By Betsy Wallace,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Babies go adventuring in this Nick favorite.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
While the characters almost always mean well, Angelica's behavior is far from ideal. She lies, calls names, and is generally manipulative. And there's a fair amount of complaining from the whole crew. Episodes have explored various cultural traditions. Jokes are based on the babies' unique interpretation of words and the world, which bring to light some of life's absurdities. Some racial diversity; lots of age diversity.
Positive Role Models
The babies' bewilderment with the ways of the world is very easy to kids to relate to, and it's endearing how they try to help each other figure out the rules and get through tough situations. Mr. and Mrs. Pickles are usually absent or at work, leaving the babies to their own devices, though they seem affectionate enough when around the kids. Tommy's three-year-old cousin, Angelica, is rather menacing and mean, though she usually gets comeuppance for her actions. Characters demonstrate humility.
Violence & Scariness
Occasional yelling. The babies get into scary situations that are often exaggerated.
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Some name calling from Angelica, such as "You dumb babies."
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Products & Purchases
Responsible for a vast array of merchandising tie-ins, from clothes to DVDs and more. Some episodes satirically highlight characters' fixation on the dinosaur icon Reptar and Barbie-like doll Cynthia.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that in Rugrats one main character, Angelica -- who, like the rest of the gang, is a child -- is mean and manipulative and known for being a liar. Young viewers will need to be reminded that they shouldn't follow her example, no matter how funny they find her antics. The show can get a little loud and whiny at times, but, then again, the central characters are literally a bunch of babies.
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What's the Story?
The second longest-running animated series on television (behind The Simpsons), and perhaps more responsible for the success of Nickelodeon than any other show, RUGRATS follows the adventures of a group of baby friends led by Tommy Pickles (voiced by Elizabeth Daily), a toddler who hatches more schemes than his child-psychology-studying mother could begin to imagine. Red-haired Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh) is the timid one, and some of the series' most endearing episodes feature his friends helping him overcome his many fears. Twins, Phil and Lil (Kath Soucie) add some kid-friendly hilarity as they munch on bugs and store food in their diapers. Decidedly less sweet is the infamous Angelica (Cheryl Chase), a bigger kid who can talk to adults or babies and doesn't hesitate to lie to either audience.
Is It Any Good?
Although the series focuses mainly on the babies' escapades -- often as they wander far from their parents -- the show promotes family love and cohesiveness right along with kids' independent spirit. Adults can appreciate the way Rugrats gently pokes fun at neurotic parenting, as well as the inherent humor in trying to raise kids correctly. In regards to Angelica's naughty antics, most young viewers will be able to categorize them as "bad behavior."
Over the years the series has added to its core cast, seemingly to increase the diversity of the show. Chuckie's single dad married an Asian woman, whose daughter, Kimi (Dionne Quan), then became a regular. Tommy also gained a baby brother and had to deal with the complexities and emotions a sibling introduces.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the difference between finding humor in a cartoon like Rugrats and emulating it. Some antics are funny but not meant to be imitated.
Do kids think the characters' behavior is realistic, funny, or dangerous?
How do the characters in Rugrats demonstrate humility? Why is this an important character strength?
- Premiere date: August 11, 1991
- Cast: Cheryl Chase, Elizabeth Daily, Nancy Cartwright
- Network: Nickelodeon
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Humility
- TV rating: TV-Y
- Last updated: February 26, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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