channels: CBSN for 24/7 news, CBS Sports HQ for sports news and analysis, and ET Live for entertainment coverage.

For more information about Paramount+, please visit and follow @ParamountPlus on social platforms.

About Nickelodeon:

Nickelodeon, now in its 42nd year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The brand includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, location-based experiences, publishing, and feature films. For more information or artwork, visit Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC).

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Originally published: Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at 00:53 BST.

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