Hey Arnold

Production Notes

Production Information

A Big Problem Calls For A Big Head

Nickelodeon’s football-headed hero with the funky blond hair, that little blue baseball cap and those adorable ears has come to the big screen, and without a moment to spare. The neighborhood is in peril and it’s up to Arnold and his friends to save it!

Future Tech Industries, a heartless group of developers led by the evil Mr. Scheck, is about to level everything in sight and replace it with a gigantic shopping mall. Approved by the mayor, the redevelopment plan will wipe out a six-square-block radius that includes not only Green’s Meats and Jolly Olly’s Ice Cream but also Arnold’s grandparents’ boardinghouse… where Arnold lives!

Someone has to muster the courage to stand up to Scheck. Someone has to stop this terrible man who claims to be looking out for the community but is really looking out for his own bank account. And that someone is Arnold. Yes, when just about everybody else is ready to sell out, Arnold steps up to save the day. With Gerald, his ultra-cool best friend, and Helga, his pigtailed nemesis who’s secretly in love with him, Arnold is going to infiltrate Future Tech and show Scheck the real meaning of progress – finding new joys in an old neighborhood that stands at the heart of their community!

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present a Snee-Oosh production in association with Nickelodeon Animation Studios, “Hey Arnold! The Movie.” The feature is directed by Tuck Tucker and produced by Craig Bartlett and Albie Hecht. The screenplay is written by Craig Bartlett & Steve Viksten, based on the characters created by Craig Bartlett. Marjorie Cohn and Julia Pistor are the executive producers and Steve Viksten serves as co-executive producer. Celebrity voice talent includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Lloyd and Paul Sorvino.

Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc., one of the world’s largest entertainment and media companies and a leader in the production, promotion and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and music.

Hey Arnold @ www.contactmusic.com
Hey Arnold @ www.contactmusic.com
Hey Arnold @ www.contactmusic.com
Hey Arnold @ www.contactmusic.com

Nickelodeon Movies is the feature film development and production division of Nickelodeon which produces movies for kids and their families in association with its sister Viacom company, Paramount Pictures. Nickelodeon Movies was created in 1993 to develop and produce several types of films, which include star-driven family event movies, kids-first movies and animated features, all of which bring extraordinary events, characters and situations into everyday contemporary life. Nickelodeon feature film releases include the Academy Awardâ-nominated “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” “Rugrats,” “Snow Day” and “Rugrats in Paris,” among others. Nickelodeon, Nickelodeon Movies and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

The film is rated “PG” by the MPAA for some thematic elements.


Scheck (Paul Sorvino), a powerful industrialist who heads up Future Tech Industries, has decided to invade the community where Arnold (Spencer Klein), Gerald (Jamil Smith) and Helga (Francesca Marie Smith) have lived all their lives. Together with a couple of unscrupulous businessmen -- one of whom is Helga’s father -- Scheck plans to buy up everything in sight, bulldoze it down and erect a mega-mall.

But as the clock ticks toward the approaching demolition, Arnold finds out that the neighborhood is actually a national landmark. If he can locate the document that declares his block a historical site, the mayor will stop Scheck cold.

Following a series of leads from a mysterious caller identified only as “Deep Voice,” and with the help of the neighborhood “spy kid” Bridget (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Arnold and his level-headed pal, Gerald, follow a trail that leads them to the City Coroner (Christopher Lloyd) and finally to the document. But just when it looks like the neighborhood will be spared, Scheck torches the only copy of the all-important document, sending Arnold’s hopes of saving the neighborhood up in smoke.

Can Arnold figure out what to do before the bulldozers knock down his world? Will his nemesis Helga actually help Arnold…even if it means revealing that she secretly loves him? Let’s just say that behind every hero there’s a whole lot of heart!


“Hey Arnold! The Movie” is based on the popular animated television series “Hey Arnold!” Since its launch in October 1996, the beloved kids’ show has consistently been one of Nickelodeon’s top-5-rated animated series and is currently watched by over 46 million viewers every month. (Source: Neilsen Media Research, February 2002)

“For five years, ‘Hey Arnold!’ has been a hit on Nick,” says producer Albie Hecht, President of Film and TV Entertainment for Nickelodeon, TNN and TV Land. “Arnold is a cool kid with an incredible sense of justice and fair play. That’s why he’s one of the most beloved animated characters on TV, and we hope movie audiences will love him just as much.”

“In the series as well as in the feature film, the show’s creator, Craig Bartlett, manages to access not only the kid experience, but also the kind of universal experience adults can relate to as well,” says executive producer Julia Pistor, Senior Vice President of Nickelodeon Movies. “The movie’s success, I think, will be due to the fact that all generations can relate to Arnold, to his friends and to their neighborhood.”

“Hey Arnold!” focuses on the daily life of Arnold, a thoughtful kid with a creative mind, an admirable nonchalance and a football-shaped head. While most shows for kids stay in suburban environments, “Hey Arnold!” celebrates the complex and colorful world of the city, replete with subways, weird neighbors, rooftop hideaways and urban legends.

“Besides our goal of just being funny, ‘Hey Arnold!’ has always been about the characters,” says creator Craig Bartlett. “The recognizable, urban setting and real kid voices give our characters an emotional realism with oversized loves, hopes and dreams, which I think will play even bigger on the big screen.”

Bartlett, who came to Nickelodeon as a story editor for the network’s popular animated series “Rugrats,” and later as a director for “The Ren & Stimpy Show,” first formed the Arnold character in clay to star in the clay-animation films on “Sesame Street.” In fact, according to Bartlett, the reason why Arnold’s head is shaped like a football is because it was an easy shape to form in clay.

“I used to pour out the stuff like cookie dough on a sheet, and I’d cut shapes out when I was creating characters,” recalls Bartlett. “The football shape was very funny to me, especially when I put the eyes way out on the sides of his head, which gave the character a cool sort of Buddha-like look, which I really liked.”

That was Arnold in clay. He also appeared in a few comics as well, including Simpsons Illustrated, except that back then he always wore a little blue suit.

Reflecting upon the protagonist of the film and television series, Bartlett admits that he definitely bases Arnold on himself.

“I didn’t grow up in a boardinghouse under an overpass with my grandparents, and I also don’t have a head shaped like a football,” quips Bartlett, “but Arnold does feel a lot of the same ways I felt as a kid.”

Bartlett was raised in the state of Washington, and Arnold’s neighborhood, he says, is meant to look like some of the neighborhoods he knew in Seattle with a little bit of Brooklyn, New York, mixed in.

“When I was growing up, I liked that everything was right nearby,” remembers Bartlett, “but it didn’t afford me a really great sense of a larger world outside of the city. It’s the same with the kids in the ‘Hey Arnold!’ series. Their whole world is just the few blocks between their school and their homes. That’s why the film is so exciting -- the neighborhood, which is their world, is being threatened and Arnold has to save it. We were trying to come up with the ultimate adventure, and that was it.”

The “we” that Bartlett refers to includes the film’s director, Tuck Tucker, and co-writer, Steve Viksten, both of whom have been with “Hey Arnold!” since the series began.

Tucker, whose credits include work on “The Simpsons” and “The Ren & Stimpy Show,” has directed more than one hundred episodes of the television series, and “Hey Arnold! The Movie” marks his feature film directorial debut. He says that Craig Bartlett’s philosophy is at the heart of “Hey Arnold!” and that’s what makes it so wonderful.

“Craig’s philosophy is that bigger is not better,” notes Tucker. “That’s why a small, simple nice-guy like Arnold can do a lot.”

Tucker, whose job is to direct the animation -- how the characters are drawn and how they move – emphasizes that the film’s theme is especially reflective of Bartlett’s bigger-isn’t- better philosophy. In fact, by coincidence, both his and Bartlett’s own neighborhood, the Glendale and Verdugo mountains community, was recently threatened by a big developer who wanted to tear down the mountains in order to build 500 new homes -- not unlike Scheck in the film, who wants to bulldoze Arnold’s community to put up a mega-mall.

“The ecological undertones really struck home with us,” remembers Tucker. “The grassroots movement that rose up to fight this developer -- and win -- actually mirrors how Arnold rallies his neighborhood to fight Scheck.”

Co-writer Steve Viksten, who also serves as co-executive producer and voices Oskar, one of the colorful characters living in the boardinghouse with Arnold, agrees with Bartlett and Tucker that a sense of community is at the heart of both the series and the film.

“I think Arnold is aware of the world in general, but for him, the universe is really the small, ethnically and socially diverse community in which he lives,” says Viksten. “He loves his community, and that’s why when it’s threatened by Scheck, Arnold doesn’t care that he’s only nine years old. He’s going to stand up and fight to save his neighborhood.”

Several notable celebrities contributed their voice talents for “Hey Arnold! The Movie.” Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Bridget, the fourteen-year-old “spy girl” with very cool spy gadgets. Christopher Lloyd portrays the eccentric city coroner and town history buff that helps Arnold find the document that verifies the neighborhood is an historical monument. Paul Sorvino plays Scheck, the evil developer and president of Future Tech Industries, who threatens to turn Arnold’s world into a giant shopping center.

The film also features voice talent from the television series including Dan Castellaneta (Grandpa/Nick), Tress MacNeille (Grandma), Spencer Klein (Arnold), Francesca Marie Smith (Helga), Jamil Smith (Gerald), Sam Gifaldi (Sid), Olivia Hack (Rhonda), Anndi McAfee (Phoebe), Justin Shenkarow (Harold) and Christopher P. Walberg (Stinky).

“Craig Bartlett has pulled together a really tremendous cast,” says executive producer Julia Pistor. “Christopher Lloyd is very funny as the quirky man in the morgue, Jennifer Jason Leigh does a tremendous job as the adorable spy girl and Paul Sorvino makes a great villain. The performances by these guest stars and all the voice talent are very distinct, and give the film a certain degree of sophistication.”

Three-time Emmy winner Christopher Lloyd, who describes his character as “a little bit bent” and a “merry prankster hiding under a tough skin,” adds, “The film sends a good message to everyone -- that standing tall and firm for a good cause is important.”

The young actors who voice the three main characters -- Spencer Klein (Arnold), Jamil Smith (Gerald) and Francesca Marie Smith (Helga) -- agree wholeheartedly that “Hey Arnold! The Movie,” isn’t merely a fun feature-length cartoon. In fact, each actor grew up with the series, learning lessons with every episode, as well as taking the movie’s message -- fight for what you believe in -- to heart.

Klein, now 15, took over the voice of Arnold in 1998 from three previous young actors whose voices became too deep for the nine-year-old character. He says that he loves playing the all-around nice guy who gets to save the day, but he is quick to point out that Arnold doesn’t do it alone.

“The film really demonstrates the idea of teamwork,” says Klein. “Arnold couldn’t accomplish what he does by himself. He needs his best friend Gerald, and he even needs Helga, who puts away her mock loathing for Arnold and comes through to help him save the neighborhood.”

Jamil Smith, who is 19 now and started voicing Arnold’s African-American friend Gerald when he was 12, says that he believes that the film and the series put a positive spin on life. “To me, the show’s message is that anything you want to do you can do. No matter who you are or what your background is, the human spirit is capable of doing anything and everything.”

Finally, there’s Arnold’s nemesis, the tough-as-nails Helga, who pretends to hate the football-headed hero but is secretly in love with him. She is voiced by 17-year-old Francesca Marie Smith, who started portraying the 9-year-old Helga when she was the same age.

“I’ve not only grown up with Helga, I’ve matured with her,” says Francesca Marie Smith, adding that she loves playing the intensely passionate character who, in the film, will reveal her “big secret” to Arnold. “They’ve been building up to Helga’s big moment in the series, and it turns out to be very sweet in the movie the way Arnold handles it,” says Smith. “I’m really proud of the whole film. It proves to kids everywhere that they can make a difference.”

Release Date: 20th December 02

Distributor: UIP

Cert: U

Running Time: 1 Hour 16 minutes