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Secrets From the Creator of ‘Hey Arnold!’

Secrets From the Creator of ‘Hey Arnold!’


– [Helga] Arnold! – [Narrator] Remember your favorite football shaped cartoon from the ’90s? Well, this is Craig Bartlett, the non-football shaped creator of Hey Arnold! So we thought we’d ask him
a few things about the show. But before we start, Craig,
can you do what you do best? – So do you want me to, uh,
just start drawing Arnold? – [Narrator] We sure do. – Alright, here we go. (suspenseful music) When I designed Arnold in the first place, I was really trying to make him stand out. I always remember what Matt Groening told me, he said, “You should
try to make them so that they work in silhouette or
really small on the screen.” So that’s how it started;
Arnold was a little clay football shaped head because it was funny. – Move it, football head! – Hey Arnold! – It was just me trying
to be kinda radical. Pigeon man, that is a pet peeve of mine. – [Narrator] In one
episode, Arnold meets the lonely pigeon man and at
the end of the episode… – Where will you go? – Somewhere I can live
in peace with my friends. – [Narrator] Well, the internet
had some ideas about that. – Somebody said it’s a suicide story, that he jumps off the building
and Arnold in his mind to make sense out of it,
imagines that he flew away. I hate that, we wrote what we wrote because I wanted him to fly away, I always imagine pigeon
man going to Paris next, where he helps pigeons in Paris. I just really wanna set
the record straight, pigeon man is not a
suicide story, he’s fine. I wanted to make Hey Arnold! have a really detailed specific vibe of a city that was kinda ugly but beautiful. Arnold’s city is based on
where I grew up in Seattle and also, where I went
to art school in Portland but it’s also based on
Brooklyn with all the stoops and the brownstones, so
it’s really a kind of a collage of several northern cities. When people talk about what
they like best about the show, the room comes up over and over again, which is a super cool
attic with the skylight and then he can climb right
up the stairs on the wall and open the window of his skylight and go down the fire
escape and we were reading, Gabriel García Márquez
and One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Those were big influences on us because magic realism is the term coined about García Márquez’s writing. I wanted there to be a magical realism to Arnold’s house and his neighborhood. – [Narrator] So Craig, one last question. – You bet. – [Narrator] After all those years of making TV for kids, was it worth it? – Making TV is incredibly powerful, you know. Having millions of people
watch what you make on TV, you realize what you
say, especially to a kid, they’re gonna soak that up and they’re never gonna forget it. One of the themes in the series is that, you know, you’re kind of
trying to make the most out of a not so good situation. That’s really what the show’s about. I’ll get this really
heartfelt notes from people and they’ll say that they got strength when things looked their worst. What can be better than that? That’s incredibly gratifying. – [Helga] Hey Arnold!

100 comments

Ah man, Hey Arnold holds such a special place in my heart, even after all these years. What a fantastic show.

Im almost 30 and i still wish i had Arnolds room… Hey Arnold had a huge impact on me when i was a kid… its a cherished kids show of mine

Thankyou for making this show. It taught me some morals as a kid. And just now bought the Jungle Movie. Who in the right mind wanted the story to show pigeon man commit suicide?! Stupid. I liked pigeon man, and always thought of myself as a person separated from the world, like pigeon man. Thanks for disregarding this foolish idea.

Hey Arnold! Move it football head!

I loved Arnold so much. As a young kid, growing up in 90s Seattle, I really connected with the feel of the show. A pensive 4th grader, living in a tight knit neighborhood, backdropped by jazz. Even now I look back and think, there's something special there.

What about the sexual innuendos you wrote on the show Craig? You ain’t got to lie Craig, you ain’t got to lie!

I love how he didn't ride the suicidal bandwagon and say it was suicide … this is the difference between the past and present generation.

I'm so happy to hear that pigeon man wasn't a suicide story. I think people grew up reading way too much into some things from shows when we were kids and twisting them into horror stories. It was adult enough with tales of being mugged, depression, floods, bullying, loss, marriage woes, obsession, and immigrating from war torn countries. Leave pigeon man alone

I hate it when people that love 1990s shows like Hey Arnold are immediately assumed to be 1990s kids. I'm 13 and 4 months and I absolutely love this show. It's my 2nd favourite next to Invader Zim.

This is not the real story. The show was cancelled because of the truth. Look up true facts & or things you didn't know about hey Arnold in the YouTube search box

HOLY COW! I grew up in Seattle and then when I was ten, we moved to Portland for my dads job! My favorite show was "Hey Arnold”! I never knew it was based on these two cities!

They should of asked him Would Arnold ever accept Helga as a girlfriend and and if Chocolate Boy was a metaphor for crack addiction

I don't hear it a lot, but even as a kid I loved how ethnically diverse Hey Arnold was…it was so nice to see that representation; truly a gem!

Hey Arnold still hits hard. I’m rewatching every episode and the series is still beautiful and still teaches subtle life lessons

Such a beautiful cartoon! I live in Indonesia so I’d have to wake up at 5/6 before school just to watch and I specifically remember the sound of birds chirping outside my window as I watched hey arnold 😀

I can definitely appreciate that many cartoons for me as a kid were more heartfelt and realistic. I wish they were more like that now.

He didnt address that a lot of the episodes are at night and kinda dark and sad storys. Still funny like when some thugs convinced Arnold they wanted to be his friend then it turn out its only because his head is the same shape as a window into a shop the'yre trying to rob lol.

That's the best thing I've watched this YEAR..
I grew up wishing to live like arnold

The friendships he has
His cozy room
his grandparents
And that cool safe and weird neighbourhood

Every single episode is an adventure that I will never forget
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating all of this ❤

This show is one of the things that comforts me whenever I stress or worry .
and thank u for setting things straight about the pigeon man!
I didn't think he suicided .. but I thought it was a sad ending that I never fully understood
Now I feel better about it ❤😭😍
Thank you

Narrator: Remember your football shaped cartoon from the 90's?

Me: Yeah, I know who stewie griffin is

He made Arnold based off a kid that was like him, imaginary friends, no grandparents, bullied, and sexually abused, the kid was dying Arnold’s head is like that because of his diseases, weirdly shaped. And well his friends head (Arnold’s) has weird shaped heads because they were from his imaginary so that way Arnold wouldn’t feel bad about himself and he thought that he wasn’t lonely. The creator took the kids life and made it into a series hoping to pay for the kid medical bill and when the creator got rich he didn’t care about the poor boy and left him there to die. Then the show got canceled cause Nickelodeon found out.

Did this guy happen to make those Penny cartoons from Pee-Wee's Playhouse? The style similarity at 0:42 is staggering.

I'm glad the dark theories arent true, and now I can easily and happily dream if my room being like Arnold's again

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