Nickelodeon might not be what they used to be, according to most fans my age, but back in their heyday, they brought about this new "golden era" of cartoons. Doug, Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, and the wildly popular SpongeBob are just a few gems that the network has blessed us with over the years. I still remember the days of waking up at 6 AM, grabbing a bowl of Lucky Charms, and sitting two inches away from the TV to soak in as many Nicktoons as possible before school. Growing up, I was definitely more of a fan of the programming on Cartoon Network (as you just can’t beat Courage the Cowardly Dog), but the competition between the two networks was just plain ridiculous.
Just imagine being able to choose between SpongeBob or Ed, Edd, and Eddy, or even between Hey, Arnold! and Dexter's Laboratory. It pains me to say it, but kids today will just never know how stacked our cartoons were. And cartoons ain’t even bad today, but jeez was it stacked when we were growing up.
I digress, so today let’s talk about Nickelodeon cartoons and how there are still subtle details or better yet, misconceptions that people have about their favorite shows. Like do you know the real reason why Timmy Turner’s hat is pink, or did a joke from SpongeBob ever go way over your head when you were a kid? Well, lucky for you, we’re going to be talking about Easter eggs, subtle details, and generally just the things that everybody gets wrong about Nickelodeon cartoons. And we guarantee that even the most diehard fans will come out learning something interesting.
25 They're Way More Advanced Than Fans Think
Sure, it’s no secret that our favorite childhood cartoons contain plenty of advanced themes, but Nickelodeon cartoons were at the forefront of subtle comedy. We could probably just look at SpongeBob alone and find enough clever jokes to last a lifetime.
Who could forget when Gary caught SpongeBob watching some interesting programming, or when Rocko and his friends played Spank the Monkey? There’s just so much crazy stuff in early Nick cartoons! But we won’t lie, we love every second of it.
24 The Multiple Names Of SpongeBob
Speaking of Nickelodeon’s poster boy SpongeBob SquarePants, many don’t know that his name was originally going to be something entirely different.
Creator of the show Steve Hillenburg intended the show to be called “SpongeBoy Ahoy!”
Yeah, that’s right, instead of SpongeBob we were pretty close to calling our favorite underwater protagonist SpongeBoy. Granted, it’s not the worst name, but certainly no SpongeBob. Luckily, the name “SpongeBoy” had already been legally trademarked, making it unusable. But Hillenburg wanted to keep “Sponge” in the name, as he didn’t want kids confusing our friend with cheese.
23 All Of The Children On Rugrats Were Voiced By Women
Often, you’ll find many voice actors are talented enough to cross gender barriers. While Nancy Cartwright’s work as Bart Simpson might be one of the most well-known, Nickelodeon surprisingly has had plenty of stacked voice actors who accomplished this feat.
Jimmy Neutron, Timmy Turner, and every single one of the Rugrats were actually voiced by women.
Cartwright herself actually did the voice for Chuckie, with Kath Soucie doing Phil and Lil, and Elizabeth Daily doing the voice for Tommy Pickles.
22 Doug And Patti Didn't End Up Together (According To Creator)
If you didn’t grow up in the late 90s, or if you weren’t a fan of the popular cartoon Doug, then you’ll probably find it easy to shrug this one off. But if you were a devout fan of Doug like I was, then this has to be a bombshell of information dropping directly on your soul.
Patti Mayonnaise was Doug’s lifelong crush throughout the show, and you were always rooting for him.
Series creator Jim Jinkins, who loosely bases Doug off his own life, opened up about not getting his dream girl, so the same can be said for Doug, for now.
21 Timmy Turner Was A Surprise
There are probably two things you never ever want to hear from your parents: that you were adopted, or perhaps even worse, that you were an accident. Well, for Timmy Turner from The Fairly OddParents, the latter is the reality that he lives in.
In the episode "The Good Ol' Days/Future Lost," Timmy finds out his dad’s dreams were crushed years ago. So a curious Timmy inquires just how long ago it was that his father’s dreams were crushed, only for his pops to reply with the question, “How old are you?” (SAVAGE!)
20 The Many Voices Of Tom Kenny
At this point, it’s no secret that legendary voice actor Tom Kenny does a ridiculous amount of voices aside, from our favorite sponge living in a pineapple under the sea. But Kenny voices so many characters that we were even surprised by a few.
Nickelodeon cartoons alone, Kenny does the voice for Heffer from Rocko’s Modern Life, Dog from CatDog, and Cupid from Fairly OddParents.
And don’t even get us started on voices outside of Nickelodeon, because that ranges from cartoon sensations like Adventure Time to comedy superstars like Rick and Morty.
19 Adventure Time Could’ve Been A Nicktoon
Speaking of the ridiculously popular show Adventure Time, did you know that the cartoon was originally intended to be on Nickelodeon? The pilot actually premiered on the network back in 2008, but was dropped and later picked up by Cartoon Network.
Sure, Nickelodeon has made some dumb decisions over the years, like canceling Invader Zim or letting Dan Schneider continue to shove his repetitive sitcom formula down our throats. But dropping Adventure Time has to be one of, if not the dumbest thing the network has done. Move over, selling the rights of Doug to Disney!
18 All Grown Up Wasn't The Last Of The Rugrats (Pre-School Daze)
Sure, we all remember All Grown Up. Actually, I’m sure many of us want to scrub our brains clean of that terrible excuse for a sequel to one of the best kids shows of all time, but I digress.
The show premiered back in 2005 and focuses more on the relationship between Angelica and Susie as they go on preschool adventures.
It wasn’t bad, but not really good either, and apparently Nickelodeon agreed because it was canned after four episodes.
17 Rocko’s Modern Life Was Packed With Crazy Jokes
We already highlighted the fact that most Nickelodeon cartoon classics were bold enough to make jokes that would make your parents raise an eyebrow, but which was the weirdest? Well, Rocko’s Modern Life makes a strong case.
Man, there are just too many to count, but some of the best have to be when Rocko took a job as a specialty phone operator, and instructions behind him state some interesting stuff. Oh, and who could forget when Rocko’s doctor cupped his eyeballs, only to instruct him to cough? Seriously, who let these run!?
16 But Ultimately, Ren & Stimpy Takes The Cake
Rocko’s Modern Life definitely pushed the bar, but Ren and Stimpy takes that bar and use it as toilet paper. Where to begin with this show? Every episode felt as if they wanted to see just how much they could get away with.
Just try watching this show for a second or two, and you'll see what I mean.
My mom rolled her eyes when shows like Ed, Edd, and Eddy came on, but she would practically throw the television out if she even thought I was watching Ren and Stimpy.
15 Hey Arnold! Began As A Claymation Series On Sesame Street
Hey, Arnold! is just a great show. It’s like Nickelodeon’s version of Peanuts; it’s simple, sweet, and more often than not pretty clever. The weird thing about the show, however, is that it started out as a claymation skit on Sesame Street, of all places.
The skit itself is really weird, in true Sesame Street fashion (trust me, those things get pretty crazy from time to time). Creator of the show Craig Bartlett was working as a writer on Rugrats and after showing off the claymation short, Hey, Arnold! premiered the next year.
14 Timmy Turner's Hat Is Pink Because They Ran Out Of Blue Ink
While most guys shudder at the color pink, (even though they shouldn’t, because it’s too fire of a color) Timmy Turner’s been rocking the style for years now. If my memory still serves me (which more often than not, it doesn’t) then Timmy’s hat was pink because his parents were expecting a girl. But the show’s creator revealed the real reason.
Surprising enough, we have to thank Paris Hilton, as she asked Twitter to tell her “something she didn’t know” and creator Butch Harmon delivered by revealing Timmy’s hat was pink because he ran out of blue ink.
13 Blue From Blue's Clues Is Actually A Girl Dog
Cartoons have a knack for creating characters with ambiguous genders; Tweety from Looney Tunes, Piglet from Winnie the Pooh, and Haku from Naruto are just a few of the many cartoon characters that audiences have mistaken.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked is Blue from Blue’s Clues, because growing up, a lot of people thought she was a dude.
Maybe it’s because blue is often associated as a boyish color, or maybe because it’s a dog and that makes it even harder to tell? Who knows for certain, but you heard it here first, Blue is a gal.
12 Jimmy Neutron Was Almost Named Johnny Quasar
Sorry if you feel cheated with two entries involving a character’s “almost” name (SpongeBoy being the other), but this one is just too funny to let go. Jimmy Neutron... yes, it’s a strange name, but definitely one that rolls off the tongue.
Now, Johnny Quasar, on the other hand, sounds like a sketchy guy who puts on science shows on the side of the freeway.
Thankfully the creators stuck with Jimmy Neutron, because we don’t think we could’ve seen the show the same way.
11 Arnold's Last Name Was Actually Released
Speaking of names, again… okay, we swear this is the last entry involving the many different names of characters, but we couldn’t help it with Hey Arnold!, especially since his mysterious last name was a running gag on the show! In an interview with BuzzFeed, creator Craig Bartlett opened up about the mystery.
“Yes, [his last name is Shortman]. That one has just become a fact, but we still are going to do a joke where he reveals his last name in The Jungle Movie — just to confirm it.” Well, guess the internet was right for once, proud of you guys!
10 Doug, Rugrats, And Ren & Stimpy All Premiered On The Same Day
August 11, 1991. Someone, somewhere in this big beautiful world experienced something that will likely never happen again: the premiere of the three greatest cartoons in human history.
Yeah, maybe a bit of a stretch, but for all of these giants to premiere on the same day is pretty wild, and we’re not very likely to see a day like this ever again in the cartoon industry. Sure, at the time nobody at all probably thought anything of it, but looking back on it, that was an amazing day for cartoons.
9 The Wild Thornberrys Cast Was Stacked!
The Wild Thornberrys needs more love when talking about great Nickelodeon shows, because not only was it one of the greats, but the cast behind the show was incredibly stacked.
Tim Curry (Rocky Horror, IT) voiced Nigel, Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls) voiced Eliza, and the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea, joined the cast as the gibberish-speaking Donnie. Even Hollywood superstars Betty White and Ed Asner joined the show for a few episodes, making an already stacked cast, even “stackier” (and yes, we're making that a word).
8 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters' First Episode Was Lost
We guess this is the point in the list where we talk about the underrated shows of Nickelodeon past, and Aaahh! Real Monsters was one of the cartoons leading the pack in the underrated department.
The thing that sucks, though, is the pilot was lost, so to speak, and all that’s left are three low-quality images from the episode. Apparently, the pilot followed the same storyline as the show's first aired episode, but nobody really knows what was added or cut before the final release. Guess we’ll never know for sure.
7 Most Nicktoons Are Set In A "Real Life" Location
While most cartoons are set in fantasy-like locations, worlds in Nickelodeon shows are more often than not based on real-life spots. Shows like Rocket Power that were set in the surf & turf of Orange County, California were fairly easy to figure out, but some are a little tougher.
Hey, Arnold! was inspired by New York City, which shouldn’t be too surprising to any locals of the concrete jungle, but one of the more subtle towns was Tremorton from My Life as a Teenage Robot, which was a clever parody on Trenton, New Jersey.
6 Arnold's Teacher, Mr. Simmons, Liked Men
Growing up, many of the subtle themes behind my favorite cartoons were soaring over my head, like that don’t drop the soap line in SpongeBob. So I was pretty astonished to find out Mr. Simmons from Hey, Arnold! was LGBTQ, while the rest of the internet apparently called it from the start.
With LGBTQ characters in Clarence, Steven Universe, and Adventure Time, representation for this community is more important than ever.
And the creator confirmed that a side character at Mr. Simmons' Thanksgiving dinner was, in fact, his partner. The internet calling it yet again.
5 Rugrats Is One Of The First Cartoons To Celebrate Jewish Culture
Sure, companies like Disney have made strides by attempting to represent multiple backgrounds in their entertainment, but one can argue that they never did it as earnestly as Rugrats did with the Jewish culture.
Even as a youngling who was watching cartoons merely for mindless entertainment over things like learning (ew), I thoroughly enjoyed being taught about a culture I knew nothing about. Apparently, the first Rugrats holiday special was suggested by the Nickelodeon execs to focus on Hanukkah, and the ball rolled from there.
4 Busta Rhymes Voiced Reptar (No, Seriously!)
This is one that you learn on something like the TIL Reddit (oh, look, it actually does exist), and not gonna lie, this one kind of takes the cake for mind blowing facts.
Rapper Busta Rhymes shows up as the wagon-version of Reptar and delivers some bars.
Rhyme’s line in an episode is “I am Reptar, hear me roar,” but he later came on to The Rugrats Movie to deliver a full performance. We’ll leave a link of the song, but take our word for it, it’s straight flames.
3 Angry Beavers Finale Never Aired
Angry Beavers is one of the more forgettable shows that aired during Nickelodeon's “Golden Era.” Sure, it’s better than a lot of cartoons now, (but I guess that isn’t saying too much), but the tragedy here is that the show never got to air its finale.
You and I both know Angry Beavers wasn’t your favorite show growing up. That being said, it deserved a finale.
Why didn’t it get one? Well, apparently because the episode was an entire fourth wall break with the characters freaking out that they were actually getting canceled (hilarious).
2 SpongeBob Was Pitched In A Pretty Interesting Way
SpongeBob, SpongeBob, SpongeBob. It was pretty hard not just talking about our spongy friend 25 times in a row, so we’ll give him one last shine on this list. So let me tell you the story of how creator Stephen Hillenburg pitched this sensation.
Hillenburg spent weeks locked away creating a tiny version of Bikini Bottom, along with several models of the characters, and transported the set inside a medium-sized aquarium. To make it even better, Hillenburg and writer Derek Drymon were decked out Hawaiian shirts and walked into the room blasting Hawaiian music while they gave their pitch.
1 Ren & Stimpy Is The Most Underrated Nickelodeon Cartoon
I’m going off on a limb here and putting out that Ren & Stimpy is not only the most underrated cartoon, but the best and most influential cartoon to come from Nickelodeon.
Mike Judge credits Ren & Stimpy with Beavis and Butthead getting the go-ahead at MTV. Animator Vincent Waller talked about how the animation and style directly inspired SpongeBob, and even Kurt Cobain wanted to write a song about the show. Creator John Kricfalusi made something that truly feels like Nickelodeon pushing the boundaries in terms of writing, maturity, and content. Definitely give it a try (I recommend the episode Space Madness).