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Director / CrewThis is Craig Bartlett, animation creator of Ready Jet Go!, Hey Arnold!, and Dinosaur Train – ask me anything!

Apr 2nd 2018 by CraigBartlett • 36 Questions • 207 Points

Hi redditors, this is Craig Bartlett, animation creator!

Proof that it is really me: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg4HqIAl8pF/?taken-by=craigbartlett

Season 2 of Ready Jet Go! launched today, April 2 on PBS KIDS (check local listings) with a special week of new episodes that will get young viewers from coast-to-coast excited about space and science. My two-hour TV movie, "Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie," launched on Nickelodeon November 24 and is now available on DVD and digital download. And we are starting production of 11 more half hours of Dinosaur Train, also on PBS KIDS, that will take the total number to 100.

I'm looking forward to talking to you all about my shows Ready Jet Go!, Hey Arnold!, and Dinosaur Train – so ask me anything!

EDIT: Thanks for all the great questions everyone! I’m signing off for now! Excelsior!

Q:

Would you consider making an artbook of HA, series and movies, combined or in volumes? Ca-ching! If so, please take my money.

A:

I think it's a great idea. Write to Nick and ask!


Q:

Hi Craig, I'm a University Professor and here are some questions from my (brilliant!) students enrolled in my Media and Popular Culture class.

Regarding Hey Arnold:

1a. What was your primary objective in creating such a diverse cast of characters in Hey Arnold!? 1b. How did this diversity aid viewers through the process of identification or identity formulation (who we are and where and with whom we belong)?

2a. What distinct steps were taken to ensure that the content and characters within Hey Arnold! were both relatable to global communities as well as individuals particularly within the West? 2b. Did you initially consider that your material could be interpreted differently by viewers with varying cultural backgrounds?

Regarding Dinosaur Train:

3a. Dinosaur Train does a great job of expressing inclusion and observing differences between the different dinosaur species. Why do you think this message isn’t lost on the youngest viewers (ages 2-4) that are watching the show?

3b. Dinosaur Train is aired in different parts of the world. How do you keep the message and meaning of the show the same through different cultures?

Thanks for answering. Keep on the amazing work!

A:

1a) I just thought it was time for an ethnically/gender diverse cast on a cartoon show. I knew I wanted to set it in the big city, and my experience living in LA in particular was like that: a big gumbo of different cultures, all living side by side. 2a) I hoped for the best when I made HA! but didn't know if it would resonate internationally. I think in storytelling you aim for the personal, and hope it will be universal. 3a) little kids are so cool -- they have amazing intuition and absorb our messages like sponges. I feel like those details may fly under the radar, but the kids will pick them up somehow. 3b) same answer: the personal becomes universal!


Q:

Hey Craig. My partner and I wanted to say thankyou for creating the best show in Nickelodeon's history. We have a couple of questions

  1. Were there certain side characters you feel were under-utilized? We personality would love Nadine-centered episode as well as for Lorenzo to be more recurring

  2. If I recall correctly, you said in an interview that Hey Arnold could potentially go on forever with the characters ageing up. With that in mind, if you were given an opportunity to do a more mature version of Hey Arnold! aimed at now grown up fans of the show that wasn't gratuitous but explored mature themes (similar to what Cartoon Network did with Samurai Jack). Would you do it?

A:

Sure, I'd do all of the above if I had the chance. I would love to do a Nadine episode, where she's further developed as a character.


Q:

I constantly think about how fortunate I was to have grown up during the golden age of children’s cartoons (1992-2004), especially when I see what my little cousins are consuming on tv today.

  • I don’t mean to be so blunt, but what was it about the 90s and early 00s that made children’s cartoons… superior? Were the rules more relaxed? Did it just happen to be a time when a lot of amazing writers and creators congregated at Nickelodeon?

  • I remember reading this somewhere on reddit/the internet, possibly when Francesca Smith did her AMA, but is it true Randy Travis wrote recorded “Simple Things” in 30 minutes while at the studio?

I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but that song is just excellent. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan all the avant-garde jazz heard throughout the series as well as the callbacks to the hippie/beat generation. Helga introduced me to the works of Edward Hopper in the episode “Helga on the Couch.” You just hardly see those type of obscure references thrown into children’s cartoons anymore.

While I’m on the topic of music, I might as well confess that I’ve been singing this in the shower every morning for the last 15 years:

My names Don Arnold, please have a caramel, your hair is lovely do you like my pants? They're made of satin, the cape's pure Latin, I had it tailored in the South of France!

♬ THE SOUTH OF FRANCE!

♬ YOUR SATIN PANTS!

♬ WHY DON’T YOU ASK THE LADY FOR A DANCE?

Thanks for everything Craig! Time for me to 23 Skidoo on outta here.

A:

And I'll just add to Christie's replies: Those are my rhymes, and I'm flattered that you sing them daily. It's always been one of my favorite songs, and Toran does a great interp, playing it like he's making it up in real time.


Q:

Is the RJG episode "My Fair Jet" supposed to be a reference to the film "My Fair Lady"? I found several similarities.

A:

Yes it was! The plot is: can Sean and Sydney transform Jet into a normal Earth kid? just like Professor Higgins has to transform Eliza into a "lady."


Q:

What's your favorite Dino Spumoni song and do you wish you could have done more? I personally adore "I Won't Smash Your Heart".

A:

I agree, "Smashed" is a favorite. Jim and I have made an extended version of that song, and someday we hope to bring it out to the public! I also love "My Last Bow." I sang that one at Steve Viksten's memorial service.


Q:

I'm pleased to hear you and your crew are game for a sixth season, Craig. I know many of we fans can think of great episode ideas, but do you and the writers already have many story ideas in mind if a new season does get greenlit?

A:

We all enjoyed making the Jungle Movie so much, that it inspires me to make new episodes more than any other time in the run of the show. I would jot down ideas for shows in my notebook as we went. I bet we could pitch out a whole season with ease. We'd all love to do it.


Q:

Hi Craig, I'm writing my master's thesis on Hey Arnold!; examining how Arnold is an empathetic character with a love of the natural world - like plants (Mighty Pete) and "unusual" animals (Chester, Abner, Lockjaw).

Was your relationship to nature a lot like Arnold's while growing up in an urban environment? How important was it to include Arnold and the kids interacting with the natural world?

I noticed your post on Instagram from International Women's Day of your Grandmother. What was her influence on you growing up, and did that ever influence the show? Your writing of Grandma Gertie?

Was Big Bob meant to be a symbol of patriarchy, or did that sort of come around naturally? (He runs an "empire," dresses up as a king, the house is his "Castle," his domineering relationships with Miriam, Olga, and Helga)

And I have to ask - any chance of a season 6? ; )

Thanks Craig!

A:

What good questions! First, when I was around 12, my parents moved us out of Seattle to a remote beach (Snee-oosh) where I had a ton of "alone time," mostly paddling around in a canoe. I made a huge connection to nature there, nearly drowning many times, hiking through the woods, putting out a crab pot and digging clams. That connection was huge in building my inner life and creativity. I recommend it to everyone! My grandma, "Nanny," was my favorite relative. Not only did she bring my mom Kay into the world, she was sweet, fun, full of energy, and took care of us kids a lot. I remember her crazy driving around Seattle, me in the back seat with a smelly wool blanket scratching the back of my neck. I love your Big Bob question. He certainly is an excellent symbol of the patriarchy, tho we did not do it consciously. He just became, so Helga would have a perfect narcissistic blowhard for a dad. See above in the session for my answer about season 6! Good luck with your thesis!


Q:

Season 6 finale hey Arnold or nah?

A:

Okay, everyone, when you see a question for "will there be a season 6" refer the asker to this. I want to do a season 6. My crew wants to do a season 6, and the cast wants to do a season 6. Nickelodeon knows this, we have been talking about it for a long time. I've put together a proposal about what would happen in a season 6. Now it is up to Nickelodeon if it will happen or not. I don't control it; Nickelodeon does. If they decide to do a season 6, they will tell me, and as soon as I know I will tell the fans on my social media. Meanwhile, until I know something, I won't say anything about it, because I simply don't know. I don't want to jinx it by speculating, and besides, nothing is real until "the ink dries and that ship has sailed," as Big Bob likes to say.


Q:

What episode of Hey Arnold! personally struck a chord with you the most?

A:

I think "Helga on the Couch" most of all. It was really fun to show her back story and build more sympathy for her. I feel that way now more than ever, because so many people have told me how much they love that one.


Q:

You mentioned seeing a lot of Studio Ghibli anime movies back on one of the Arun Mehta show interviews (loved those by the way, they got me back into HA!), have you seen any other anime?

A:

I remember when I did a job in Japan, at the end of the 80s, I watched "Totoro" and "Kiki" and they blew my mind. At the very same time, "Akira" came out. They all were huge influences. I saw other anime shorts and features but those were my favorites.


Q:

Hello Craig I am your follower since childhood from the caricature of Hey Arnold so several of my questions are related to the series and some other more personal, I was part of the group on Facebook that was called "save the jungle movie" when I was in high school , and the wait was long, I must say that it was totally worth it, here are my questions:

  1. What was it that motivated you to do The jungle movie?

  2. This question is a bit funny but have you considered making the perfume of Arnold and Helga? This as a reference to the episode where Helga goes to the psychiatrist when she confesses her love for Arnold and mentions that she wanted a perfume with the name of both.

  3. Once Toys R Us closed and some of Nickelodeon's original merchandise was sold there now, where can we get more merchandise from Hey Arnold?

  4. Maybe this is a more personal question but tell us about how you met your wife, love the love stories haha

  5. Is there going to be season 6? Hey Arnold

6.In the episode of "Girl trouble" where the grandfather is telling Arnold about the girl who was bothering him, in the final part arnold leaves the room, the grandfather never tells him that it was his grandmother, then ... He never knew ?

  1. Have you considered coming to Mexico one day? Here you also have many fans that you would make happy.

  2. In Comic Con de San Diego will you have time for your fans? I would have liked to be able to go more I will not have the opportunity this year, however a friend is going to attend and I want to send an embroidery of Hey Arnold that I am doing to you ☺

  3. In the episode of Valentine's Day when Helga poses as Cecile and in the end Arnold realizes that she was not, saves her shoe at the end of the episode, what's wrong with that? I think that this is one of the questions that most cause me curiosity, it would be good if Arnold would realize this in the future, along with Helga who helped him in the Christmas episode, when she changed her boots for information about the Hyunh's daughter

I live with the fear that you block me on instagram because I like everything you upload hahaha I'm glitter_tears_blossom tree the girl with the Helga Pawtaki and the Kiss embroidery (If one day you occupy a dressmaker I offer myself haha)

A:

Hi Glitter_tears! Yeah, that embroidered kiss was awesome. 1) the Jungle movie started as our first movie, because Paramount wanted something big, and finding Arnold's missing parents was considered the biggest thing of all. 2)Haha, the "Arnold and Helga" perfume would be pretty cool. 3)Amazon! 4)We met at her sister's Memorial Day party. 5)The answer is somewhere on this Reddit! 6)Yeah, Arnold was out for that last scene! 7)I want to come back to Mexico, it's been many years since I've been. 8)I still don't know if I'm going to ComicCon this summer. 9)I think he'll find all that out eventually. Sometimes those mysteries are best left not shown. It's more magical that way.


Q:

What ever happened to cousin Arnie?

A:

Arnie's doing well. Maybe we'll bring him back, he's a lot of fun.


Q:

Craig, if there is a season 6, will Arnold ever find out that Helga was his Christmas Angel? That was such a selfless thing for her to do I've always felt he should know.

A:

Like I said elsewhere, I think Arnold eventually finds out the various selfless things Helga has done. But I think he'll find them out on his own, without our seeing it. It's more poetic that way.


Q:

Have you considered making a character that paid homage to Penny in Hey Arnold?

A:

Haha, but she's got pennies for eyes! and is made of clay!


Q:

Hi Craig! Thanks for taking the time to do this, it's really exciting (and probably not as nuts as those old live chats, hah). I have a few Hey Arnold! q's.

• In your career you've created content targeted to many age ranges, from your early PeeWee shorts, to Nickelodeon and of course Hey Arnold!, and later to educational shows for the younger crowd like Dinosaur Train. You've also pitched ideas that were targeted for older audiences such as The Patakis. What has your experience been creating content aimed at different audiences? Do you find any segments more challenging and/or rewarding, and in what ways?

• A lot has changed since the original drafts of the Jungle Movie script, from the voice actors growing up, to crew members moving on to other projects, and in particular the loss of Steve Viksten, who was such as integral part of the show's development. What were the biggest obstacles in bringing something like this back, and in what ways do you feel the completed movie lived up to and even improved upon the first version?

• One of the most gratifying and touching parts of Hey Arnold! was the development of Helga as a character, seeing snippets from the beginning of the show about her crummy home life and her obsessive nature, expanded on in episodes like Road Trip and Helga on the Couch. In the Jungle Movie we see her mature in a lot of ways, but she still has shrines and insane levels of Arnold worship. How do you see Helga growing in the future? If HA! were to continue beyond the Jungle Movie, what challenges do you imagine Helga facing?

Thanks again, and congrats on the new episodes for Ready Jet Go and Dinosaur Train!

Kim

A:

Wow, so many questions! I'll go in order: it's easier to write for older audiences because there are limits to what preschoolers will even "get." Also my preschool shows have curriculums, which we need to learn before we can write the shows! luckily the subject matter is really fun to me: paleontology and space.


Q:

I grew up watching Hey Arnold, and Doug.

Are any of the characters based on real people?

Had no clue there was a new Hey Arnold movie, any plans on more?

Thank you for the show.

A:

The kids in Hey Arnold! are very loosely based on people I knew. There was no Helga -- she's too complicated a character to be based on anyone real!


Q:

Do you think Miles and Stella would ever adopt a child to make up for the time they lost with Arnold?

A:

Haha, we're going to have our hands full as it is with Arnold's parents back! I think I'd start with just trying to deal with the new dynamic of having parents in his life!


Q:

Is there any episode of Hey Arnold that you’re not satisfied with and wish you could go back in time and change?

A:

Hi, I'm online and ready to go! I remember being unsatisfied with some of the first season episodes where we got so many notes, the stories changed from our original intent. "Biosquare" and "World Records" were a couple examples.


Q:

Big fan of your work. What inspired or for what purposes was the jazz in Hey Arnold?

A:

We pitched Hey Arnold! as "a Charlie Brown for the nineties" and one of the things we loved about the original Charlie Brown specials was the Vince Guaraldi jazz soundtrack. I was listening to a lot of Miles Davis at the time and suggested to Jim Lang that we come up with a modern interpretation that still had jazzy roots. And he came up with the sound of the show, making me mix tapes of "Acid Jazz" that combined hiphop beats with traditional jazz instruments.


Q:

Hey Mr Bartlett, great to have you here, a few questions:

1) You've mentioned before one of your regrets about the show was how the writers treated Lila, especially towards the end when they leaned perhaps a bit too much on the love triangle aspect with her and Arnold/Helga - and I think this may have had an effect on -whew - QUITE the amount of anti-Lila fanart that I've seen in the fandom (one example coming to mind right now is a Mean Girls parody one of your fave artists(!) Limey404 did),

THAT SAID, it seems that in recent years, perhaps since news of the Jungle Movie came out, that anti-Lila sentiment seems to have died down, and some of the newer spat of artist that came out around, say, 2015+ seem to have an even more positive view of her (or at least relative to the antipathy I've mentioned above). I was wondering if you've ever noticed this as a creator engaging in any fan space since then?

2) Speaking of recent artists, are there any from this recent batch that you've grown a liking to? I believe you've mentioned before (on places like the interview with Arun Mehta?) that you've liked stuff from the aforementioned limey404, bloochikin/Najja Porter and criminyy, anyone else since then whose artwork you've really liked?

A:

1) Well, we added Lila to the show as an innocent kid who gets in Helga's way because Arnold likes her. But as the show went on, she becomes more manipulative, and it was amusing to us, but probably made all the Helga fans hate her. I'm sorry about that, because she's such a sweet kid. She's complicated though! 2) there are so many new fans making unbelievably cool art! Go to my IG and see all of them, I post them all the time.


Q:

Hi Craig, I just have a couple of questions:

1.) What jobs do you imagine Miles and Stella having since they're back in hillwood?

2.) Will Arnold ever get a sibling? If so, would it be a little sister or little brother? I'd personally love it if he had a little sister.

And I just want to say thank you for doing this AmA. Hey Arnold is my favorite show ever and it just brings me so much joy! Thanks for everything!

A:

The idea of what will happen with Miles and Stella now that they are back in the neighborhood would be a main theme of a season 6. I think they would try to update the boarding house and take over running it from Grandma and Grandpa, and there would be tensions over that.


Q:

[removed]

A:

Go to Jim Lang's website knobworld, or google him, he posts up mp3s of the show's music. You can email him and request stuff too. He's the coolest.


Q:

Ready Jet Go question: what kind of dog is Cody?

A:

Cody is a mutt, I think! I'm glad you like him! Rachel Lipman wrote Cody into the series, I'll ask her. I think he's based on her dog.


Q:

r/IAmA Heads up for Season 3 Episode 1 comparison of Mindy Turns 5 u/ahaq2869 Season 3 Episode 1: Jet gets a Sibling (2 parts)

Hey there Craig Bartlett, When will you start filming season 3? Anyway here is a heads up for the very first episode and I really reallly really want you to make it first once you start making season 3

What would it be like for a newborn Bortronian baby in space?

Could it be like Mindy's first time in space in Mindy turns five perhaps?

In the episode, only Carrot and Celery will go to Bortron 7 in their car that becomes a flying saucer to get the baby delivered and Celery would use a baby girl's vegetable name, in which the baby would be named Lettuce. Before the baby is delivered, Carrot and Celery will get Bortronian disposable diapers on Bortron 7 through the galaxy. And Lettuce would be in a Bortronian long sleeve inside sleeper onesie with booties connected, and a baby's beanie in the same color outfit the Propulsions are wearing. Carrot and Celery would be giving Lettuce a tour of the Solar system on the way home from Bortron 7 starting with Pluto, to the Sun and then back to Earth to welcome Lettuce to the Propulsion's house and family along with Jet, Sunspot, and his friends.

The part where Carrot and Celery are on Bortron 7 here will be the script (Part of it) Celery: We're ready to get the baby delivered! Carrot: And to get some Bortronian disposable diapers! Celery: You're right Carrot, we need to get some disposable diapers that are perfect for space and protective for planets and moons that are not good for life. Carrot: Well Celery, maybe Jet can take care of Lettuce a lot. Celery: Even when we take the kids to space.

The very young baby character named Lettuce Propulsion will be included in all Ready Jet Go episodes starting from season 3 along with Mindy still going to space with the kids.

A:

Haha, thanks for the story pitch! I love the name lettuce for the baby.


Q:

Will you be attending SDCC this summer?◔‿◔

A:

I hope so! Nick could send me... hint, hint.


Q:

It's an honor to speak to one of the greatest tv show creator's ever. My parents are now fans from me showing them a few episodes Thank you for the great memories I have watching this show. As a new Yorker I could relate with this show at a young age, how did you come up with the concept of hey Arnold?

A:

Thanks! I thought up Arnold in '88, when I had just moved to LA from Portland to work on Pee Wee's Playhouse, and I wanted to create my own show. I started with Arnold as a kind of avatar for myself as a little kid, how the world felt to me. What childhood felt like to me.


Q:

Are there any other classic plays you wish you could have done in Hey Arnold? Like "Much Ado About Nothing" for example.

A:

Yeah, more Shakespeare! We chose "Romeo and Juliet" since I know that's usually the first one kids encounter in school.


Q:

If Hey Arnold took place right now (Before a The Jungle Movie) what topics would it focus on? Would the setting look different? Would there be more advance technology?

A:

We updated the time to now, so it's magically the present, even though 20 years have passed.


Q:

Hi Craig!! Hey Arnold was my favorite show growing up and I just want to say thank you for giving us all closure with The Jungle Movie!!

I have an ongoing feud with my fiancé - he says Arnold and Lila are meant to be, but obviously he’s wrong! Settle our debate once and for all! Is it Arnold and Lila or Arnold and Helga?

Thanks love you bye

A:

Arnold and Helga are soul mates -- even if they have difficulties, they're meant for each other.


Q:

Do you consider Rhonda to actually be filthy rich or she just happens to be better off financially among the rest of the kids?

A:

Nah, she's just a little better off than the others. Rhonda mostly acts rich.


Q:

Was Arnold Betrays Iggy actually banned?

A:

Not that I know of.


Q:

How did the idea for the episode ‘Arnold’s Halloween’ come about?

A:

Great question! I'm a big Orson Welles fan, and love the story of his halloween prank broadcast in '39. We were working with Maurice LaMarche (Big Bob), who does a hilarious dead-on Orson Welles (the Brain in Pinky and the Brain) so I thought, why not do an Arnold version of the '39 broadcast? Maurice can play the Orson Welles character!


Q:

Hey Craig, I'm posting these on behalf of my sister, who is a huge Hey Arnold! fan. She tried to post these herself, but it looks like Reddit might be throwing away new users' questions. If you could answer any or all of them, it would mean the world to her.

  1. Why does Helga take her hand away at the end of The Jungle Movie? Her fear of rejection is gone, and presumably everyone knows her secret at this point since they were in her Arnold collection, so the fear of ridicule is gone too. What's her motivation for continuing her bully facade?

  2. What was Arnold's and Helga's dynamic like during the 5th grade year that we didn't get to see? Are the Draw Somethings you've posted on Facebook and Instagram supposed to take place then?

Thanks!

A:

Hi sister! Helga takes her hand away because she's still not comfortable with public displays of affection. She likes being tough and brittle and isn't ready to quit just yet. You can see that it makes her happy to be in charge... she's a complicated girl. 5th grade is now the "lost year." I guess that my DrawSomethings cover it, but they kind of have a life of their own!


Q:

Why was Suzie completely absent from The Jungle Movie?

A:

At the end of "Hey Arnold! the Movie" we had an inside joke that she used the tearing down of the neighborhood to move out and leave Oskar. So she's somewhere else now, I'm not sure where.


Q:

Who had more say in the casting for the Jungle Movie, you or Nickelodeon? Was it more your intention or theirs to have some bigger names (Mason Cotton and Alfred Molina specifically) in the cast along with the returning cast and Nick personalities?

Did you and Nick audition younger actors/actresses for the child characters that were voiced by now-adults (Frannie, Andi, Justin, Olivia, etc), or once they came in and showed they could still do the voices there were no other auditions done for their roles?

A:

We cast the movie with a lot of great help from Nick. We brought in Mason and Benjamin because the original Arnold and Gerald were too different-sounding now. But Alfred Molina was our first choice as Lasombra. I love his work. He crushed it, btw. what an actor! The kid actors who returned did so because they still could sound like their kid versions.