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Craft challenge: Keeping TV-intimacy on the big screen

Transforming Rugrats into a movie was both a scripting challenge and the realization of a technical dream, says co-creator Arlene Klasky, co-founder with Gabor Csupo of Klasky Csupo animation studio, home of the Rugrats....
November 1, 1998

Transforming Rugrats into a movie was both a scripting challenge and the realization of a technical dream, says co-creator Arlene Klasky, co-founder with Gabor Csupo of Klasky Csupo animation studio, home of the Rugrats.

‘The story had to hold up over a longer period,’ she says. ‘On TV, Rugrats stories are short, very simple stories about friends and problems kids have to overcome-children’s fears, the first tooth and birthday parties.’ To sustain interest during the film’s 75-minute running time, more action was required. ‘We knew we needed a grand adventure-something with scope. And the story needed to be a bit more movement-oriented.’

Beefed-up visuals and CGI special effects were added-a technical feat that was too time-consuming and expensive to undertake for the series. ‘In this case, we knew we were going to be competing with other animated shows-with Disney-level animation-so we had a CGI department that we geared up just for this feature,’ notes Klasky.

The translation of Nicktoon to blockbuster did have its limits. ‘We wanted to stay true to the series Rugrats, which is a small intimate ensemble, even while adding action-based characters such as the monkeys and the wolf,’ she says. The peer group dynamic that is the thematic bread and butter for the Rugrats series was carefully preserved. ‘[The introduction of] Baby Dil affected all of their relationships and upset Tommy’s friendship with Chuckie, Phil and Lil,’ says Klasky.

All in all, the chance to do a feature film was an unforeseen coup for Klasky, who dreamed up Rugrats nine years ago while ‘sitting around in a bathrobe’ with two new babies at home.

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