Hey Arnold! TV Poster Image

Hey Arnold!

Strong storytelling and characters mark worthwhile cartoon.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

The show intends to entertain rather than to educate, but there are some good messages about friendship and working with others imbedded in the stories.

Positive messages

The show centers on a group of kids who get by pretty well with minimal input from adults, and the stories offer themes of problem-solving and cooperation. Helga's bullying behavior causes some of her peers to cower around her, and the fact that her actions are meant to hide her crush on Arnold doesn't make them forgivable. Mild gross-out humor like squished worms and crusty scabs. 

Positive role models

Arnold approaches every predicament with his trademark mellow attitude, which helps him make good decisions and solve problems. His best intentions sometimes lead to disaster for himself and his friends, but he tries to right his wrongs and always looks for the best in people. Characters demonstrate compassion and integrity.

Violence & scariness

Cartoon-style accidents (crashes and collisions) that sometimes lead to broken bones and scratches, as well as some punching that's meant for comedy.

Sexy stuff

A girl harbors a secret crush on a boy, often admitting in secret that she loves him.


No cursing, but kids say things like "I hate you," "freakin'," and "crap," and there's some name-calling like "dork" and "geek."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Hey Arnold! is a '90s cartoon filled with zany situations, but the characters' responses to them hold some good messages for kids about creative thinking and solving problems. Overall the quirky characters comprise a likable bunch, and in particular, laid-back Arnold will strike parents as the kind of kid they'd like their own youngsters to befriend. There is some bullying from a loud, overbearing girl, who picks on all of her peers but singles out Arnold for the worst of it to hide her crush on him. Her iffy behavior is a notable hiccup in an otherwise fun cartoon for kids. Expect some mild playground language ("freakin'," "crap," and names like "dork" and "geek") among the classmates to be the worst of the content.

What's the story?

HEY ARNOLD! centers on the everyday life of a fourth-grader named Arnold (voiced by Phillip Van Dyke) who has his share of ups and downs in his big-city life. He lives in a boarding house run by his grandparents, and between their assortment of quirky residents and his array of equally unique classmates, Arnold never wants for adventure. Often he and his peers -- including his best buddy, Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith), and his social nemesis and secret admirer, Helga (Francesca Marie Smith) -- find themselves in sticky situations, and it's Arnold's level head that typically saves the day.

Is it any good?


This show fits right in with the colorful array of cartoon characters who grace the TV screen these days, and kids will be drawn to the off-beat personalities among the cast. Hey Arnold!'s unique artistic style, which gives its characters football-shaped heads, foot-tall Afros, and other exaggerated features, is an enticing blend of oddities that make for a fun visual experience to accompany the stories.  

As protagonists go, you won't find one much more appealing than Arnold, who's a loyal friend and a thoughtful problem solver, and who always tries to find the best in everyone. Even when life gets him down, he bounces back to make things right, and his mellow approach to life and adversity is a welcome change to the near-hysterical characters in many kids' shows. The show itself is well written, with simple stories that make valuable points and send good messages to kids.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Arnold and his friends handle the situations they get into in Hey Arnold!. Do they respond the way you would in a similar predicament? How does their big-city lifestyle compare to yours? How does a person's environment affect how he or she grows up?

  • Kids: Is Arnold a good role model? What are some of his positive qualities? Do any of your friends remind you of him?

  • What defines bullying? What are some different means of bullying others? Do you ever see any of this behavior among your peers? What rules does your school or community have about bullying?

  • How do the characters in Hey Arnold! demonstrate compassion and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?

TV details

Premiere date:October 7, 1996
Cast:Dan Castellaneta, Francesca Marie Smith, Jamil Walker Smith
Networks:Nickelodeon, Nicktoons
Genre:Kids' Animation
Topics:Friendship, Great boy role models
Character strengths:Compassion, Integrity
TV rating:TV-Y7
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Hey Arnold! was written by

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 8, 10, and 14 year old Written byIamASafeOne April 3, 2013


Not bad, I have a kid who watched this from the tv, and enjoyed how Arnold wasn't so rude or violent, he handled things safely, and he was mellow and not sensitive. His friends are always there for him. The bullies end up being nice to him because Arnold did nothing wrong. (Full Moon episode) My girl was 2 when this ended, so I immediately showed re-runs to her, My 8 year old wasn't interested, but I allowed it, It was kid- friendly, Had good lessons, wacky and creative characters, and lots of comical humor here and there. There is some times Helga says bad words or get involved with Arnold, but it's for the comedy and fun. I really really like this, sometimes I watch it myself!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written byToguro July 4, 2011

Other reviews aren't giving this show justice

I think that, as far as cartoons go in the last 15 years, Arnold is the cream of the crop, both in values and in entertainment. The characters are a bit wacky (Take Arnold's grandma as exhibit A), but in no ways are they nonsensical. The stories deal with real, pressing issues like disputes between friends, peir manipulation, crushes, and more serious issues like addiction (It's just chocolate!), dysfunctional families, war torn families, even alcoholism and adult illiteracy. All this in an easy to understand fashion that will entertain kids and adults. The main character, Arnold, is a cultured, empathetic, level headed kid, who isn't afraid to help someone in need. He serves as an admirable role model, to all the characters in the show, who are also admirable and relatable in their own ways. Now, the show is not without its blemishes. There is some language used, like "crap", and "crapola". And Helga, one of the shows central characters, deals with her unrequited love and family issues by tormenting other children. (Deep inside though, she really has a well meaning heart) But these marginal moments are mild and occasional. Overall, Are the characters regular? Not quite Is the story all clean pressed? Heck no. Is it realistic and worth viewing for your kids AND yourself? You bet the barn it is! The reality we must deal with is that nobody fits into a perfect mould. We're not barbie dolls. Nor is the world a perfect little place. I can't speak for everybody here, but if I was a parent, I would rather have my children watch this little jewel rather than the meaningless, modern day fiascos that air on Nickelodeon these days. And I, for one, will happily join them.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bypseudonym46231 June 12, 2012

The best Nicktoon around!

This cartoon is a masterpiece. The writing is superb and almost always engages me without even trying. And I love the animation, it gives it that edgy street feel. It also manages to make me laugh a good bit, too. For some (INSANE) parents, the name-calling and pseudo-swears will be too much, but it's just words, and it'll be fine as long as your kids know not to say things like that. Anyone who says this show is bad for kids or stupid needs to have a bar of soap put into their mouth.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing