Hey Arnold!
HeyArnold promotional poster
Created by Craig Bartlett
Starring Toran Caudell
Phillip Van Dyke
Spencer Klein
Jamil W. Smith
Francesca Marie Smith
Justin Shenkarow
Christopher P. Walberg
Ben Diskin
Sam Gifaldi
Anndi McAfee
Olivia Hack
Dan Castellaneta
Tress MacNeille
Craig Bartlett
Network Nickelodeon
Aired October 7, 1996 – June 8, 2004
Number of seasons 5
Number of episodes


Hey Arnold! is an American animated television series that ran from October 7, 1996 until June 8, 2004 on Nickelodeon.


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Art depicting Arnold (front), Helga (center) and Gerald (back).

The show stars 4th-grader Arnold, who lives with his paternal grandparents Phil and Gertie, proprietors of the Sunset Arms boarding house. Arnold attends P. S. 118, along with several other students, including his best friend Gerald, and Helga, a female bully that is secretly in love with Arnold. In each episode, Arnold will often help a schoolmate solve a personal problem, or he will encounter a predicament of his own.

Format and Setting

Each episode of the show is one 23-minute block featuring two 11-minute segments, although there are several episodes that last the full 23 minutes. Episodes of the series take place in the order they were written/produced, without adhering to a chronological timeline. The series has subtle continuity and occasional callbacks, and sometimes new recurring characters are introduced, such as in "New Teacher" and "Ms. Perfect".

The series takes place in the mid-to-late 1990s, as indicated by several in-episode dates:

  • The Gerald Field scorecard in "New Bully on the Block" has the date July 25, 1997.
  • A newspaper in "It Girl" has the print date Friday, October 9, 1998.
  • The clapper board at the end of "Summer Love" when they are shooting the BabeWatch episode shows the date July 22, 1999 (Which would have been a Thursday).

Despite the fact that these dates are from three different years, very few characters are ever shown having birthdays, and none of the 4th grade students ever move on to the 5th grade. These dates (which are minor background bonuses, and not major plot points) were most likely added to confirm the time period the series takes place in, and not meant to pin episodes into specific dates.

Even though the show takes place sometime between 1996 and 1999, old cars are a very common sight. Grandpa Phil drives a green 1930s or 1940s Packard, the Pataki family car is a blue 1970s Lincoln Continental, and Gerald's older brother Jamie-O drives a 1967-1968 Pontiac Firebird, just to name a few. The local police drive around in patrol cars resembling 1960s Dodge Polara sedans. The city buses resemble 1960s models of an unknown make and model, and they have manual transmissions, which wasn't common on buses in North America even during this time period. In a 2002 Nickelodeon Magazine article, it is said that the show's artists are obsessed with weird old cars. Despite the presence of old cars and some older-style appliances like console television sets and beepers (which were made obsolete by smartphones and tablets by the mid-2000s), modern technology is also present. This includes computers, video games, VCRs, camcorders, modern bicycles, microwaves, and Arnold's high-tech bedroom with its remote-controlled hideaway couch and track lighting.

Hey Arnold! takes place in a realistic setting; the fictional American city of Hillwood. Contrary to popular belief, the city is not or does not represent New York City. Craig Bartlett has officially stated that the city the show takes place in is somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, and is an amalgam of three cities (mostly Northern) that he lived in: Seattle, Brooklyn, and Portland. Many of the show's events were based on his own experiences growing up in the big city.

Background and Production


Original sketches of Harold, Gerald, Arnold and Helga

Hey Arnold! was created by Craig Bartlett and first began to take shape in 1988. The original Arnold was made out of clay, and created after Bartlett finished working on the Penny cartoons from Pee-Wee's Playhouse in 1987. Craig Bartlett shot Arnold on a glass panel in his living room, and produced three claymation shorts: Arnold Escapes From Church (1988), The Arnold Waltz (1990), and Arnold Rides His Chair (1991), which eventually aired on an early-1990s episode of Sesame Street. "Arnold" comic strips also appeared in Simpsons Illustrated magazine from 1991 to 1993.

The familiar, 2D Arnold came about in the mid-1990s. While Bartlett was working at Klasky-Csupo Inc. as a story editor on Rugrats, he showed the claymation shorts to Nickelodeon executive Mary Harrington. The network later ordered a pilot in 1993 and picked it up for a full series in early 1995. Apart from the different animation style, Nick's Arnold now wore a sweater, with his plaid shirt untucked (resembling a kilt). Only Arnold's cap remained from his original claymation wardrobe.


Promo art with Arnold, Gerald and Helga.

Arnold and Gerald official art

Promo art depicting Arnold and Gerald.

Some aspects of the series came about through Bartlett's family. Matt Groening (Creator of The Simpsons, Craig Bartlett's brother-in-law) adviced Bartlett to make his character designs recognizable from a distance, and Lisa Groening (Bartlett's wife, Matt's sister) came up with the idea of Helga's crush on Arnold. Other aspects of the series developed as the series went on, such as the whereabouts of Arnold's parents.

Hey Arnold! first debuted as an animated short for the Nickelodeon film Harriet the Spy in July 1996. Production on the show started in August 1995 and ended on December 7. 2001 after 100 episodes and one theatrical film, though the very last episodes were not aired until 2004.

All the music in the series was handled by composer Jim Lang, and the series initally used traditional cel animation, though it switched to digital ink and paint in 1999. Sae Rom Productions handled the overseas animation services starting with Season 2.


Promotional art featuring Arnold, Gerald and Helga

The show is notable for being one of the first modern animated series to use child or teenage voice actors for most child characters, in order to add a more "authentic" childhood vibe to the series. As a result of the use of young voices, some characters (such as Arnold and Eugene) were played by multiple actors throughout the years, due to their previous voice actors going through voice changes. Other characters (such as Rhonda and Helga) retained the same voice actor for the entire run of the series, and had their voices become deeper as the series progressed, giving the impression of them maturing.
Arnold holding flashlight logo

Hey Arnold promo art (featuring Arnold holding flashlight).

As Craig Bartlett himself has noted years after producing the series, something else that came along with the "realistic childhood" part of the show was a more dramatic and emotional tone, which can be seen in various episodes of the series.


Promotional art depicting Arnold, Gerald, Helga and Harold.

For a brief period, a spin-off series called The Patakis was planned. The premise was to focus on Helga Pataki in her teenage years, and her family.

In 2016, over a decade after the original series ended, Nick and Bartlett came to an agreement and began production on a new Arnold TV movie that was originally a cancelled theatrical project, Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie.


The canon of the main Hey Arnold! series includes:


Main article: Characters

Main voice cast

Character Voice actor(s)
Arnold J.D. Daniels (Pilot) Toran Caudell (Season 1), Phillip Van Dyke (Seasons 2-3), Spencer Klein (Season 4-5 and the movie), Alex D. Linz (post-movie episodes)
Helga G. Pataki Francesca Marie Smith
Gerald Johanssen Jamil Walker Smith (original series)
Grandpa Phil Dan Castellaneta
Grandma Gertie Tress MacNeille


Main article: Hey Arnold! videography

See also

External links

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