HEY ARNOLD!Original medium: Television animation
Produced by: Paramount Pictures
First Appeared: 1988
Creator: Craig Bartlett
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The urban landscape of Hey Arnold! is designed to evoke an impression of creator Peter Bartlett's childhood environment. Bartlett grew up in Seattle, but Hillwood, where Hey Arnold! takes place, could be Detroit or Portland or any other northern-region
American metropolis. The New York City skyline, complete with World Trade Center, seen in the background, suggests a Brooklyn or Queens locale, as do various New York area landmarks (tho other landmarks suggest a far-removed location). Occasional landmarks, such as Quigley Stadium, have the same names as places in the general area, but look different.
Arnold was created for a comic book, which was made in 1986 by cartoonist Peter Bartlett (Formless Fosdick, a parody of a parody). But it didn't prosper in that medium, which in America, at least, isn't friendly to non-superheroes. Working at Will Vinton Associates, where clay animation, such as The California Raisins is made, Bartlett produced a couple of short films about Arnold in 1988 and '90, for The International Tournee of Animation. Eventually, they found their way onto Sesame Street, the show that achieved fame in the 1960s and later by providing material that educates kids while entertaining them.
In the familiar form of cel animation, Hey Arnold! debuted on Nickelodeon (Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants) on July 10, 1996, as a companion to Nick's live-action movie, Harriet the Spy. Nick's regular Hey Arnold! series started October 7 of the same year. In neither of them, nor anywhere else, was Arnold's surname ever mentioned.
Arnold was in the 4th grade at PS 118, which, if Hilldale is a neighborhood in New York City, would place him in the borough of Queens at least, if the real PS 118's actual location is an indicator. He lived with his grandparents, proprietors of their boarding house, The Sunset Arms. Both the school and the house, which contained an eclectic assortment of colorful individuals, provided characters for the supporting cast.
Supporting characters at school included Helga Pataki, a tough girl who was secretly in love with Arnold; Gerald Martin Johanssen, his best friend; Harold Berman, the school bully; and the the usual assortment of kid types you find in the average elementary school. At home, he had Grandpa (Phil), Grandma (Gertrude, or "Pookie"), a pet pig (Abner) and several pigeons, named Fester, Lester and Chester. A few other denizens of The Sunset Arms were Mr. Hyunh, a Vietnamese immigrant who worked as a waiter in a local restaurant; Oskar Kokoshka, who didn't have a job because he didn't read very well; and Mr. Smith, whom none of the others ever got a good look at.
Four different actors have provided Arnold's voice. Toran Caudell (King Bob in Recess) was only 14 years old when he originated the role. Phillip Van Dyke (a minor character in Batman animation) was even younger. Spencer Klein (who mostly lacks animation credits) was younger yet. Finally, Alex D. Lint (young Tarzan in the Disney version, who played Arnold only twice, was the youngest of all he wasn't even born when Caudell was doing the voice. Klein was the one who did it in Hey Arnold! The Movie, which came out in 2002.
Grandpa was Dan Castellaneta, whose many other roles include Earthworm Jim. Grandma was Tress MacNeille (Dot Warner). Helga was Francesca Marie Smith (another minor character in Batman). Gerald was Jamil Walker Smith (Mo'Money in Waynehead). Other voices include Kath Souci (Mom in Dexter's Lab), Carlos Alazraqui (Mr. Crocker in Fairly OddParents) and James Belushi (Fang in Gargoyles).
Hey Arnold! eventually did appear in comics form. Under the name "Arnold", it ran in the back pages of The Simpsons Illustrated magazine, which Simpsons creator Matt Groening produced for 10 issues between 1991 and '93. Groening is Bartlett's brother-in-law.
There have been the usual books, toys and video exploiting the show. Even after it ran its course and Nick dropped it, it's turned up in ways like a Thanksgiving special in 2007. Even if it doesn't appear ragularly, it retains a cadre of loyal fans.