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Nickelodeon, known by some simply as “Nick” and by others as “Nick Nick Nick Nick Nick Nick Nick Nick Nickelodeon!” launched on April 1, 1979, but the “first cable channel for children” was no joke. Named after five-cent movie theaters from the early 1900’s, Nickelodeon became and remains a powerhouse, and while it does show many programs from other networks, it’s been celebrated for creating some of our most beloved television shows of the last 40+ years and counting, such as:
Created in the early 2000’s by Bryan Koneitzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, Avatar: The Last Airbender was unique from the start. Visually, it resembled Japanese Anime, but wasn’t Japanese. It was in English, but unlike most fantasy, it wasn’t based on European folk tales. It was a kid’s show, but addresses sexism, racism, war, and even genocide. It was an epic tale, but was predestined to have a 3 season run with a decided ending, instead of many programs that can go on for seasons after the spark is gone. It’s initial Nickelodeon run ended in 2008, but there are still adult fans creating new content about rewatching the show and making fresh takes on the content.
Through no fault of its creators, Avatar: The Last Airbender has a confusing name. “Avatar” makes other people think of James Cameron’s films, and just “The Last Airbender” suggests a live action remake of this classic cartoon show that is…let’s say…not popular with the ATLA fanbase. For more information, check out our blog article on the show. To check out our collection of pins, keychains, necklaces, earrings and other jewelry, go to our Avatar: The Last Airbender page!
Creator Craig Bartlett originally was working on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse when he created the character Arnold, originally shown in a series of claymation shorts. Arnold later appeared in a Simpsons comic book, which makes sense in that Bartlett was married at the time to Lisa Groening, sister of Simpson’s creator Matt Groening. (Maggie Groening, sister of these two, later co-wrote the Hey Arnold! Movie novelization...and yes, you might notice the Lisa-Maggie-Simpsons connection.) The Simpsons connection continues in that the two series have a number of overlapping voice talents.
Bartlett was working at Nickelodeon on Rugrats when he pitched the idea of an Arnold show in 1993, and produced a pilot the next year. Hey Arnold! debuted as a short opening for the Harriet the Spy film, and soon became the beloved TV show.
Inspired by people and settings from his own life, Bartlett wanted Arnold to be “The Charlie Brown of the 90’s” not in the way that Charlie Brown was unpopular, but that he’s the calm, kind center of the bizarre characters and chaos all around him. Like the Charlie Brown cartoons, Hey Arnold! featured a jazz soundtrack and used actual kids as voice actors, but was unusual in that the characters actually recorded together in one room, instead of alone in a sound booth. One especially interesting point of Hey Arnold! is that Arnold does the best he can and usually learns a lesson, even if his efforts don’t lead to much else. Likewise, while this is a fun and funny show, it’s well remembered for profoundly sad and poignant plots.
When a creator’s best known work to date is called something like Johnny the Homocidal Maniac, you might not expect them to be hired as the showrunner for a children’s show. However, this is exactly what happened when Nickelodeon contacted Jhonen Vasquez to create a cartoon for 11-15 year olds. Despite how “dark and edgy” his ideas were,"it went from pitch to series without hardly any waiting" according to Vasquez, who took about an hour to come up with the pitch. Apparently one of the biggest “problems” creating the show was who to cast as Zim, with early contenders being Mark Hamill and Billy West, before the lesser known Richard Steven Horvitz was cast. Once production began, there were issues between Vasquez pushing the boundaries he was pretty much hired to push, and Nickelodeon’s executives realizing that some of his ideas were TOO dark and edgy. The series was critically praised- even winning awards such as an emmy-while on air,not bad for a show where the hero wants to enslave humanity. Unfortunately, the praise of adult critics was no match for declining ratings, especially for a network where most viewers were under 11, so the show was canceled in 2002, only to have reruns be the second highest rated show on Nick, second only to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
In our article about Invader Zim, we mentioned famed voice actor Billy West. If he’s not famous enough for you to know his name, you might know some of his characters, as he voiced both Ren and Stimpy.
Formally known as The Ren and Stimpy Show, Ren and Stimpy was the 3rd “Nicktoon” created after Rugrats and Doug, and so was clearly a bit off-brand in comparison. All 3 shows premiered together on August 11, 1991. Creator John Kricfalusi created the characters for “personal amusement” as a college student in 1978. The characters were inspired by a famous photo, a classic cartoon, and the classic film, The Maltese Falcon.
As time went by, Kricfalusi and the Nickelodeon executives got along worse and worse to the point where they only communicated via lawyers, and even the Simpsons made jokes about the situation. However, the show was so influential that several networks created immediate copycat versions. Mike Judge has gone on record that without Ren and Stimpy, there would be no Beavis and Butthead- perhaps no animation on MTV. Critics have cited Ren and Stimpy both as some of the greatest characters and cartoon shows of all time, with the show “leading a new golden age of animation.” Ren and Stimpy have resurfaced in reboots, revival attempts, overtly “adult” newer works, and, of course, re-runs.
In the age-old cartoon tradition of an anthropological animal having a less anthropological dog as a pet, Rocko’s Modern Life was a groundbreaking, surreal, and controversial show about a Wallaby. Rocko first appeared in creator Joe Murray’s unpublished comic, Travis, and was inspired by a real life Wallaby that Murray noticed was unphased by the chaos in the zoo around him. Murray did not think he could write a children’s show and didn’t even like TV cartoons in general. He was expecting his pitch for the show to be rejected or even ignored. Much of the production was more informal and relaxed than most such programs, even though Nickelodeon execs were somewhat guarded after experiences with Ren and Stimpy’s creation. Much of the humor was geared to adults, with sexual innuendo and double entendres. The original show run was from 1993-1996, with numerous reruns and syndication showings keeping the cartoon in the public eye ever since.
Spongebob Squarepants (or “Spongebob” for short) is the story of an anthropomorphic sponge named Spongebob Squarepants (or “Spongebob” for short.) It was created by educator Stephen Hillenburg, who originally envisioned doing a printed educational comic about undersea life, The Intertidal Zone, while he was working at the Ocean Institute. The comic was co-hosted by a shrimp and Bob the Sponge, who looked more like a sea sponge than a rectangular solid. When working as a director on Rocko’s Modern Life, Hillenburg showed the comic to his colleague, writer Martin Olson. Olson convinced Hillenburg to take his ideas and create his own animated TV show. Many of the people who worked on Spongebob were already familiar with working together on Rocko’s Modern Life. After a number of changes, such as a stint where the protagonist was simply named “Spongeboy,” the character and show Spongebob Squarepants as we know them premiered in 1999, and Spongebob’s been living in a pineapple under the sea ever since.
Jewelry Brands’ goal is to create cool, affordable jewelry and accessories for fans, as well as to make it easy for fans’ loved ones to figure out what gifts to get. We don’t just make items with Nickelodeon items and images, we’re officially licensed by Nickelodeon, which means everything is legal, acknowledged, and approved of by the people behind your favorite characters.
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