Fans of the ’90s and early 2000s share a sense of nostalgia when looking back on their childhoods. If you were in this age group, your afternoons were most likely spent in front of the television, watching endless cartoons while eating Dunk-a-Roos and slurping down JuicyJuice. Shows back then were so good that they led to big screen movies and fairly successful spin-offs in the early to mid-2000s. We saw the Rugrats go from adventurous toddlers to struggling middle-schoolers and watched timid seventh-grader Ginger mature into a confident high-schooler. But what about other beloved characters?
Artist Isaiah K Stephens offers a look at how puberty effected other cartoon characters in his “All Grown Up” series, which can be viewed on his Instagram at isaiahks_art. Working as a freelance illustrator and animator in Lowell, MA, Stephens’ matured re-imaginings of these iconic characters show a glimpse at how each one of them has embraced their newfound adulthood yet still retain their recognizably unique personalities. The series features characters, spanning from different age groups , from major childhood networks Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, PBS, Cartoon Network and more. Who’s ready to walk down memory lane and possibly reawaken some childhood crushes along the way?
Rugrats featured the imaginative adventures of a group of toddlers curious about life beyond their playpen. Brave Tommy was the leader of this rag-tag team of munchkins, followed closely by best friend Chuckie and twins Phil and Lil. They were often joined by bratty Angelica and lovable Susie. In The Rugrats Movie, Tommy became big brother to troublesome Dil while Chuckie gained sister Kimi and mother Kira in Rugrats in Paris: The Movie. The spin-off series, All Growed Up, featured pre-teen and teenage versions of the characters attempting to navigate middle school life.
In Stephens’ series, the precocious toddlers have grown up into stylish versions of their former selves. Tommy appears to have taken over his father’s inventing business while Chuckie’s embraced his nerdy side. Phil has taken on a skater boy physique complete with a Reptar tattoo. Angelica hasn’t changed much, still looking like the stereotypical mean girl.
19. HEY ARNOLD
Fourth-grader Arnold faced many challenges navigating inner-city life but always had his street-smart friend Gerald by his side. Despite her taunts, bully Helga tried desperately to conceal her true feelings for him. Always willing to help a friend in need, Arnold often was joined by his eccentric collection of classmates when it came to his adventures. In 2002, the character received his own feature film, Hey Arnold!: The Movie. The sequel, Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie is expected to premiere November 24 of this year.
So long “football head” and hello gorgeous cheekbones! Arnold has definitely come a long way since middle school. His little blue cap has been replaced by a fedora but the classic flannel shirt remains essential to his adult wardrobe. Gone is Pheobe’s oversized sweater, replaced with a feminine royal blue dress. Even gawky Sheena and “Stinky Pete” have embraced a somewhat hipster fashion sense.
Who could forget these lovable pranksters? The show, a symbol for childhood rebellion, followed the antics of six elementary school students as they managed a version of society within their own schoolyard. Lead by confident “J.T”, the middle schoolers struggled to express their individuality while operating within their created sense of social order. In 2001, the popular series released Recess: School’s Out which featured the kids trying to put a stop to the end of summer vacation.
J.T’s confidence has certainly risen, along with his height; going for a business casual look complete with his iconic baseball hat. Tomboy “Spinelli” is wearing a “tough chick” ensemble featuring leather and tattoos. Athletic “Vince” is still carrying around his basketball while nerdy Gretchen appears to have pursued a scientific career. Timid Gus also has changed dramatically, his leadership abilities greatly improved by Army training and philosophical Mikey’s embraced a “hippie” lifestyle.
17. THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS
Based on the Scholastic book series of the same name, The Magic School Bus was an educational series following the fanatical adventures of quirky Ms. Frizzle who takes her students on scientific journeys. Episodes showed the children in space, in a classmate’s digestive system, and encountering animals such as dinosaurs and butterflies. A revival of the show, called The Magic School Bus Rides Again, made its way to Netflix in 2017.
Ms. Frizzle has certainly aged but hasn’t lost her youthful, eccentric spirit. Intelligent and curious Arnold now has an attractive bibliophile look to him while Carlos will certainly make you moan with his new model-esque features. Adorable Dorothy-Ann hasn’t lost her cuteness, sporting a t-shirt mourning the loss of Pluto’s planet status. Sarcastic Keesha appears to have a more timid nature about her now while shy Phoebe stands with a newfound confidence.
16. CODENAME: KIDS NEXT DOOR
Before Spy Kids, there was KND. The Cartoon Network series followed five operatives on their missions to stop teenagers and adults from ruining the lives of children with atrocious such as homework and flossing. They encounters villains such as notorious Father and his “Delightful Children from Down the Lane”, Gramma Stuffum and the annoying Tolietnator.
Perhaps growing up isn’t such a bad thing. Numbah 1 (Nigel Uno) looks like something straight out of a James Bond film, wearing a bright red suit and iconic dark shades. Numbah 2 (Hoagie) wouldn’t be complete without one his inventions close at hand. Sweet Numbah 3 (Kuki) stands by her secret admirer Numbah 4 (Wally), perfectly poised for attack. Confident Numbah 5 (Abby), while laid-back, is ready to jump into action.
15. KIM POSSIBLE
She’s your basic average girl and she’s here to save the world. That’s right, it’s Kim Possible! The Disney Channel series followed the high school teen struggling to maintain a normal life while being an undercover agent. This heroic girl-next-door was aided by her best friend / boyfriend Ron Stoppable and tech-wiz Wade as she thwarted wonderfully absurd villains Doctor Drakken, Monkey Fist, Duff Killigan and many more’s attempts to take over the world. Devoted fans led to the show being recognized as one of Disney Channel’s most successful series, later surpassed by Phineas and Ferb in 2013.
While Kim and Ron are the stars of the show, it’s hard not to notice the dramatic transformation of Drakken and his assistant Shego. The supervillain has a much more menacing aura than his prior cartoon self while Shego looks like a villainess straight out of a Marvel movie. Who knew being bad could look so good.
14. TOTALLY SPIES
Stand aside Charlie’s Angels, these girls can handle it. Totally Spies premiered in 2001, centering around three teenage girls trying to balance their high school life with their undercover secret agent identities. While trying to avoid spoiled rival Mandy at school, the girls encountered disgruntled villains on their missions to stop the rising levels of crime across the globe.
As the unofficial leader of the group, Sam is the thinker of the trio, making the plans and creating diversions. Tomboy Clover is the youngest of the group, often being the most naive. Clover is the fashionista of the team, extremely impulsive and obsessed with boys. In Stephen’s updated version, the girls look ready to kick butt. Someone quickly dream up a live-action cast and turn this into a female action film!
13. POWERPUFF GIRLS
This Cartoon Network series featured the heroics of three kindergarteners who save their beloved Townsville from being taken over or destroyed by villains and giant monsters. The pint-sized superheroes also deal with problems young children face, such as sibling rivalry and dependency on security blankets. In 2002, the girls received a prequel movie which revealed their ultimate foe Mojo Jojo was actually their father Professor Utonium’s former lab partner. In 2016, a controversial reboot of the series introduced a new member of the team named Bliss.
In Stephens’ version, these girls aren’t kindergarteners anymore. Leader Blossom is front and center, sporting her ginger locks tied back by her red bow. Sweet Bubbles zooms beside her, her signature pigtails replaced by a long ponytail. Tough Buttercup still shows how fierce she can be with her clenched fists and determined look in her eyes.
12. FAIRLY ODD PARENTS
Every kid’s dream was to have a magical fairy godparent who granted them wishes. Timmy Turner was one of the lucky few to be granted that wish. The Nickelodeon series followed the antics of young Timmy as he attempted to improve his boring life through often troublesome wishes that inadvertently end up making things even worse. Later in the show, Timmy wishes for his godparents Cosmo and Wanda to have a baby, whom they name Poof.
Timmy hasn’t changed much since becoming a grown up, still wearing his pink cap. Mean babysitter Vicky still retains her aggressive side, wearing a leather jacket and boots. Timmy’s crush Trixie is still sporting her white go-go boots while his obsessive fan Tootie can be seen wearing an “I Heart TT” pin on her vest. Puberty has worked its magic on Poof, the youngster wearing a magenta hoodie to match his colorful hairstyle.
11. THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY AND MANDY
Who knew being best friends with Death could be so fun! The Cartoon Network series follows the unlikely friendship of the Grim Reaper and two children, Billy and Mandy. Billy is a dim-witted young boy, prone to embarrassingly stupid antics. Mandy is a deeply cynical girl who has to be the voice of reason when the other two get into trouble. Using the reaper’s supernatural powers to their advantage, the children often venture into the Underworld and encounter various monstrous characters.
While Grim has taken on a much scarier appearance, his “friends” appear unfazed. Billy has almost a frat-boy appearance, wearing his baseball cap and a polo shirt while Mandy still retains her ruthless exterior with her motorcycle-style jacket and combat boots. Mandy’s obsessed lover Irwin unfortunately isn’t included though fans can possibly imagine his transformation to be similar to that of Steve Urkel becoming Stefan Urquelle on Family Matters.
10. SCOOBY DOO
Break out the Scooby Snacks! The Mystery Inc gang made their debut in 1969 with Hannah Barbara’s Scooby Doo, Where Are You? The curious teenagers, along with their trusty canine, solved mysteries which often involved encounters with creepy monsters who always ended up being angry adults hiding behind a costume. The popular series has continued as a legacy of cartoon reboots, animated and live-action movies, and comic books.
As adults, Stephens’ imagines that the group has gone their separate ways after a controversial investigation. When Scooby is kidnapped, they are reunited in their pursuit to find their beloved pal. Shaggy with his hoodie and combat boots is a skateboarding vlogger while Velma has become children’s literature author. Daphne is now a talk show host while Freddy has become a private investigator.
9. ROCKET POWER
“Woogity! Woogity! Woogity!” This Nickelodeon show featured extreme sport lovers Otto, Reggie, “Squid” and “Twister” engaging in various competitions to prove their skills. Otto is the most athletic of the bunch, but his cheeky attitude gets him into trouble. Older sister Reggie is equally as competitive but is also disciplined when it comes to getting her priorities straight. “Squid” while not as athletic, proved to be a skilled hockey goalie while “Twister” is the daredevil of the team.
Despite being grown up, the group has still managed to keep their cool. Otto has become a handsome skateboarder, sporting a half-sleeve and gauge piercing. His sister Reggie has lost her curls, instead going for sleek magenta locks and a calf tattoo. Wild child Twister looks like a hunk in his muscle shirt while Squid has slimmed down, going for a hipster style with his thick-rimmed glasses and plaid shirt.
8. ED, EDD, N EDDY
Collectively known as “The Eds”, the group of pre-teen boys living in a suburban cul-de-sac invent schemes to get money from their friends to purchase their favorite candy, jawbreakers. Their plans rarely work, leaving them in some truly embarrassing predicaments. With a 10-year run, the show became Cartoon Network’s longest running original series of its time, attracting an audience ranging from young children to adults.
It appears puberty did little to alter the main character’s personalities. Dimwitted Ed still appears to have a glazed look in his eyes while Edd appears to have embraced his intelligence, sporting a tie and smart watch. Con-artist Eddy has succumbed to his deviousness, a full sleeve tattoo that ends with a skull above his wrist, hunched over in a “Come at me bro” pose. Cowardly Jimmy has lost his headgear while Johnny 2×4 still proudly hangs onto his pal Plank.
7. SOUTH PARK
Comedy Central’s hilariously inappropriate series, loosely based on its co-creators’ lives, centers around the misadventures of four young boys in South Park, Colorado. Both praised and criticized for its dark humor and satirizing of pop culture, the show has lasted 21 seasons and remains one of the channel’s highest rated shows. Its popularity gave rise to a feature-length film, an album of original songs, and video games.
Everyman Stan and his best friend Kenny look like models for an LL Bean catalogue, wearing parka jackets posing with their hands in their pockets. Obnoxious Cartman hasn’t lost his rebellious nature, affectionally flipping off the viewer. Somehow having survived until adulthood, Kenny still wears his orange parka, his hood pulled too close to his face, not allowing a glimpse of his matured face.
First premiering on Nickelodeon in 1991 then acquired by Disney is 1996, Doug focused on the life of its main character experiencing common middle school problems such as self-esteem issues, bullying, and rumors. Doug served at the narrator of these stories, incorporating his unique imagination during each retelling. Various episodes centered around him trying to impress his crush Patti Mayonnaise. The series received mixed reviews and lasted seven seasons.
Doug’s introverted nature can still be felt as an adult; him wearing the same dress-shirt and vest, accompanied by his dog Porkchop. His crush Patti has changed her polka dot shirt for a flirty dress while best friend Skeeter is still wearing his iconic lightening bolt shirt. Judy and Roger have kept their darker styles, sporting nearly all-black assembles, the latter joined by his pink cat Stinky.
5. THE PROUD FAMILY
Following teenage Penny Proud’s journey toward independence from her eccentric family, The Proud Family first premiered in 2001. The show featured notable characters such as her overprotective father, Oscar and sassy grandmother “Suga Mama.” Fans praised the show’s diversity by having an African American family be at the forefront but were turned off by the stereotypical roles characters played. Penny’s friends were also seen as incredibly unlikable, ditching her whenever she was in need.
In Stephen’s version, Penny’s still wearing her school-girl inspired outfit while self-absorbed Dijonay appears to have owned her bossy nature. Irish nerd Zoey can be seen embracing her cultural roots with a shamrock sweater while Sticky Webb is still looking cool with his shades and beanie. Popular girl LaCienega looks like she could one of the Kardashians. The Gross Sisters are featured as well, Gina still holding her hand out demanding “Hands up. Cash out.”
Starting out as a Japanese anime series, Pokemon generated international fame, especially in the United States where it has become a widely successful franchise. The show follows 10 year old Ash Ketchum’s journey toward becoming a Pokemon master. Along the way he is joined by his friend friend Pikachu and gym leaders Misty and Brock. In their hopes to catch the rarest of Pokemon, Ash and his team often encounter Team Rocket who want to steal the Pokemon for themselves.
As an adult, Ash is wearing a slightly updated version of his childhood outfit, complete with his signature cap. Misty hasn’t outgrown her love of suspenders and short-shorts while Brock’s appearance has certainly improved with puberty, hopefully aiding his pursuit of a significant other. Team Rocket’s Jesse and James have taken on a more devious persona, sporting matching sleek white suits.
3. THE WEEKENDERS
The Weekenders followed the lives of four ethnically diverse seventh graders and despite only four seasons, received favorable reviews. What made the show different from most at the time was centering important events during the weekend instead of having the characters face conflicts while at school. Fans also noted a better sense of writing from the show’s creator, having humor derive from the characters’ one-liners rather than relying on nonsensical storylines.
The cast featured Italian Tito, the self-designated leader of the group and narrator of the show, Scottish tomboy Lor teased at the “dumb jock”, African American “cool kid” Carver and Jewish Tish, an admirer of William Shakespeare. Stephen’s work shows a more updated version of these classic characters. Tito wearing his blue shirt and khaki and Carver in his yellow button-down. Tish has exchanged her oversized shirt for a tank top while Lor’s gone for a shorter skirt.
2. PEPPER ANN
Pepper Ann debuted in 1997 and charted the ups and downs of adolescents attending Hazelnut Middle School. Twelve year old Pepper Ann stared as the main character joined on her imaginative adventures by best friends artistic Milo and perfect Nicky. The show was praised for its outward display of strong femininity and was Disney’s first animated series to be created by a woman.
Unpredictable nerdy Pepper Ann hasn’t lost her spunk, still sporting her classic pompadour hairstyle. Creative Milo has embraced his bohemian style while Nicky’s gone for a edgier, less polished look with her once side-swept bangs now front and center.
1. AS TOLD BY GINGER
The Nickelodeon show meant for a teenage audience focused on junior high school student Ginger Foutley and her friends trying to rise above their “geek” status. The show dealt with mature themes such as jealousy among friends, depression, death and much more. The series was praised due to its overarching storylines and character development; seeing the characters learn and mature over a gradual period of time from middle to high school.
Puberty has done wonders for this crew. Ginger is sporting her signature orange curls while timid Macie has developed a unique sense of style. Darren’s orthodontia has dramatically improved his jawline. Perhaps the most impressive transformation is that of Carl and “Hoodsey,” the latter greatly improving thanks to facial hair. Stephens’ has even managed to heighten Miranda’s strong independence, giving her a power stance, hand on her hip, ready to take on the world.
Which one of these “all grown up” versions would you like to see come to the small screen? Let us know in the comments!