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Rugrats: The Complete Series

Paramount // Unrated // May 18, 2021
List Price: $55.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted August 20, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Show:

I've found myself diving more into being an active viewer of children's programming, largely because my first child who is four is transitioning from things like Paw Patrol to the Transformers, Power Rangers and in a stray instance or two, World's Deadliest Bug Fights. And with another child on the way I've meekly tried to find ways to transition the older one to more gentler content (particularly as he'll be a big brother soon), so I've slowly introduced him to Rugrats, a show that I was aged out of, but I'm told isn't bad?

The show started in 1991, when I was going into the Army but still watching Ren and Stimpy, because I was overly eccentric I guess, but Rugrats tells the animated stories of several toddlers as they go through varying adventures over the course of twenty-ish minute episodes. Tommy is the closest thing to a pure toddler, barely being able to walk but when the parents go away, he starts chatting with his peers, voiced by E.G. Daily (Valley Girl). Phil and Lil (Kath Soucie) are twins, Angelica (Cheryl Chase) and Tommy's best friend Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh). For olds like me, think The Simpsons a little, but focused on Maggie. Not a completely apt comparison, but the best I have.

There's a thing that shows do when the protagonist is one that traditionally shouldn't be able to put together multisyllabic words in a sentence, where they manage to do it amongst people in a similar group. We see it in animated things all the time, but what Rugrats does well is capture the wonder of things that the kids do, even for grown-up viewers. It's not necessarily an optimism, just a blind sense of amazement that you can't help but enjoy. The other kids embody some of the quirks that adulthood bring them, but to a point, since we're talking about two and three year olds but again, the dynamic is such that they know their limitations, which is part of the charm.

My kid and I went in and out of the show at various points; the challenge of trying to hold down a kid to watch more than 60 hours of ANYTHING as much as possible is kind of like my opinions on ham; I loved it as a kid, but had so much of it that I can't stand it now, and I won't subject that type of experience on anyone, let alone my kids. But we enjoyed the time we spent with Rugrats and I certainly understand the allure of the show now in the three decades since it first came on, and it is worth passing down to the children. Like Wu-Tang.

The DVDs:
The Video:

Paramount has releases the previous seasons incrementally before, but now all nine are here in a 26-disc set, all of which are presented in 4:3 viewing. It doesn't look like anything's been done to the images here, all are natural and animations are as sharp as the source material allows. I imagine (as there's no note of a remaster or anything) the previous seasons were repackaged for this, which is fine, these are fine.

The Sound:

Two-channel stereo for the episodes, which gives me a chance to enjoy some early Mark Mothersbaugh scoring efforts. Dialogue is consistent and the range is about what one would expect for an animated show of the age. No hissing or drop-offs, things sound clear and natural.

Extras:

Various odds and ends from the show are included here; "All Growed Up" was the first episode of the spinoff show (featuring the children as older, pre-teen versions of themselves) and it's here, along with "Runaway Reptar", "Babies in Toyland", both which appear to have aired after the ninth season, and both "Tales from the Crib" stories, where the characters appear in well-known stories for Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Final Thoughts:

For those of you who were fans of Rugrats, having it handy here or on your favorite streaming service is presumably some sort of relief, and the series boxset tries to marry trying to be exhaustive without diluting what people enjoyed about the show, perhaps sating the appetite for the recent CG reboot going on now. Not having seen the reboot, this massive set suits me just fine. Technically the show is OK and the supplements are as well, worth grabbing for devotees.

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