His first job, after graduating from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, was at Will Vinton Studios in Portland, Oregon, where he learned the art of stop-motion animation, working on movies such as The Adventures of Mark Twain. Bartlett moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to animate the "Penny" cartoons, with assistance from Nick Park for Pee-wee's Playhouse. on CBS. He later made a claymation ID for NBC with Klasky-Csupo. He later worked at BRC Imagination Arts directing projects such as Postcards and Mystery Lodge for Knott's Berry Farm. He was also one of the animators on "Weird Al" Yankovic's claymation Animated Music Video for "Jurassic Park."
During the late 80s and early 90s, Craig created the now-famous football-headed kid know as Arnold, as a clay puppet.
Bartlett's first job at Nickelodeon was story editing the first 65 episodes of Rugrats. He pitched Hey Arnold! to them in fall of 1993, produced a pilot in spring of 1994, and the series was greenlit in January 1995. Nick put him on the final season of The Ren & Stimpy Show while waiting for production on his show to begin.
Hey Arnold was in production continuously from 1995 to 2001, made by Bartlett's own production company, Snee-Oosh, Inc, which he founded in 1986. The series culminated in a TV movie originally titled "Arnold Saves the Neighborhood", which Nickelodeon decided to release theatrically as Hey Arnold! The Movie, in June 2002. Unfortunately, the second planned movie, which was meant to serve as the show's theatrical Grand Finale and tie up all loose ends was cancelled due to the first movie not meeting expectations.
Bartlett then wrote and produced a TV movie for Cartoon Network called Party Wagon (also produced by Snee-Oosh), a story originally intended as a pilot for an ongoing series. The pilot was not picked up, however. During his time at Cartoon Network, he worked with Van Partible on the fourth and final season of Johnny Bravo.
In 2005 Bartlett returned to BRC to make a multimedia simulator attraction for NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, called the Shuttle Launch Experience. In the course of the 3-year project, Bartlett interviewed 26 astronauts to gather their experiences from launch to orbit. One of the astronauts Bartlett interviewed was four-time shuttle flier and commander Charles F. Bolden Jr.
After developing various pilots and feature scripts, Bartlett moved to the Jim Henson Company, where he co-wrote the computer animated film Unstable Fables: 3 Pigs and a Baby. Bartlett stayed at Henson to work as story editor on a PBS Kids preschool show called Sid the Science Kid with PBS executive Linda Simensky, whom he had worked with at Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
In September 2008, a show for preschoolers called Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train was picked up by PBS Kids. Produced by Brian Henson, this was the first show created by Bartlett to be picked up since Hey Arnold!. The series debuted on PBS stations on September 7, 2009. Years later, he created another PBS Kids show called Ready Jet Go!, which premiered on February 15, 2016.
But most importantly for 90s kids, Bartlett returned to Nick in 2016 to finally produce Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, and put to rest the story he had started 15 years prior. The movie was released on November 24, 2017, and was made possible partly due to fan demand.
List of Works:
- Penny shorts (1987)
- Jurassic Park Music Video by "Weird Al" Yankovic (1994)
- Hey Arnold! (1996-2004)
- Party Wagon (2004)
- Dinosaur Train (2009-present)
- Ready Jet Go! (2016-2019)
Craig Bartlett's work contains examples of the following tropes:
- All-CGI Cartoon: Ready Jet Go! and Dinosaur Train.
- Animation Age Ghetto: He once tried to break out of this by pitching an adult cartoon to Spike TV called Hellville, but failed. Nonetheless, he doesn't like being pigeonholed into a children's animator.
- Author Appeal:
- He is very fond of making pop culture references to The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek, Peanuts, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, and Star Wars in his shows.
- He's also fond of the Gilligan Cut.
- His love of dinosaurs and space is why he created Train and Jet in the first place.
- Jazz music.
- Author Avatar: Arnold Shortman, Buddy the T. Rex, and Jet Propulsion are all based on him.
- Creator Backlash: He really detests the infamous Hey Arnold! episode "Arnold Betrays Iggy", which created a tidal wave of fan backlash. It was rumored that as a result of it, he made the staff issue a public apology for making it. Though he debunked that rumor in an interview, the character Iggy was indeed shelved, not appearing in a speaking role again until the final season, and the episode itself would see infrequent airings (allegedly being barred from airing on television until it was seen again on NickRewind).
- Creator Provincialism: Arnold and Jet are both set in Washington state, where he lived.
- Creator Thumbprint: His shows all tend to have four main kid characters (Hey Arnold! - Arnold, Gerald, Phoebe, and Helga; Dinosaur Train - Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, and Don; Ready Jet Go! - Jet, Sean, Sydney, and Mindy) who go on wacky adventures together, sometimes without adult supervision. Arnold, Buddy, and Jet are also All-Loving Heroes who are optimistic and friends to all. Each show has similar production teams, especially Jim Lang, who composed for each show, giving them their own distinct sound. These shows also share irreverent humor that kids and adults alike can enjoy (they all seem to be fond of the Gilligan Cut), pop-culture references galore, and occasional mature themes.
- Inspiration for the Work:
- Many of the stories seen in Hey Arnold! were based on experiences Craig Bartlett and his crew had as children. Plus, several characters are inspired by real people Bartlett grew up with.
- Dinosaur Train was inspired by Bartlett seeing his son play with both a dinosaur toy and a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.
- Ready Jet Go! was inspired by when he worked on a project for NASA called the Shuttle Launch Experience
- Production Posse: His shows all have the same teams: most notably writers Joe Purdy, Rachel Lipman, Christie Insley, and Michelle Lamoreaux, and composer Jim Lang. Dinosaur Train and Ready Jet Go! also have the same voice actors from the Vancouver, British Columbia area.
- Rousseau Was Right: His works are fond of this trope:
- Hey Arnold! generally tends to support that people are good by default and only made bad by certain circumstances. This is shown with Helga's abusive, competitive upbringing turning her into a bully, when she was a sweet kid prior to that.
- Dinosaur Train has Buddy, an All-Loving Hero who is nice to everyone, no matter who they are. Even to Keenan Chirostenotes and Remy Ramphorhynchus, who were jerks and bullies.
- Ready Jet Go!: Jet is an All-Loving Hero to makes it a point to treat every living thing with kindness, even those who are mean to him, because he loves them so much. We later learn that the resident douchebag of the cul-de-sac, Mitchell Peterson, has a heart of gold deep down, and his rude behavior stems from deep-seated emotional issues.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: His works lean more on the idealistic side, due to their optimistic, positive messages.
- Trolling Creator:
- Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie has a scene near the end where Arnold wakes up, and thinks that everything that happened, including finding his parents and sealing his relationship with Helga, were All Just a Dream, seemingly undermining everything that's been built up over the series. He then sees his parents downstairs for real, meaning that the whole movie really did happen. Bartlett has a pretty dark sense of humor about this.
- He stated that Mitchell and Mindy would just be friends on Reddit. Didn't stop them from having a lot of Ship Tease in season 2, which the Reddit AMA was made to promote.
- Write Who You Know: Many characters from Arnold are based on people he knew. Tiny and Shiny from Train are both based on his sisters.