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Nicktoons 20th Anniversary

We celebrated the date August 11th, 1991 earlier this week by marking the anniversary of The Ren & Stimpy Show. But that same second Sunday morning in August also marked the beginning of Nicktoons itself and the start of a creator driven cartoon explosion. Since today is 20th anniversary that symbolic second Sunday of August, I thought another post to mark the occasion was due.

Long gone – but not forgotten – is the cool Nicktoons ID intro and several character bumpers created by J.J. Sedelmaier. His collaborator Craig Yoe recalled how it came to be:

“20 years ago Nickelodeon’s VP of Creative, Scott Webb had seen an MTV ID that J.J. Sedelmaier of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions (still knocking out great animation) and I had done and drafted us to do an opening and closing for their new cartoon block, Nicktoons. Webb’s assignment was to “do an intro so cool that it will become as famous as the beloved Looney Tunes one”. Oh, sure, no problem there! We came up with the bit below joined by animators Doug Compton, JP Jacquet, and John Dilworth and with the music/sound design of the long missed Tom Pomposello. It debuted with Nicktoons, won some awards, but was quickly shit-canned by some suit who had other ideas and some political pull and, well… that’s all folks!

Sedelmaier just posted the original Nicktoon bumpers on his site. Click the image below to see them:

  • Jabberwocky

    I definitely remember seeing the Rugrats and Doug versions on TV; I wasn’t allowed to watch Ren & Stimpy, though and I suspect the first two were used too early for me to remember.

  • JP

    Thank you, Jerry, for giving the other Nicktoons (and bumpers!) some love. I know it’s not as cool as Ren & Stimpy (or as popular as modern-day SpongeBob), but I’ve always loved watching Doug the best.

    I’m celebrating by watching “Doug Can’t Dance” in all its squiggly glory! I vividly remember doing the same thing 20 years ago as a kid :-)

  • when i designed the character i gave him reddy killowatt legs, dagwood bumpstead’s shirt button and my own hair of the time. i had just previously been jim henson’s creative dirrector at muppets so in tribute i made him green like kermit (that was actually easy). at the time i did this caroon i was working on my book “the art of mickey mouse” so i gave him mickey mouse booties. that later thang got a scathing letter of criticism to the nick president gerry laybourne. seems some mom was convinced that the shoes looked liked condoms and said i had some gay agenda that i was foisting on children, that it was my desire to corrupt kids–hardly true!

    • Here’s the letter in question:
      nick letter

      • Chris Sobieniak

        See what stifles excellent creativity Jerry? Someone’s always seeing something else in it to have an opinion outside yours to always lead to backfire.

      • amid

        Something doesn’t make sense about this letter. I can’t imagine how an average mom in 1992 (especially one conservative enough to complain about something like this) would be familiar with both Keith Haring and Al Goldstein’s “Screw”. My guess is that this letter was written as a prank or to get even with someone at Nickelodeon.

      • whippersnapper

        I have to agree with you here, Amid. It was those two references and the use of “de-rigeur” [sic] that stood out to me. How many stay-at-home moms know obscure French phrases and the names of major pornographers?

      • Could be. . . we got it from an Nick exec and I always got a chuckle from it. It also had no address other than a P.O. Box. . .

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I remember this one pretty well. It was kind of a shame when they eventually replaced it a couple years later with that CG splotch thingy instead.

    • 2011 Adult

      That, interestingly, was produced by the studio that would become Blue Sky.

  • Let’s extend some love to Tom Pomposello’s memory ! His James Brown-inspired sound design on the open/close still cracks me up ! Whatta guy !

  • Toonio

    Klasky-Csupo’s prima opera Rugrats was another superb driver of the nicktoons revolution line-up.

    Contrast, variety and quality, you cannot go wrong with those ingredients.

    Without Nicktoons, Nickelodeon would have ended up being owned by FOX and showing the Cleveland show 24/7.

    P.S. Remember Doug, another child actor whose life ended up in the wrong alley. Never forget!

  • i remember telling the people at nick, “>SNIFF< rugrats is just a shameful blatant rip off of sheldon mayer's sugar and spike comic books–i think john kricfalusi's ren & stimpy is the true genius here." i did very love doug,too, though–good stuff. one woman nick exec responded that she thought i was thinking wrong, that rugrats was gonna be the standout. and, of course, it lasted the longest and made a gazillion dollars in licensing, so i'm sure she now thinks she was right. but,IMHO, my conclusion…john k. and sheldon mayer=geniuses–and <3 for doug!

  • Bryan

    John “Courage” Dilworth worked at Nick (MTV Networks) in the early 90s? COOL! Where is he now after Garlic Boy?

    Oh and Political Correctness is a real shame.

    Also I recall a Fido-Dido like character on Nickelodeon once, by Sue “PepperAnn” Ross, did he evolve into Doug?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I don’t think so. Doug though made earlier appearances in a few things prior to the creation of the Nicktoon such as an ad for grapefruit juice and an ID for the USA Network.

      • Worked on all the Grapefruit Council spots when I was at the Ink Tank – Tony Eastman animated.

    • 2011 Adult

      John’s in New York doing indie shorts and other kinds of work, such as gallery drawings.

  • Vixie

    I was always a fan of these three shows, and really makes me miss the days of Nicktoons. They also were a big part of why I think the 90s were a golden age of tv animation.

    Doug to me was funny with great characters. It was just bizarre enough to interest me, but down to earth enough to make the characters real. Mr Dink is one of my all time favorite cartoon characters.

    Rugrats was good for a time, had some really well written scripts. Sadly, I feel it jumped the shark when the movie came out and they added the baby brother, but up to that point was well worth watching.

    What more can be said about Ren and Stimpy? For a time is was one of the best things on tv. But, I think it went into a decline after John K left, and the scripts became more about having gross out humor for the sake of having it, rather then well integrated into the storylines. The original episodes are some of the most brilliant animation I have seen, funny and twisted and always entertaining, and pure cartoons.

    Shows like these three are why I love animation, and it’s too bad there are so few of things on Nick today to compare. I’d love to see a return to the days of Nicktoons, but that is likely a pipe dream.

  • Pow.

    If its the big orange splat that you guys created, then to a certain generation it is every single bit as iconic as the Looney Tunes logo! Genius work! May we geekishly nostalgize it for eons to come!

    • Allen J

      The orange splat was actually created in 1984 by Tom Corey and Scott Nash:

      • Chris Sobieniak

        We should remember!

      • Pow!

        Augh, that thing is painfully brilliant! I cannot even!

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Now you see why most of us were rather pissed beyond belief when they had to go and change it finally. It was like they turned their backs to us after so long.

      • Pow!

        That thing was brilliant, but kids should have a different brand than their older brothers did. They didn’t make the new one very personal though. FEH! I’m still shocked that those guys who made the original logo are still doing work THAT GOOD.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I guess I would be more for tradition versus originality when it comes to logo design and how one is maintained. I feel like the new logo kinda broke something I didn’t think needed fixing at all. It seemed more conservative than liberal to me.

  • Thanks Jerry, for giving ALL THREE Nicktoons due credit. Everybody has found something to love about each series, exactly the kind of variety that the program set out to display against the Saturday morning market.

    As for the Nicktoons bumper, maybe the first one didn’t work out, but another one has since become more memorable.

  • I once heard the character design for Rugrats explained as “imagine you had a bag full of babies, then threw it down the stairs.”

    It’s interesting to me that Viacom would use Ren and Stimpy as part of a trio of animated series to help rebrand TNN and launch Spike TV years later. Gary the Rat, Stripperella, and Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon” all premiered around the same time on that network.

    Overall the results were less than stellar, though Ren and Stimpy still had their moments.

  • Allen J

    The Rugrats bumper is actually a scene from the pilot, “Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing.”

    J.J. Sedelmaier’s website also has part of another Ren & Stimpy bumper they did:

    • The clip above comes from one of the vignettes we did for Kelloggs premiums. Tony Eastman animated, Gideon Kendall did the BGs.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Thanks J.J. for showing us the way!

  • Steven Harley

    (from Amid)

    Unless this mom secretly is a fan of “Screw” magazine. ;-)

  • i was there starting in the north hollywood days.. late 90’s when viacom ruled the west coast from new york.
    angry beavers mike girard and mitch schauer

  • PJW

    Being really late in the 90’s, not being able to experience Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats fully, I always watched Disney’s version of Doug on Toon Disney almost every day. Of course, to my young mind, Doug was always a Nicktoon and not a poorly controlled property of Disney. I’ve always liked it more than the other two anyway.

  • JSG

    I know it’s been said time and time again but man, it was good to be a 90s kid. Summer days or heck, any day you’d come home turn to Nick watch a litte Hey Arnold or Angry Beavers. Then you’d turn to PBS watch some Arthur, next turn to Cartoon Network watch Cow and Chicken and Dexter. And if Dexter was showing the Justice Friends segment, I was set. Finally before bed you’d finish off the day with a Disney Channel movie. Geez the 90s were like a renaissance period for quality cartoons.

  • cassie

    I miss all the 90s cartoons (to beginning of 21st century). this includes ones not on nick- doug, rugrats, ren and stimpy, aahh real monsters, rockos modern life, hey arnold, angry beavers, wild thornberries, animaniacs, cow and chicken, dexters lab, ed edd and eddy, tiny toon adventures, and many more. I am currently drawing the characters because I miss these types of cartoons compared to todays.