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Aaahh!!! Real Nicktoons

| Sunday, September 20, 2015

NIcktoons_Scene_Banner_WebLucy Du | The Observer

The pride and joy of ‘90s kids everywhere is about to be recognized in a big way. Nickelodeon has just announced The Splat, a programming block that will strictly feature the Nicktoons that defined the ’90s. Every decade has its glory, and the glory of the ‘90s is becoming ever more clear. Childhood favorites like “Doug,” “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold!” and “CatDog” have managed to stay relevant in the conversations of ’90s kids well into their twenties, especially on social media. It’s a no-brainer for Nickelodeon producers to capitalize on the interest. They’re even diving into social media with frequent tweets and numerous hashtags, most importantly #TheSplatIsComing.

A common concern of current college students is the strict cut-off for ‘90s kids. We’ve been told frequently, “If you were born in 1999, you’re not a ‘90s kid.” For those of us born in the rest of the ’90s who want to take ownership over this golden era of cartoon excellence, The Splat provides a simple test for identifying yourself as a ‘90s kid with #ImOldEnoughToKnow. A few of the stipulations: I’m old enough to know the heartbreak of tangled film in an orange Nickelodeon videotape and how jealous we all were of the “Legends of the Hidden Temple” contestants. Many of the most significant shows aired well into the 2000s, so don’t fret if you were born in 1997: if you identify with these problems, the revival belongs to you.

Back in 2011, Nickelodeon heard our generation’s cry of “Amanda, please!” and responded with the programming block The ‘90s Are All That on TeenNick. The title suggests that this block would focus on sketch comedy shows like “All That” and “Kenan & Kel.” That block actually ended up taking a toonier direction: “Rugrats” and “Hey Arnold!” are the reruns played most frequently, while “The Amanda Show” has left the block entirely, running on its own during regular TeenNick hours. “Rocket Power,” which originally aired from 1999 to 2004, was even added to the block in a Rocket Power Hour, proving that the Nickelodeon era called the ‘90s actually lasted well into the 2000s.

With all these cartoons already airing on The ‘90s Are All That, it’s hard to tell where Nick will draw the line for The Splat. Maybe pushing the cartoons into a different programming block will make way for series like “Clarissa Explains It All” and game shows like “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” The problem of a programming shortage has come up and has caused Nick to deviate from set schedules when they run out of episodes. It doesn’t seem likely that Nick would produce new episodes of the classic cartoons, but lack of material shouldn’t be a huge issue considering the whole basis of the throwback programming: we like watching re-runs.

With these recent moves to appeal to millennials, Nickelodeon is moving ever closer toward ubiquity. From Nick Jr. to Nick Mom and now filling in every age group in between, Nick is the network that shaped us and seemingly will stay with us our whole lives. Its success feeds almost entirely on nostalgia, which makes me wonder whether they have enough material for such a wide scope. Separating into different networks for each audience, Nick’s overall airtime approaches infinity. The long-term strategy might be to introduce viewers to new shows as children and keep them hooked for life.

The Splat is set to premiere in October, and with a huge social media presence, it shouldn’t be hard to keep up on the details. In the true spirit of Stick Stickly’s original U-Picks, we can expect The Splat to provide the ‘toons we’ve been craving.

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