On Nov. 23, 2017, “Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie!” slipped into existence right under everyone’s noses, just 15 years after the show ended.
“Hey Arnold” was a cartoon released on Nickelodeon in 1996 as a sweet show about a lovable, football-headed kid who lives with his eccentric grandparents and their tenants in a boarding house. Arnold is very imaginative and big-hearted. Most episodes follow him either helping one of his friends or one of the many other quirky people living in his city, or dealing with standard kid problems such as crushes and bullies.
The show ended in 2002 with an episode called “The Journal.” This episode was created to lay out the foundation for the upcoming “Jungle Movie,” but ended up leaving fans of the show with several crucial loose ends that would remain unresolved for 15 years. This episode mainly featured a map of San Lorenzo, Argentina, where Arnold’s parents had gone missing when he was just a baby. By finding this map, Arnold was given hope that his parents were still out there, and that he could follow it to find them.
His absent parents had been a subtle theme throughout the show, most notably in the season three episode, “Parents Day.” In this episode, Arnold’s grandpa told him stories about how his parents were heroic adventurers. He spends most of the episode miserable as an upcoming parent-child tournament becomes the talk of the school. While his grandparents ultimately make him feel better in this episode, Arnold can’t simply forget about them.
Another major plot point left unfinished was Helga’s undying love for Arnold. Helga is a complex character. Her alcoholic mother and verbally abusive father both neglect her and favor her older sister, Olga. This is shown most vividly in a flashback during “Helga on the Couch,” where Helga walks to preschool by herself during a rainstorm. Due to teasing she receives from other kids at the preschool over her crush on Arnold, she suppresses her true personality in favor of a coarse front. She turns to bullying, with Arnold as her main target. When alone, she reveals her love for Arnold through poetry, shrines and romantic monologues.
Other subplots, such as Phoebe and Gerald’s anticipated relationship and Brainy’s unrequited crush on Helga, were also rumored to be resolved during the “Jungle Movie.”
Due to reruns of the show causing renewed attention to the TV series and its missing movie, Nickelodeon decided in late 2014 to make the movie after all.
The film centers on a class trip to San Lorenzo gone wrong. It has many surprising twists including Helga’s parents stepping up for the first time in the show to help their youngest daughter and the true identity of their tour guide. It also meets every plot expectation that fans have been waiting over a decade for.
The absolute best part of this movie, beyond ending the incredible cliffhanger, was that most of the voice actors were the same as they had been in the show. Even the animation was pretty much the same as it used to be. By keeping it so similar to the show, the movie is given a strange quality of nostalgia and newness that make it feel as if no time has passed.
To the utter relief of its fans, “Hey Arnold” finally has a proper, complete ending.
Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.