Nickelodeon’s panel, “Happy Happy! Joy Joy!” celebrated 25 years of original animation on the kids’ channel. And there were no better guest speakers to join moderator Hector Navarro than Craig Bartlett (creator of Hey Arnold!), Butch Hartman (creator of Fairly Oddparents), Arlene Klasky (co-creator of Rugrats), and Jhonen Vasquez (creator of Invader Zim).
To start the discussion off, the speakers on the panel were asked what were their favorite shows that they didn’t work on. Butch chose Spongebob Squarepants. Craig’s was Fairly Oddparents. And both Arlene and Jhonen named Ren and Stimpy as their choice.
The panel then went on to describe their favorite “fan moment.” For Craig, it was seeing fan art and comments. One particular moment was when Carolyn Franke wrote a Hey Arnold! piece for The AV Club. Butch’s favorite experience was seeing a Fairly Oddparents merchandise question on a gameshow. He also enjoyed meeting fans. Arlene told a story about her doing a signing at Cal State Fullerton during which a fan told her, “Thank you for everything you have done.” Jhonen also told an anecdote. During a signing, he met a fan who watched Invader Zim as a child. He now had children of his own and watches the show with them. Jhonen liked being part of a family’s memories.
The discussion then transitioned to Arlene discussing her memories of Rugrats. When asked about her favorite moment from the show, Arlene replied that it would come from the future, “if” Rugrats was brought back.
The idea for Rugrats came from the time when Arlene was home with her young children. She had taken 14 months off of work and was considering not returning. However, she couldn’t “turn off” her creative thinking process.
Craig was then given the floor to talk about Hey Arnold! and the series’ upcoming movie, Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie. He never believed he would get a chance to create more Hey Arnold! material. But as fans who grew up watching the show became adults, they pushed for more Hey Arnold! on social media. Their online chatter allowed for the movie to be made.
The characters’ designs have received an update as they are a year older in the film. The Jungle Movie will answer a lot of questions fans had while watching the show. The storyline deals with Arnold searching for his missing parents. The movie will premiere around Thanksgiving 2017 as two-hour TV event. Fans can expect the next SDCC to have plenty of Hey Arnold! content.
Butch’s next series is called Bunsen is a Beast. In the show, Bunsen is the first beast to attend a human school. There, he befriends a human boy named Mikey. The two learn about each others’ different worlds. The show focuses on the pair’s friendship. Bunsen lives in a Monster House, which is a living entity and provides gags of its own in the show. Within the house are doors to different worlds and anywhere the friends want to go. That mechanic offers a limitless supply of story idea. Bunsen is a Beast premiers in 2017.
Finally, the floor was given to Jhonen. Invader Zim was his first cartoon experience and he had no clue how “things went down.” He transitioned directly from the comic book world. When Jhonen first saw Zim’s walking animation, he had the feeling of “Oh my god, this is really happening.” It was a challenge to translate the art style from his comic book for animation. Eventually, he began change his style a bit and designed things with the animation process in mind. Jhonen felt that was the toughest part of the process. It was noted that Invader Zim comics are still being published today.
One of the big highlights of the panel was the premier of the Jhonen’s animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles short, “Don vs. Raph.” He loved Ninja Turtles as a child. He felt that it had a “sense of person” behind the art. He loved the idea that there was a person whose life revolved around writing and drawing such material. That concept inspired his career path. Working on “Don vs. Raph” was a refreshing change of pace for him. The short can be viewed here.