“Hey Arnold!” was based off of my life in NYC
Remember the 90s? Me too! So weird how we both remember even though it was over 50 years ago. But back in the nineties I was just a little boy named Robert Arny Dunne (named after my great great grandmother Arny Gwendolyn Randazzo). I grew up in New York City with a poor family in good old Brooklyn. This is before the hipster phase and during the “Hey! I’m Italiano — badda bing! BADDA BOOM! OH!” phase. Except that my family wasn’t really like that, because my “family” was just made up of a bunch of room mates.
It was a hectic house to say the least. Some people would stay for years and some would be gone in flash. I lived with my grandparents and they were the most easy going people I’ve ever met. They let me talk to everyone that came through. Which was tough as a kid since you’d make friends with so many people, but then they’d leave without saying goodbye. Happened a lot actually…
Kind of dangerous hanging with all these strangers now that I think about it…but I didn’t care I was 9 and didn’t know better! HA!
Now, you probably noticed something odd in the picture. I suffered from a condition called “congenital hydrocephalus” where as a baby your head can be stretched to odd proportions during birth. The doctors tried everything they could, but said that it’d fix itself as I grew up.
Did someone bring in a duck? Because I keep hearing this QUACK!
My head started to look normal around 15 or so. I thank Jesus for the fix before I went into high school. Kids at school would make fun of me. Not like I wasn’t expecting it. “Saucer-head, lamp post, flat top, Stretch Arm Head, football head, and assface.”
Any of this sound familiar yet?
NOW CHECK DIS SHIT OUT.
This is where the Nick stuff happened.
Like I mentioned earlier, my house had new people coming in and out all the time. One day, a young man — maybe 30s — came in looking for a place to stay for a few months. My grandparents usually kept it to a year long lease, but they were a kooky bunch so they said “ah what the heck.”
This guy was awesome. He was an animator who worked on stuff I heard of! Sesame Street anyone? Helllllooooo? I was like “WOW IS BIG BIRD OK??”
I had to know. He said he was cool.
I talked to him almost everyday. He showed me some figures he could make out of clay and some concept art he had. He was a BIG fan of Charlie Brown, which I also liked. He loved how calm and almost…depressing the Charlie Brown show was. It was a REAL SHOW. It was a cartoon about feeling bad and that just wasn’t the kinds of cartoons that were being made at the time. I told him I wanted to be a good artist someday. Maybe even make a cartoon of my own!
This is what he told me, word for word, I’ll never forget it.
You gotta hurt people. Hurt them. Then laugh.
Sooooo awesome!!! My first ever inside scoop on the behind the scenes of cartoons! I never met a celebrity before and here he was talking to ME in the kitchen. He was a celebrity in my eyes anyway.
I’ll be honest though. I might have forgotten most of what he said. I was a dumb kid. He might of said “hunt people” which doesn’t make sense either. I think he meant like…hunt for your dreams or something. Heck, I don’t know! Also, Craig moved away the following week.
But unlike all the other STUPID PEOPLE WHO LEFT, this guy at least gave me a goodbye present to wake up to in the morning. He left it on the kitchen table. It was of me.
Keep hunting! And I have since. Always hungry and hunting for my dreams to come true. And they will. All of them. Thanks to Craig.
He later went on to create Hey Arnold! and let’s just say the evidence indicates the obvious. So I got myself a lawyer. I lost hard and since then I’ve been working at a pretty awesome coffee shop in Los Angeles.
My boss actually let me design a drink. Now I know it’s not the same as designing a cartoon, but it’s a start! It’s called the Ruth McDougal Roast. It’s the most lovely thing on the planet Earth. Try it! It comes in decaf only.