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Nancy Cartwright juggles voices of 'Rugrats' Chuckie, Bart Simpson

Nancy Cartwright juggles voices of 'Rugrats' Chuckie, Bart Simpson
Nancy Cartwright has been a voice actor since 1980. Photo by Ray Katchatorian

LOS ANGELES, May 27 (UPI) -- Nancy Cartwright, who is back as the voice of Chuckie in the Paramount+ Rugrats revival, said the show's change from two-dimensional hand-drawn animation to 3D computer animation makes the characters look more tactile.

"Chuckie's hair looks like it's felt," Cartwright told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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She said the episodes are updated for 2021, with the parents using smartphones and the rugrats playing with tablets. However, Cartwright said technology hasn't changed Chuckie or his friends' approach to childlike adventures.

"They've kept the integrity of the writing intact," Cartwright said.

The popular show originally ran from 1992 to 2006 on Nickelodeon and spawned three feature films. The revival premieres Thursday.

The rugrats are babies who have their own adventures under their parents' noses. Chuckie and his friends Tommy (E.G. Daily), Susie (Cree Summer) Phil and Lil (both Kath Soucie) imagine they are running from dinosaurs or turning into worms.

Cartwright became the voice of Chuckie in 2002 when previous voice actor Christine Cavanaugh retired. Cartwright said she always invited Cavanaugh to return if she wanted, but Cavanaugh never took her up on it before her death in 2014.

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"I was just keeping his boots warm," Cartwright said.

By 2003, Cartwright said she felt Chuckie was her role. Cartwright said she added her own inflections, such as diphthongs to extend words like "feel" to two syllables.

Although the rugrats speak English, Chuckie still talks like a baby, mispronouncing words. He says "aminal" instead of "animal," which sometimes takes Cartwright multiple tries to get right in the recording studio.

"Sometimes, I have to look at it twice," Cartwright said. "You just go back and pick it up."

Childlike fears fuel a lot of the Rugrats episodes. For instance, Chuckie is the character who fears he will turn into a worm after he accidentally swallows a worm.

"Chuckie is such a complex character," Cartwright said. "He's in terror a lot of the time and then he can switch, and he changes."

Cartwright said Chuckie has endured since 1992 because of his ability to evolve.

"You see him try," Cartwright said. "He comes across, at first, maybe as a victim, but then he changes. He sets such a great example."

'The Simpsons' voices

Cartwright began doing voice-over work in 1980 and can be heard on classic shows like My Little Pony, Popeye, Snorks and Pound Puppies. The 63-year-old has been the voice of Bart Simpson since 1987 and is working on its 33rd season.

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Cartwright said she recorded her lines for the Paramount+ Rugrats in her home studio. The Simpsons, however, reopened its recording studios on the former 20th Century Fox lot.

"To be honest with you, I prefer to drive on in," Cartwright said. "I'm a people person. I don't want to be stuck at my home, as much as I like it here."

In addition to Bart, Cartwright provides the voices for many other child characters on The Simpsons, like Nelson Muntz and Ralph Wiggum. On the day of her interview with UPI, Cartwright had just wrapped a session as Nelson.

"There's a lot of screaming and a lot of yelling of Nelson in this particular script," Cartwright said. "My throat can get a little sore from doing that but that's because of yelling."

Fox renewed The Simpsons for seasons 33 and 34 earlier this year. Recent episodes flashed forward to Bart in the future and back to Homer's childhood. Cartwright said she can continue to play Bart at any age indefinitely.

"You can make him an 80-year-old man or a 2-year-old baby," Cartwright said. "There's a lot of freedom there."

Now that Disney owns The Simpsons through its purchase of 20th Century Fox, it has announced the intention to make another Simpsons movie. Cartwright said she is all for a sequel to 2007's The Simpsons Movie.

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"It's challenging to think that we could do it at the same time that we are doing the show," Cartwright said. "I think people are anxious to see another feature film."

The Master of voice work

In addition to recording Rugrats at home and driving to record The Simpsons, Cartwright also presented a seminar on voice acting for MasterClass.com. The online education portal animated Cartwright's lessons about animation.

"I just give you tips, how to develop characters, exercises you can do, a little bit of my background," Cartwright said.

Cartwright has conversations with her animated counterpart in the 2-hour, 43-minute lesson. She said the first time she did voice-over without altering her voice was in 1994 when she played Margo Sherman, sister of the title character, on The Critic.

"It was refreshing that I could just use my own voice," Cartwright said.

Cartwright said she feels the Master Class will help people trying to break into animation, and entertain fans of animation.

"It's not just for people that want to do voice-overs," Cartwright said.

Cartwright also formed her second production company in 2020. Her first, Spotted Cow Entertainment, produced the film In Search of Fellini, which Cartwright co-wrote based on her one-woman show.

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CRE84U Entertainment is Cartwright's company with Monica Gil-Rodriguez and Jaime and Carolina Aymerich. CRE84U is developing live-action and animation projects, feature films and television series. Their film Borrego is in post-production. Lucy Hale and Nicholas Gonzalez star in the suspense thriller about a drug mule who crash lands and takes a woman hostage.

Cartwright said CRE84U is developing a Dreamworks Animation TV series based on the Gumazing Gum Girl books, and another animated project in Ontario, Canada. Cartwright said she has enjoyed lending her clout to the development of CRE84U projects.

"When Bart makes a phone call -- people will answer the phone for Bart Simpson," Cartwright said.

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