To celebrate the history and influence Nickelodeon has had on the world of cartoons, Nickelodeon has published a hefty, slime-covered book called Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons. I'm not kidding, the plastic cover encases the Nick's famous green slime!
But slime isn't the only thing going for this amazing book. Nicktoons is filled to the brim with wonderful sketches, interviews, anecdotes and histories of Nickelodeon cartoons such as Ren & Stimpy, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants. Browsing this book proves that Nickelodeon forever changed the format, humor and availability of children's cartoons.
Butch Hartman began his animation career as an assistant animator on n American Tail. He directed cartoons and created his own shorts for What a Cartoon!, and also wrote and directed episodes of Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow & Chicken and Johnny Bravo. Hartman joined Nickelodeon in 1998 where he created and produced several cartoon shorts for the Oh Yeah! Cartoons series, including The Fairly OddParents. Hartman is also the creator of Nickelodeon’s animated series Danny Phantom and T.U.F.F. Puppy.
Butch Hartman took time to talk with me about his own history in the animated world of Nickelodeon.
Other than The Fairly OddParents, which cartoon has been a favorite to work on? I particularly like Johnny Bravo and Dexter's Lab.
"Yes, I agree. Those were both great shows to work on. That's because they each had strong characters. And they were funny! But I think I really like Johnny Bravo because, no matter what happens to him, he thinks he's the coolest thing in the universe."
What came first for you, writing, art, or doing voice work?
"The art stuff. I started that at a very young age - like 5 - and didn't really get into writing until much later in life. Like around 20 years old."
How do you feel about so much 3D animation being done today? Do you think it will last?
"I think it's a logical progression of the medium. It's amazing to look at, always surprising, the possibilities of camera angles seem limitless and yes, I think it will be around forever and ever."
Any plans for feature films?
"Absolutely. Working on a few ideas right now."
How do you purposely make a show that entertains kids and adults? How do you find a balance of humor for each group?
"My writers and I just write what we like and hope the audience will follow along. But we DO have to keep things kid-friendly. Like, if we're going to write a joke about the IRS - which kids won't get - we'll change it to a joke about "getting an allowance" or a "piggy bank" or something like that."
What was the inspiration for The Fairly OddParents?
"I wanted to do a show where it was easy to get the main character from one place to the other easily. I never wanted to be stuck for a story transition. I thought the easiest way to do this would be to 'POOF!' the characters from place to place. So I thought: 'Hey! Magic would be cool!' So I drew a little boy with a fairy godmother who eventually became Wanda, but I thought it would be neat to see who she was married to, because I had never seen a fairy godfather before, so I drew Cosmo and it all kind of fell into place after that."
Are there cartoons that your kids like that you wish they didn't watch? Or vice versa?
"Not really. My kids have pretty good taste and they know when something isn't entertaining. That's because I put them under hypnosis when they were little."
If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
"Walt Disney. Steven Spielberg. Robert Zemekis."
Looking back at the history of Nicktoons, is there anything you would change if you could?
"Yeah, I'd have 25 shows on the air!"
Regardless of how many shows Butch Hartman has on the air, Nickelodeon continues to provide top-notch entertainment kids and adults can love. Compare prices for Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons. Lay this book on your coffee table, and I guarantee guests will browse it with delight.