Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie takes kids on the field trip of a lifetime: action-packed and full of adventure! They’ll join Arnold on a quest in which he’ll try to achieve his ultimate dream and finally find his missing parents. It all starts when Arnold and his classmates take a trip to San Lorenzo, Central America, which, coincidentally, is the last place Arnold’s parents were seen. Their trip takes a turn when pirates kidnap Arnold and his friends! From there it’s one jungle hazard after another, and the gang must put their heads together to get out of danger. As the leader of the journey, Arnold must make sure he and his friends survive safely, all while working towards a reunion he’s dreamt of his whole life.
The movie starts off in a dream where Arnold finds his parents in some Aztec ruins in the Amazon Jungles, but they leave him for another mission with their old friend, Eduardo. He wakes up on the last day of school and he is late that he quickly feeds his pig, Abner, some bacon and then leaves for school. At the Patakis' defunct Big Bob's Beepers store, which the Patakis now live in instead of their apartment, Helga tells her dad that she is going to school, but Big Bob tells her to come back later and help them sort some beepers, much to her chagrin due to the fact that beepers are now defunct to the world. At PS. 118, Mr. Simmons then makes his announcement in class that a contest is being held for a class trip to San Lorenzo which is due in a week. Seeing this as his opportunity to find his parents, Miles and Stella, who disappeared years ago going there, Arnold and his best friend Gerald plan to make a humanitarian video during the summer to win the trip for their class. They try to record themselves making a home out of junk for one of their friends, the eccentric Monkeyman, but that backfires as homeless people dismantle it, leaving Arnold heartbroken.
Helga, with her knowledge of her secret long-lasting crush on Arnold, uses recorded footage showing Arnold's good deeds over the years to make a video for the contest, and everyone in town surprises Arnold with it. Mr. Simmons then reveals to everyone that Arnold's video won the contest and he, his classmates and Helga's older sister, Olga, who is chaperoning for Helga, get a plane ride to San Lorenzo. But the night before leaving for San Lorenzo, Arnold's grandfather, Phil, not only gives Arnold a stapler for defense in case of danger, but also makes him promise to focus on the trip instead of just looking for his parents.
While on the plane, Abner stows away in Arnold's backpack. When everyone arrives in San Lorenzo, they are greeted at a dock by Eduardo. Onboard his ship, Eduardo privately warns Arnold of the dangers the jungle has to offer and gives him an amulet said to lead them to the residents of the lost city of San Lorenzo, the "Green-Eyed People." He even persuades Arnold to not tell anyone else about their mission, for fear of causing a panic. During the ride later at night, Arnold keeps his secret safe from Gerald, much to the latter's chagrin about Arnold's sudden secrecy. Then while Arnold goes on lookout at the crow's nest, Helga joins him up there and attempts to tell Arnold about her crush on him completely when she was abruptly cut off by Arnold when he spots another ship heading towards them, resulting her to become angry and heartbroken towards Arnold and tossing her locket into the river and ripping up Arnold's picture from her locket. The entire ship then gets attacked by the other ship, and go through river rapids to lose it and its river pirate crew, led by the river pirate, Lasombra. The next morning after losing their ship in an explosion upon crashing and learning the secret that Arnold kept from them from Eduardo telling them when they asked what is going on, the entire class and even Gerald start to grow some resentment to Arnold as Eduardo and his crew guide the class to their humanitarian base.
After traversing through the jungle the whole day, the whole group enters the base upon arrival. However, as soon as they enter, "Eduardo" then reveals himself to be Lasombra the whole time, disguised as Eduardo with a fake mustache, that the base is actually their camp base, and that the contest was all a trap. He and his men imprison everyone and frames Arnold for his betrayal, planning on using him to find the lost city of the Green-Eyed People and its treasures, making his entire class make resentment towards Arnold even more when Lasombra claims Arnold and him made a deal on finding the lost city and treasures. Afterwards upon imprisonment later, Helga overhears Arnold, in a separate cage next door, crying for his parents in remorse for what led to this and realizes Arnold had nothing to do with Lasombra's plot. After getting her locket back from Brainy, who received it from the river and fixed Arnold's picture earlier, Helga convinces the class and even Gerald to give Arnold another chance and help him escape so they can find help in the Green-Eyed People. Helga and Gerald then manage to escape from their cell with the class' help, free Arnold from his cage (All the while outwitting the guard by shoving Arnold's stapler into his face), and use Arnold's father's old journal to find the Green-Eyed People's city. Unknown to them, Lasombra anticipated this and had already placed a tracking device on Arnold's pendant before he even gave it to him.
Arnold, Gerald, and Helga manage to evade the lost city's traps, as does Lasombra, sacrificing most of his men to the traps in the process. They manage to find the city populated by children. Meanwhile, Abner, who escaped during the ship's "River pirate" ambush earlier, manages to make it back home to the boarding house via an airplane to warn Arnold's grandparents about what happened and, along with Big Bob and Miriam, who got an SOS message from Helga's intelligent best friend, Phoebe, with the class' help, fly a rental plane to San Lorenzo, where they soon help the rest of the class defeat Lasombra's crew and escape.
In the city, Arnold, Gerald, and Helga realize that the residents of the city worship Arnold. The group finds a statue said to contain a treasure that may lead to a cure for the city's sleeping sickness, that has contaminated most of the city's population. They are then cornered by Lasombra, who takes Arnold hostage and steals the Corazón. After Gerald and Helga catch up, Lasombra forces Arnold to use the amulet to open the statue after destroying the wooden bridge, threatening to make Gerald and Helga fall to their deaths if Arnold refuses to cooperate. He succeeds, and when Lasombra tries to take the treasure from within, the statue shoots him in the forehead with a poison dart. Lasombra then falls off the cliff below, unknowingly knocking Arnold onto Gerald and Helga, who are hanging on the collapsing bridge for dear life.
Afterwards, a mysterious man arrives and, after pulling Arnold, Gerald, and Helga up to safety before the damaged bridge collapsed, reveals himself to be the real Eduardo (Revealing that the crew that attacked the class' ship earlier was actually Eduardo and his crew trying to rescue the class from Lasombra and his crew). Then, the dying poisoned Lasombra climbs back up via the destroyed bridge's ropes and gets into a brief scuffle with Eduardo, Arnold, Gerald and Helga (Resulting with the treasure falling off the cliff) before finally succumbing to the poison dart's poison and falling to his death. The group makes it back to the city (Via the stone bridge Eduardo used to get to Arnold, Gerald, and Helga a moment ago), and Eduardo finally shows Arnold, Gerald, and Helga where Miles and Stella are in the city, revealing that they have also been contaminated with the sleeping sickness upon arrival years ago. Upon learning that the treasure was a key mechanism to release the cure to the infected population after explaining how they accidentally lost it, the children soon mourns for their parents. Feeling sorry for Arnold, the Green-Eyed children, and their parents along with Gerald and Eduardo, Helga soon realizes her locket would make a perfect temporary substitute since it's heart-shaped like the treasure itself. As soon as she and Arnold both insert the locket and activate the mechanism with it, the temple then releases the cure and the infected are cured and revived. Arnold and the city's children soon reunite with their parents. Arnold then professes his gratitude to Helga (Who gets her locket back now that the curing is done), thus allowing them both to finally confessing their love for each other and the two sharing their first official romantic kiss together, as witnessed by Miles, Stella, Gerald, and Eduardo.
Arnold wakes up one morning back home after all of this, and rushes downstairs to find things seemingly back to the way it was before the trip, until his parents show up, revealing that this is not a dream at all and that those events really did happen, and that Arnold bolting awake just now was just him having a dream that he never found his parents. The series then ends with Arnold waving goodbye to Miles and Stella as he goes to his first day of sixth grade with his classmates and Mr. Simmons at PS. 118.
Background & Production
When Nickelodeon renewed Hey Arnold! for a fourth season in 1998, they also gave series creator Craig Bartlett a chance to develop two feature-length movies based on the show. One made directly for TV and video, called Arnold Saves the Neighborhood, and another slated for a theatrical release. Nickelodeon asked Bartlett to do "the biggest idea he could think of" for the theatrical film. After looking at the series, Bartlett decided to make the theatrical feature a follow-up to the episode "Parents Day", and have Arnold try to solve the question of what happened to his lost parents.
This became known as The Jungle Movie, which was developed between 1998 and 2001. Craig Bartlett, Steve Viksten, and Jonathan Greenberg wrote and revised the script, which reached its 6th or 7th draft. Raymie Muzquiz eventually got involved in the film as well during 2000-2001, as its director. A number of materials and art (seen below) were also made.
In 2000, executives at Nickelodeon and Paramount decided to give the made-for-TV movie Arnold Saves the Neighborhood a theatrical release instead, under the title of Hey Arnold! The Movie. Around this time, Nickelodeon also asked Craig to produce three more half-hours for Season 5, two of which became the special one-hour episode "The Journal", which was planned to serve as a prequel to The Jungle Movie. Craig Bartlett and his crew later left Nickelodeon on December 7, 2001, when production on "The Journal" ended. Work on The Jungle Movie was stopped as well, and would be resumed whenever Paramount green-lighted the project.
The first movie was released theatrically on June 28, 2002, but ended up being unsuccessful due to poor advertising and an unfortunate release date, and only grossed $15.2 million at worldwide box offices. This directly led to Paramount Pictures never green-lighting of The Jungle Movie and leaving the series in an unresolved cliffhanger ending. Most of the development materials already made for the film were stored away at Nick when production was canceled.
Interlude Years and Fan Interest
Over the years, Craig Bartlett revealed several details about the movie (listed below) through online chats and interviews, but refused to give out too many details, in case he someday got the chance to make it, though he never thought it would really happen. With these details, fans started making their own versions through fan art and fan fiction. Around 2009, fans started letter-writing campaigns and online petitions in an attempt to bring The Jungle Movie to fruition.
In 2011, Nickelodeon started a night block on the TeenNick channel called The 90s Are All That, featuring 90's shows. Reception was positive, and interest on Nick's old shows sparked. By 2012, interest on Hey Arnold! and awareness on its canceled movie was loud enough to revive Bartlett's optimism for the project and catch the attention of Nickelodeon.
The highly positive reception to the TeenNick block sparked the interest of Nick executives, and they put Chris Viscardi, co-creator of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, in charge of mining the network's content library, and possibly bringing some of their older properties back for a new generation. Viscardi was actually a fan of Hey Arnold! as well. 
Around 2013, Craig returned to Nickelodeon to develop a new show called Sky Rat (which was ultimately not picked up and the spin-off Modern Fairy Tales also which not picked up). Throughout 2014, Craig went into meetings with Nickelodeon executives, and at one point made a presentation (called "Arnold 101") summing up the old series and explaining The Jungle Movie to them.
In 2015, production storyboards from the canceled movie posted in Raymie Muzquiz's website back in 2012 were taken down for a "Mysterious Reason". In August, the official Nickelodeon Facebook page made a reply that directly referenced The Jungle Movie, creating a spike of activity among Hey Arnold! fans. Following this, Nickelodeon, Bartlett, and some of the original voice actors began dropping hints about TJM through social media.
Shortly after, Nickelodeon announced that it was planning to reboot some of their older properties, with Hey Arnold! being one option. On November 23, 2015, Nickelodeon officially announced that they were developing a new Hey Arnold! TV movie which would pick up after the cliffhanger ending of the series and resolve unanswered plotlines; with Bartlett as a writer and executive producer. The new TV movie wasn't directly stated to be The Jungle Movie, but details provided in the announcement accurately represented what was known about the film's original plot.
On March 1st, 2016, the day before Nick's 2016-2017 TV Upfront, it was announced that the new Arnold movie would be a two-hour TV movie, set for a 2017 debut. Craig Bartlett confirmed that the movie had been greenlit for production, and confirmed that the new TV movie was indeed the long-awaited Jungle Movie.
During Nickelodeon's panel in the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, Craig Bartlett said that it was a long-fulfilled dream of his to finally make this movie, and that the fact that many employees at Nickelodeon were 90s Nick fans was crucial in bringing the series back.
When the movie was first announced in November 2015, the project was in its very beginning stages and the script at the time had just recently been greenlit. Prior to that announcement, Craig and the other writers spent three days breaking the story. The movie later entered full-on production on March 2016, after the announcement made at Nick's TV Upfront. The main voice recording sessions and a table read with the cast were done around April/May, and storyboarding was done during the summer. By October, the movie was in the animatic stage, and the last rounds of voice recording were done in November. In January 2017, the movie's finalized materials and storyboards were sent to Saerom in Korea for final animation. The film began post-production a few months later, when finalized animation began to come back. The movie was locked and began being scored by October 2017. It wrapped up production in early November, about two weeks before its premiere.
The new movie features a slight redesign of the show’s characters, since Bartlett wanted it to have a fresh, new look while still respecting the canon of the original TV series.
Despite the 15-year long gap between production of The Journal and The Jungle Movie, many original crew members participated in the production of the movie, including Jim Lang (composer), Christopher Hink (editor), Raymie Muzquiz, Steve Lowtwait, Miyuki Hoshikawa (storyboard artists), Joe Purdy (writer), Michelle Lamoreaux (story consultant), and several others. The rest of the production crew was made up of young animators and writers working at Nickelodeon, many of them who'd grown up on the show. One of those "superfan" crew members being co-director Stu Livingston.
A total of 20 voice actors from the original series also returned for the movie, though not all of them played their original roles. (Lane Toran and Jamil Smith voice minor San Lorenzo characters.) Some characters had their voice actors replaced, since their original actors were too old, retired, or had passed away. Most of child actors were replaced, with the exceptions being Helga, Harold, Rhonda, Phoebe, Big Patty and Stoop Kid, since their actors were able to reprise their roles and some of them still did voice acting. Wally Wingert replaces Steve Viksten and Baoan Coleman; the former passed away in 2014 and the latter retired from acting shortly after the first movie. Stephen Stanton replaces Vincent Schiavelli, who passed away in 2005. Returning voice actors had to re-audition for their roles.
As 15 years had passed since the movie was canceled, Craig Bartlett decided to re-start production from scratch, as over the years, some of his opinions had changed, and he had time to think about what the fans wanted from the story. Craig has stated that the 2017 version of The Jungle Movie is both different and better than the one Paramount canceled in 2002. Despite this, many ideas, sequences, and elements from the original were reused or modified to fit the new version of the script. The movie was written with the intention to serve as a series finale, tie up all loose ends and unanswered questions, and give longtime fans closure, while also appealing to a new generation of kids in Nickelodeon's 6-11 age demographic and leaving the door open for a sixth season to be produced if Nickelodeon ordered one.
The Original Movie
Prior to the film entering development in 2015, information about the cancelled movie was released on the Internet. Craig Bartlett mentioned parts of the plot in chats, and production materials were posted by some crew members. When the film began production in 2016, the production was re-started from scratch, although many elements of the original project remained.
Original Plot - Similarities
The general story structure and concept remained the same, even if the script was re-written:
- Arnold's class, who are now in the fifth grade, go to San Lorenzo in Central America, along with Olga and Mr. Simmons, after Arnold wins the trip in a contest. However, he has his own secret agenda to go look for his parents with the map that he found at the end of the episode "The Journal". Arnold's classmates have subplots, including Rhonda freaking out in the wild while Nadine is in bug heaven, and Eugene getting allergies.
- Lasombra, a character who was briefly seen in the episode "The Journal", is the main antagonist of the movie. He is a mercenary treasure hunter and the river pirate leader, who goes in disguise as Eduardo to trick Arnold and his class. Lasombra is after the Corazón, a fabulous treasure and a sacred relic of the Green-Eyed People.
- The locations visited by the class in San Lorenzo are: a city named Puerto Clara, a steamboat going through a river, waterfall rapids, a pirate compound where they end up captured in, the Green-Eyed People's hidden city, and a broken-down rope bridge. These locations are depicted in some concept art for the original film (seen below).
- Arnold meets the mysterious Green-Eyed People, the people his parents were helping. When he was born, he silenced an erupting volcano, which prompted the Green-Eyes to believe that he is divine. The Green Eyes have designed a motif that is shaped like Arnold's football head.
- Resolving the first movie's loose end by having Arnold finally address Helga's confession and return her feelings was always a part of The Jungle Movie. This part of the story stayed mostly the same in both versions of the movie. Helga acts like she still hates Arnold at the start. The two later have a confrontation in the ship's crow's nest, leading to Helga getting rid of her locket, only for Brainy to return it later. At the end of the movie, Arnold and Helga share a short kiss which is interrupted by Gerald.
Original Plot - Differences
- While in the produced movie Arnold's name is revealed through him signing his passport, in the original film, Arnold signed his full name on a package delivered to the door of the boarding house, presumably by Harvey.
- In the original movie, the contest through which Arnold won the trip was an essay contest. In the produced movie, it's a video presentation contest.
- Principal Wartz went to San Lorenzo in the original version, while Abner did not.
- All modern technology in the film was (obviously) not present in the original version, which was worked on during the early 2000s, not the mid-2010s. In the original, Lasombra found out about Arnold coming to San Lorenzo through a newspaper.
- Lasombra's design was different in the original movie: he had white hair and looked much older, though he had the exact same hat and blue shirt. His design was altered so he would more convincingly pass as Eduardo.
- Lasombra's ship was originally called the "Esmeralda".
- Some things mentioned in chats, like Harold, Sid, and Stinky venturing into the jungle, Helga throwing Brainy overboard, Eugene being attacked by piranhas, and Helga's ferocity impressing the Green-Eyes, are not in the produced movie.
- The original version of the film would've featured an expanded flashback of Miles and Stella retrieving the Corazón from Lasombra. Part of this flashback was animated (seen below).
- A sequence of Lasombra interrogating Arnold in his hut (seen below) was storyboarded for the original movie, but not used for the rebooted movie. However, the river pirates seen in the storyboard do appear in the actual produced film, with the same designs.
- The Corazón was mentioned to be invisible in the light of day, and had a slightly different design.
- Bartlett mentioned that in the original movie the other kids would find out about Arnold and Helga.
- From Craig Bartlett's Reddit AMA: For the new script, the other characters were given bigger roles in saving the day, the discovery of the hidden city and Arnold's parents was written differently, and Helga's influence in waking them up was added in. However, the biggest difference between the original and new Jungle Movie is that, during the original film's development, Steve Viksten didn't want Arnold's parents to be alive.
Raymie Muzquiz Storyboard
In July 2012, animation director Raymie Muzquiz launched his website with examples of his work. One to those examples was a 53-page PDF document showing storyboards of a TJM scene.
These storyboards, at the time they were posted, revealed for the first time that Lasombra is the blue-shirted river pirate shown in the original concept art. The scene starts with a monkey climbing over a long wall into the compound, with the text hinting to what happened in the previous scene. It pans into Lasombra's hut, where he has Arnold held captive.
Two of his thugs are also in the room. Lasombra instructs one of the thugs to open a plate of tasty-looking food, but Arnold ignores it. Lasombra persists, trying to get Arnold to tell him where the hidden city of the Green Eyes is, but Arnold again avoids the topic, arguing that if he knew that, he'd probably find his parents.
Lasombra grows angrier and orders his thugs to restrain Arnold. The same monkey from the opening scene follows in the background, watching the thugs capture Arnold and throw him in a storeroom. The map falls in after him. Lasombra explains how he thinks a good night's sleep might jog his memory. Plus, he'd hate to hurt Arnold's friends "on accident". Then the thugs close the door. Arnold runs to the door but it's locked.
Sometime in mid-2015, these storyboards were removed from Muzquiz's website, and replaced with a message saying "Removed for Mysterious Reason!".
In 2012, Vimeo user and Artist Brent Forrest posted a test clip for TJM on his account. The animation in this test footage is radically different from the artwork featured in the Hey Arnold! TV Series and also shows off some 3D effects, like the first movie. In 2014, Craig Bartlett confirmed the footage to be genuine on his Facebook page, and that it was produced by his studio in 2001.
The footage shows Miles and Stella on horseback chasing a masked Lasombra through the San Lorenzo jungle in the rain to get back the Corazón; it precedes a scene that was shown in "The Journal", where they were running away from Lasombra after retrieving the Corazón. No version of this footage ended up in the final film.
Sketches & Concept Art
- Interview With Hey Arnold's Craig Bartlett
- Don't worry: Nickelodeon will take good care of your beloved TV memories
- How social media and '90s kids saved Hey Arnold! at Nickelodeon
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- Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie Greenlit at Nickelodeon, Series Creator Confirms
- Nickelodeon is making a Hey Arnold! movie, might bring back other classic series
- Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett charts the path to The Jungle Movie
- Nickelodeon's Hey Arnold! 2017 Reboot Plot, Title Revealed
- NickALive post compiling info from NYCC