Recess co-creator Joe Ansolabehere recalls studio notes on Recess, Hey Arnold and Rugrats [Interview]


“Rugrats”, created by Gábor Csupó, Arlene Klasky and Paul Germain, follows the daily life of a group of toddlers and the problems that are out of proportion because they are, well, babies. Whether it’s retrieving a ball from a neighbor’s backyard that becomes an epic odyssey like “Lawrence of Arabia” or going to see Reptar on Ice, the show has followed their adventures, their creative methods of problem solving and their friendships.

Joe Ansolabehere and his writing partner, the late Steve Viksten, joined the show’s writers’ room. Both were fans of experimental films and the works of directors like Bergman, Godard and Truffaut. Those names aren’t exactly the first that come to mind when thinking of “Rugrats,” but Ansolabehere says that’s exactly what it was like to work on the show at the start – it was more experimental and almost avant-garde. guardian. “You had this atmosphere of people trying to do crazy, crazy things, and at the same time, hold it back and make it into a kids’ show,” Ansolabehere told us.

And the show was definitely for kids (it was about babies, after all), with small-scale stories that kids could enjoy and relate to. But at the same time, the series quickly proved to be more mature than some of its contemporaries, from a groundbreaking episode illustrating Passover to the normalization of breastfeeding and even the death of a parent.

As Ansolabehere told us, the writers didn’t really consider “Rugrats” to be a children’s show. Sure, they knew they couldn’t swear or show guns or things like that, “but we thought of it more like ‘Taxi'” and other sitcoms like “Seinfeld” or “Friends.” Likewise, each writer and director had complete control over their singular vision. “Each episode was its own movie,” he added.

This led to the very experimental look of the early “Rugrats”, with each episode being very different from each other. Unfortunately, the network became more interested in having a controlled, uniform look for the show, which stopped that experimentation. “We were never really able to do that again,” Ansolabehere recalls. “It’s very difficult to do that. And the system quickly became ‘no'”.

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