They are not just cartoons but Nicktoons. After all, Nickelodeon was not just TV; it was kids’ TV at its slime-covered apex. With its orange splat logo and almost-punk-rock approach to kids’ television, Nickelodeon brought kids in the 1990s hour after hour of classic shows and memorable moments. The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story is the saga of how a small educational network rose to become a commercial juggernaut that impacted the childhoods of kids across the globe. Get ready for nostalgia overload as filmmakers Scott Barber and Adam Sweeney take you back to Good Burger, Camp Anawanna, show you a hidden temple, and so much more in this throwback for the ages.
The Orange Years captures the experience of Nickelodeon in the 90s beautifully with a who’s-who of interviews from all your favorite Nick shows. The film is a love letter to classic Nickelodeon told through long-forgotten commercials, highlight reels of your favorite moments, and in-depth interviews with your favorite casts and creators. The documentary takes moments to relish the shows that made Nickelodeon the network it is today, told by the people who made it possible. The viewer experiences intense moments of real-life as Magic Johnson talks HIV on Nick News, scenes of pure joy when discovering how Paddy Mayonnaise got her voice, and feelings of unapologetic nostalgia with every orange Nickelodeon splat.
For Nick fans, the movie is a highlight reel of all your favorite shows and the stories behind them. Nearly every show gets its moment in the spotlight. The filmmakers are relentlessly one-upping themselves, talking to Kenan Thompson about when Chris Farley guest-starred on All That, Paul Germain discussing the creation of Rugrats, and even stopping to look for clues on Blue’s Clues. Creators talk about emphasizing diversity in casting, giving role models for young girls, and the importance of providing a voice to kids across the globe.
“…the saga of how a small educational network rose to become a commercial juggernaut that impacted the childhoods of kids across the globe.”
It’s a movie for Nick fans by Nick fans, and it shows in every frame. The Orange Years brings all the energy of 90s Nickelodeon and makes it a point to highlight all the love put into each show. Above all, the film talks about creating a space where kids could see the surrealist nightmares of Are You Afraid of the Dark? or sing along to “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” with Ren & Stimpy.
Entering into this documentary, I realized there is no way I could be unbiased; this film was literally a collage of all my favorite childhood shows. Going into a movie already being a huge fan is a double-edged sword. If it delivers, you cannot help but gush over how it captured something you love. However, if it does not, it leaves you with a feeling of undying betrayal. As a die-hard Nickelodeon fan, I loved every second of this movie. There are moments where the timeline can become fuzzy due to the immersion into each show’s canon, but for the zealous Nick fans, this only adds to its greatness.
The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story is an excellent companion to books like Slimed: The Oral History of Nickelodeon, or for fans of documentaries like The Image Revolution, as all give insight into the unconventional and unabashed creativity of the 1990s. For a network with a history like Nickelodeon, it’s impossible to capture every extraordinary moment. However, the film gets incredibly close and is worthy of every Aggro Crag trophy or spontaneous sliming that one could bestow on it.
"…worthy of every Aggro Crag trophy or spontaneous sliming that one could bestow on it."