The 1990s was a period of great success for Nickelodeon. With shows like Rugrats, Rocco’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold, etc., Nickelodeon was striving as one of the top cartoon networks across the globe. But soon into the new millennium, those cartoons had run their course and closed up shop. By 2004, every cartoon that debuted in the late ’90s, excluding Spongebob Squarepants, had aired their series finales. A year later, Nickelodeon Studios closed down. But luckily for Nickelodeon, there was a glimmer of hope to revive the television network back to its glory days. That glimmer of hope came in the form of Butch Hartman.
Born as Elmer Earl Hartman IV, Butch was born in Highland Park, Michigan before spending his childhood in Roseville, Michigan and his teenage years in New Baltimore, Michigan. After graduating from high school, Hartman went on to California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he sought to become an animator and a writer.
Hartman’s career started in 1986, when he worked as an in-between artist for the film “An American Tail.” For the next nine years, Hartman focused on television, becoming the storyboard artist for the show “Dink, the Little Dinosaur” in 1989 and the key model designer for “Piggsburgh Piggs” in 1990. His career got off the ground in 1991 when he landed a job with “Tom and Jerry Kids” as a character designer. He would remain with the show until 1993. The following year, Hartman did the design work on a couple television specials, “Yogi the Easter Bear” and “Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights.”
The first cartoons that he could call his own were created in 1995, which debuted on Cartoon Network’s “The Cartoon Cartoon Show,” a television show that launched the beginnings of “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Cow and Chicken,” etc. Hartman’s two shows, “Pfish and Chips” and “Gramps” ran for two years, but were not picked up by the network as their own shows.
For the next few years, Hartman remained with Cartoon Network, working as storyboard artist/layout artist for “Dexter’s Laboratory,” writer/director for “Johnny Bravo,” and model creator for “Cow and Chicken.” But in 1998, he made the switch over to Nickelodeon when the network launched a similar cartoon show to Cartoon Network’s “The Cartoon Cartoon Show,” known as “Oh Yeah! Cartoons.” While “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” didn’t have the same success at creating new shows as its Cartoon Network rival, it did launch three brand-new cartoons, one of which belonged to Hartman. “ChalkZone,” “My Life as a Teenage Robot” and Hartman’s “The Fairly OddParents” sprouted from “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” and “The Fairly OddParents” is the only one of the three that is still airing on Nickelodeon today. “ChalkZone” ran from 2002-2009 and “My Life as a Teenage Robot” ran from 2002-2006. The two cartoons combined for 82 episodes. “The Farily OddParents,” running since 2001, has aired 136 episodes to date, fourth-most in Nickelodeon history.
Prior to its success, “The Fairly OddParents” were signed on for six episodes by Nickelodeon that began airing on March, 30, 2001. Originally titled “Fairy Godparents,” the show revolved around 10-year-old Timmy Turner, a boy who was neglected by his parents and tormented by his evil babysitter Vicky. As a misunderstood pre-teen, Timmy was granted fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, who had the ability to grant his wishes, as long as they fell in the realm of the oversized rule book, called “Da Rules.” A couple interesting notes from the cartoon is that Timmy was never meant to have the trademark pink hat he wears every episode; it was supposed to be blue. The reason for the change was the Hartman ran out of blue ink and instead went with the color pink. Wanda was also supposed to be named Venus.
To date, “The Fairly OddParents” is in its eighth season, 14 special episodes, eight movies and three crossover episodes with “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.”
During his time working on “The Fairly OddParents,” Hartman launched his second cartoon, “Danny Phantom.” While not as successful as his first cartoon, “Danny Phantom” ran from 2004 to 2007 and lasted for 53 episodes. However, despite its cancellation in 2007, Hartman has recently said that Nickelodeon will celebrate the show’s eighth anniversary and new episodes may be made. It’s unknown whether or not “Danny Phantom” will become a regularly featured cartoon in the Nickelodeon lineup.
Hartman’s third and final cartoon creation to this point debuted two years ago on Nickelodeon. “T.U.F.F. Puppy” is currently in its second season and has already been picked up for a third season, guaranteeing at least 60 episodes.
Hartman currently resides in Bell Canyon, California with his wife and two children.