Tommy (as Moses): Let my babies go!
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
A show like Rugrats is certainly fun to watch as a kid. And when the kids who grew up on it get older, they can look back upon the show with nostalgic memories despite its flaws. However there was one episode that was in fact nominated for a Primetime Emmy, an Annie Award, and a CableAce reward. That episode was titled A Rugrats Passover. This made it one of the first animated series to focus on a Jewish holiday. And much like the Chanukah special that succeeded it has far more enjoyment and insight than a show of its style deserves.
The story involves Grandpa Boris being trapped in the attic along with the babies. Boris in attempt to pass the time tells the babies about the Jewish story of Exodus and the babies imagine themselves as the characters. Tommy is Moses while Angelica is the Pharaoh of Egypt.
For kids, the story of Passover may be a lot to take in. Yet the episode conveys the story in such a way that it’s fun and accessible to children while not talking down to them.
The special also shows inclusivity through Chas’ character. While it’s established that he isn’t Jewish he does express a great deal of enthusiasm in learning about the holiday and its customs. True to actual Passover many Haggadahs encouraged anyone famished or in need to come eat and partake in the Pesach sacrifice. It also discusses other characters’ religious backgrounds with Boris and Minka being Jewish.
Much like the Chanukah special, maybe getting information about such an important holiday from a cartoon like this ought to not be the first choice of credibility. Despite that it does hit some crucial notes regarding the story behind it such as the Egyptians and Hebrews once living in peace, Pharaoh enslaving the Hebrews, baby Moses being sent down the Nile, Pharaoh upon meeting Moses asking him to help run the kingdom, the Hebrews being protected by the red mark, and Moses leading them to freedom. All of these moments provide good insight along with the usual writing talent that Rugrats has when discussing a topic like this.
Many children in the 90s learned about Passover through this episode and its imagery and representations of the holiday make an important impact on them. It emphasizes various practices during Passover such as not eating anything with bread and even portraying a Seder Dinner. Back when this aired, doing such a thing in a children’s TV show was incredibly rare.
This special went into some deep territory. It’s a great way to explain the holiday to kids and even those who don’t observe the holiday can learn a couple of things about it and enjoy it. Its ability to appeal to not only the Jewish community but give an all around sense of inclusiveness makes it relevant even today.