If you were a kid during the ‘90s and weren’t watching Rugrats, you’d find yourself out of the loop when it came to chatting around the pre-school water cooler. The hilarious – and often very weird – show followed the adventures of a gang of babies, given far much more free rein than any babies should ever be allowed, who somehow always made it out of their scrapes unharmed, without any need for social services to be called.
Since its final episodes in 2004, Rugrats has returned in a series of spin-offs and has been endlessly re-run. Its ongoing popularity is no surprise, though – it’s still funny to watch today, as embarrassing as it may be for fully-grown adults to admit that.
Part of its enduring popularity is its line-up of wacky characters, both adult and human. Like all great cartoon characters, they’ll certainly remind you of real people you’ve met, but are heightened just so well that they’ll keep you in fits of laughter. And so, nineties kids, let’s look back at fifteen of the funniest, weirdest characters from this beloved part of our childhoods (non-nineties kids are also welcome)…
15. Chuckie Finster
With his straggly orange hair, blue thick-rimmed glasses, and equally colorful clothes, Chuckie Finster is perhaps the first character who jumps to mind when we remember the Rugrats. At two years old, Chuckie was the oldest of the baby characters, though he was significantly less adventurous than his best pal Tommy.
The scaredy-cat of the gang, Chuckie could always think of a hundred ways a situation might go wrong, and he’d be the first to nervously object to Tommy’s dangerous ideas. He’d much rather stay in his room than sneak off outside or into the dark garage – yet what he hated more was being left on his own, and so he’d trudge along with Tommy anyway, and often surprise himself with the courage he found.
14. Stu Pickles
Rugrats may have been about kids, and in a way, Stu was no exception – he was a big kid in an adult’s body. The absent-minded father of Tommy and Dil, Stu wanted nothing more than to have fun with his kids, and that’s why he chose to become a toy inventor.
Though this profession was constantly an annoyance to his long-suffering wife Didi and his straight-laced older brother Drew, who often chastised him for not getting a more stable job, Stu put a lot of work into his toy design. This led to mixed results – his clown-like punching toy Mr. Boppo was, frankly, creepy, while his ‘hippocopter’ – a stuffed hippo with helicopter rotors – never took off, literally.
Despite his quirks, Stu was a great father who’d go to great lengths to make others happy, even at his own expense. He was actually based on the show’s creator, Gábor Csupó, who was similarly inspired by his own kids when coming up with his invention, Rugrats itself.
This giant green dinosaur was a favourite TV character of the kids, particularly beloved by Tommy. He first appeared surreptitiously on a cereal box the characters were eating from, but gradually became seen in the show more and more.
It turned out that Reptar was quite a big franchise in the Rugrats world, with Reptar-themed clothes, candy and toys appearing throughout the show, and cranky actors in Reptar suits showing up at public events (to the babies’ delight). They even visited EuroReptarland in the movie Rugrats in Paris, which also saw Stu create a robotic replica of Reptar for the kids.
In the films the kids watched, the character of Reptar stomped across cities and fought enemies including RoboSnail, Dactar, Thorg, and the Mole People. In case you haven’t noticed, he was a parody of Godzilla. Toho, the studio behind the Godzilla movies, certainly did notice, and sued the creators of Rugrats, leading to Reptar having reduced appearances from then on.
12. Charlotte Pickles
Maybe she wasn’t a mother anyone would want to have, but she was one you had to respect – Charlotte Pickles was the workaholic CEO of Mega Corp first, and the mother to Angelica and wife to Drew second.
This isn’t to say she didn’t love her daughter, but it’s clear that when it came to raising Angelica, Charlotte wasn’t a sympathetic type; rather, she brought to parenting the same stern, disciplinarian attitude she’d inflict on her poor employees. Well, someone had to, given that Drew was such a pushover. She also had a tendency to get distracted, allowing the kids to get up to no good while she spent most of her time on the phone to her undervalued and overworked assistant Jonathan.
Still, Charlotte can be seen as a role model for career women, having powered her way up to a top-level role, and she did care about Angelica, if only that the hope that her daughter would end up as successful as her. It’s just a shame she couldn’t put the phone down for five minutes.
11. Phil and Lil DeVille
The DeVille twins, who lived next door to the Pickles, had a lot in common with each other, as many pairs of twins do.
One-year-old Phil and Lil were in that period of life where babies have maximum curiosity and minimum sense; the hobbies they shared included making mud pies, playing with worms, and putting new things into their mouths. They often joined Tommy and Chucky on their unusual adventures – the messier, the better.
But despite everything they shared, Phil and Lil could often be found bickering – again, as many pairs of twins do. Though the younger kids in Rugrats spoke in a baby language which the parents couldn’t understand, we viewers could understand them perfectly, and Phil and Lil had a certain formality to their arguments, referring to each other as ‘Phillip’ and ‘Lillian’.
10. Dr. Werner Lipschitz
Only in Rugrats could a child psychologist be one of the world’s most common brand names. But even though Lipschitz’s name appeared on books, videos, and even his own maternity hospital, he still had time to apply his (sort of) talents to the kids.
But when he was brought in to stamp out Tommy and Chuckie’s mischievous behaviour, it soon became clear that he didn’t really know all that much about either children or psychology. He also turned out to be something of a freeloader, taking what he wanted from Didi’s cupboards, and only in it to nab as much money as possible from gullible parents – he had a premium-rate hot line which charged for every minute you waited, only to hear a recording of his book.
9. Grandpa Lou
Pop culture may have more cantankerous old geezers than it does mischievous kids or men with disproportionately attractive wives, but this is one trope that continues to be funny, as Stu’s father was a familiar sight to many kids who, like Tommy, would often end up with a grandparent as a babysitter.
In his elder years, Lou lived at a retirement home with his new wife Lulu, but would often visit to look after the kids. He would, however, easily drift off into a nap or lose himself in yet another TV marathon, allowing the kids to take advantage and wander off.
When he was awake and attentive, Lou would alternately enrapture and bore the kids with his difficult to believe stories of the good old days, including tales of his stints as a wrestler and as a baseball player. But Lou still had life left in him for new adventures of his own, such as taking on his cheating bowling rival – maybe the secret to his long life was the number of sports he played!
8. Miss Weemer
Angelica and Susie’s pre-school teacher Miss Weemer first appeared in Season 8 of Rugrats, and is a character any real teacher watching would no doubt have had a whole lot of sympathy for.
With the pre-schoolers having no respect for her authority and taking every opportunity to misbehave and cause mayhem, it’s no wonder Miss Weemer often seemed stressed, to the point where she sometimes gave up caring and let the kids get away with things. She had a particularly bad day when Angelica and Susie began pre-school and decided to compete for Miss Weemer’s affections – they may have been well-meaning, but they ended up breaking the beloved coffee mug which was the last memory of the fiancé who had left her. Don’t go into teaching, folks.
Rugrats’ take on the teenager, Taffy first appeared in Season 8 of the show. The sixteen-year-old girl was a grand-niece of Grandpa Lou’s new wife, and was hired to babysit the kids. She turned out to be the best babysitter they’d ever had!
Perhaps designed to represent the teenage role model that younger kids look up to, Taffy was pretty cool, and played in a band called the Saltwaters. She entertained the kids by teaching them about music and playing a few tunes on her guitar, and allowed Angelica to help write her latest song.
The quirky and colorfully dressed teen, who refers to the kids as ‘minis’, showed up again in Rugrats: Tales from the Crib, in which she imagined the children as characters in fairytale stories she was telling them.
6. Tommy Pickles
The lead character of Rugrats, Tommy Pickles was the leader of the pack, as much as it is possible for a pack to have a leader when everyone in it is two years old or younger. He may have worn a diaper, but he kept a screwdriver in it – Tommy was a resourceful, courageous and creative kid.
And these qualities came in useful, because Tommy was often the one who’d come up with the mad scheme that got the kids in trouble in the first place. He had a hungering for adventure and would go out of his way to seek answers in the world – answers to questions such as “Where does the light go when the refrigerator door is closed?” – and would drag his friends along on this.
5. Coco LaBouche
Bet you never knew that Thelma and Louise star Susan Sarandon made an appearance in Rugrats! She showed up in the movie Rugrats in Paris as Coco LaBouche, the flamboyant owner of EuroReptarland.
But despite being in charge of a family theme park, Coco was an evil, Cruella de Vil type villain who wanted nothing more than a promotion. But to do this, she had to pretend that she didn’t hate children, and so she concocted a crazy scheme involving seducing Chuckie’s father Chas and getting engaged to him, with the help of her snobby but brutish assistant Jean-Claude – played by John Lithgow!
She even went to the very unethical lengths of locking up our band of heroic babies, when they appeared to pose a threat to her. Like all child-hating villains, however, Coco ended up shamed and defeated by the kids. But she’d certainly provided them with a stylish adversary, if not a clever one.
4. Boris and Minka
Boris Kropotkin and Minka Kerpackter were Didi’s parents, making them Tommy and Dil’s grandparents, and were the backup grandparent babysitters for when Grandpa Lou was out partying hard (or whatever it was he did).
Eccentric but kind, Boris and Minka were Russian, and Boris would never stop going on about how life was different back in the “old country”, even though it was clear they’d lived a much tougher life there. Neither of them were able to move on from the old traditions – Minka kept on cooking her horrible borscht to her sixty-year-old recipe, while Boris gave Didi a goat when she was pregnant so she could feed the baby its milk!
Boris was also a little incompetent in his twilight years – once, after having lost Tommy and Angelica, he managed to pick up the wrong kids. Nevertheless, he was loving towards his wife, and entertained the children with his stories – though she’d often call these into question.
3. Betty DeVille
A former pro wrestler and a staunch feminist, Phil and Lil’s mother was one tough woman. She was amiable and witty but tended to dominate any situation she found herself in, and was definitely the loudest of the adult characters – the kind of person you wouldn’t invite round for your party, but would then feel guilty about snubbing.
In fact, she was the exact opposite of her husband, the shy and timid Howie, who was definitely the quietest of the adults and was happy to sit around the house building things with his toothpick collection. Well, they do say opposites attract. In a sweet twist, it turned out that it took ages for them to get together because Betty was in fact shy when it came to admitting that she liked Howie.
2. Mim Pickles
Another older relative of the Pickles family, Miriam ‘Mim’ Pickles was the cousin of Grandpa Lou, who lived in the same retirement home as him. She was very active for her age, being known as the ‘money game queen’ for her poker skills and often seen driving – albeit very recklessly.
She also maintained a good friendship with her cousin Lou, though this hadn’t always been the case. When they themselves were kids, Mim had been jealous of how Lou was the more popular one and so often bullied and played pranks on him. It was, in fact, a very similar relationship to that between Angelica and Tommy.
And yet, Mim eventually apologized for her wrongdoings and the two reconciled. It was a positive development in their lives which suggests that siblings don’t have to be rivals – perhaps, long after the end of Rugrats, Tommy and Angelica would put aside their differences too!
1. Angelica Pickles
Ah, Angelica. “The prettiest, most beautiful kid in the universe”, if she could write this entry herself. But she can’t, so we’ll be honest – she was the worst older cousin any baby could ever have.
When the three-year-old relative of Tommy and Dil came round, they knew trouble would be on its way, for Angelica was bratty to the point of tyrannical. She’d do or say anything to get what she wanted, which was usually cookies, and would lord herself over the younger children, insisting they listen to her terrible singing. If the show had anyone you could call a villain, it was the spoiled, attention-seeking Angelica.
Nevertheless, Angelica’s insolent behaviour was usually exposed in the end, and she’d be suitably punished by the adults. And like many bullies, Angelica didn’t have any real friends. She could have become buddies with new girl Susie, but instead ended up with something closer to rivalry. You have to feel sorry for her. Well, a little bit.