At the Movies (Rugrats)
|"At the Movies"|
|Directed by||Dan Thompson|
|Original air date||August 25, 1991|
"At the Movies" is the third episode of the animated television series Rugrats. It originally aired on the television network Nickelodeon on August 25, 1991, during the series' first season. In the episode, Didi and Stu take The Rugrats to a movie theatre to see The Dummi Bears and the Land Without Smiles, but Tommy is infatuated with seeing the monster movie Reptar!. He and the babies sneak out of the theater room to catch a showing of Reptar! while leaving a wake of accidental mayhem and destruction as they do.
"At the Movies" was written by Craig Bartlett and series co-creator Paul Germain and directed by Dan Thompson. The episode introduced the characters of the Dummi Bears and Reptar. The Dummi Bears were inspired by non-violent children's characters such as the Care Bears and Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, whereas Reptar was heavily inspired by the Japanese monster Godzilla and satirized the ever growing domination of Japanese culture into children's society. The character appeared in countless media tie-ins for the series, including a cereal brand, t-shirts, and video games, and would be reused in several other episodes of the series throughout its run.
Author Jan Susina gave a generally positive review of "At the Movies" in the book, The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki. In 1997, it became available on the VHS Rugrats: Return of Reptar, which was nominated for Video Software Dealers Association's Home Entertainment Award in the "Outstanding Marketing Campaign for a Major Direct-to-Video Release" category in 2000.
Didi and Stu decide to take Tommy and co. to go see The Dummi Bears and the Land Without Smiles at West Side Octaplex. The kids really want to see their first movie Reptar, which was rated MGR: Minor Guidance Recommended. When they go to the theater and the movie starts, the kids sneak off to try to find the room showing Reptar at the theater. The first room they attempt to get into is showing a romance film, so they move on and end up accidentally creating a huge mess at the concession stand. They look in the popcorn popper, eating candy bars, and playing with the orange and grape soda dispensers, ketchup and mustard pumps, and straws. They also find hot dogs, hot dog buns, popcorn tubs, lids, napkins, and cups. They find their way up to the projection booth and finally find the room where Reptar is playing. As they are watching the film through the booth window, they fall down on some film, and they decide to ride on the projectors for fun. In the process, though, all of the projectors in the room become unraveled, and various films break so they exit the room. They soon run into Grandpa, who is getting popcorn at the concession stand and are led back into the theater. As they arrive, The Dummi Bears and the Land Without Smiles is about to reach its climax; however, the film burns as a result of the kids' earlier tomfoolery, and everyone leaves the Octaplex disgruntled.
"At the Movies" was written by Craig Bartlett and Paul Germain—creator of Rugrats along with Arlene Klasky and Gábor Csupó—and directed by Dan Thompson. Germain additionally served as animation director, a role he played for all early episodes of the series. Recording sessions for the episode, located in Hollywood, California, for each actor individually took one day to complete, taking anywhere from fifteen minutes to four hours depending on the scene or role.
The episode marked the first appearance of the character Reptar. Reptar was modeled visually to resemble a Tyrannosaurus rex, but his mannerisms and actions were meant to parody that of the fictional monster, Godzilla, who first appeared in the 1954 film Godzilla, released in Japan as Gojira. Though he is portrayed comically, his name was based on a child's mispronunciation of Velociraptor, a ferocious dinosaur made iconic for its appearance in the Steven Spielberg film Jurassic Park. As noted by W. J. T. Mitchell in his book The Last Dinosaur Book, children generally begin fascination with dinosaurs between ages four and seven, while at other times during pre-school and elementary school. This demographic was the general age of Rugrats' viewers, and likely the reason behind Reptar's species.
"At the Movies" became available on the VHS release entitled Rugrats: Return of Reptar in 1997. The release included several other Reptar themed episodes, including "Reptar 2010" and "Reptar on Ice." It was released both as part of a special promotional deal between Paramount Home Entertainment and Oral-B and as a re-promotion of Rugrats videos during the holiday season.
Cultural impact and references
"At the Movies" introduced characters such as Reptar and the Dummi Bears—each of whom would become recurring characters throughout the series—and marked the first time in the series that the rugrats had seen a movie. Reptar, in particular, would appear in several episodes throughout the series in different manifestations. During different episodes, he has appeared as a toyline, a focal point in a marketing campaign, cereal brands, and a character in television series. In The Rugrats Movie, released in 1998, Reptar appears as a mechanical wagon built by Stu, voiced by rapper Busta Rhymes. In its sequel, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, released in 2000, the central setting is located at a vast Reptar theme park in France called "EuroReptarland," similar to Disneyland Paris, which features a stage production with a robotic Reptar created by Stu.
Reptar himself become an actual merchandising piece and became the basis of several Rugrats promotional works. Several videos, books, toylines, and clothing have been marketed by Nickelodeon, serving as both a high-profit margin and a parody of the character's fictional success in the series. Bed sheets, lamps, and a cereal brand have all become available in stores and feature Reptar. A Rugrats video game entitled Rugrats: Search for Reptar, followed Tommy looking for missing pieces of a Reptar puzzle. The game was widely successful and become a part of PlayStation's "Greatest Hits" label in 1999.
The Dummi Bears are parodies of the Care Bears franchise, and the film they are featured in, The Land Without Smiles, is a parody of the feature length 1985 film The Care Bears Movie based on the franchise, while the title of the film is a reference to the Care Bears' first TV special from 1983, The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings. The Dummi Bears' name is a reference to the TV series Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears. One scene in The Land Without Smiles details the Dummi Bears firing valentines from the clouds for all the sad, bullied and lonely, teased children in the world references a similar scene from The Care Bears Movie.
"At the Movies" was originally broadcast on the television network Nickelodeon on August 25, 1991. It was paired with the episode "Slumber Party." In 2000, Rugrats: Return of Reptar, in which the episode featured, was nominated for Video Software Dealers Association's Home Entertainment Award for "Outstanding Marketing Campaign for a Major Direct-to-Video Release. In 2001, Nickelodeon allowed viewers to vote for their favorite Rugrats episode on Nick.com as part of the series 10th anniversary. When the poll results were announced, "At the Movies" ranked at number 39.
The episode received a generally positive response. In the book The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki, Jan Susina opted that it was "appropriate" to introduce Reptar in the episode via a television commercial, as "Throughout the series, Reptar's power and popularity increases, so that by Rugrats in Paris a Euro-Reptarland exists." Susina also noted that his existence in the series was "one of the more unexpected" treatments of Japanese culture in "contemporary American children's culture."
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