Cree Summer Speaks on Lack Diversity in Animated TV and ‘Rugrats’ Reboot

by Gina Williams

March 5, 2021

Kids and kids-at-heart, Cree Summer is back to reprise her role as Susie Carmichael in the animated series RugratsIf you were a young kid, had a young kid, or perhaps was in touch with your inner child in the early 1990s, you’ll likely remember Rugrats, the animated show from a baby’s point of view. The series premiered in August 1991 and ran through 2004.

However, Cree’s acting career dates back a bit further. Cree started voice acting in 1983 at 11 years old as the voice of Penny on Inspecter Gadget. She’d later win over the heart of adults as the woke and earthy, curly red-headed Winifred “Freddie” Brooks on A Different World from 1988 to 1993.

 
Photo: NBCU Photo Bank
 
But while older generations grew to love Freddie, a younger generation grew to love Cree’s animated characters. During the mid-80s, the queen of voice-overs was the voice of some of the most beloved cartoon characters from the Care Bears to Garbage Pail Kids, Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters, Tiny Toon Adventures, Sonic The Hedgehog, Pepper Ann, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and, of course, Rugrats.
Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards
 

Cree was no stranger to the world of voice acting since her father, Don Francks, was the voice over actor who introduced her to the world. Cree got her start in the game thanks, in part, to her dad who was the voice of Dr. Claw on Insepctor Gadget. That’s right! Cree was acting alongside her dad as Penny on the same cartoon. Her dad also was the voice of Sabretooth from the animated series X-Men and the first person ever to voice Boba Fett from Star Wars.

She would follow in her dad’s footsteps, having voiced over 100 animated characters between 1983 and the present day. Spanning video games, cartoon television series, animated films, commercials, and more, Cree has been a voice of representation in an animated world that often times lacks diversity.

Eight-month old Cree Summer with her father Don Francks and mother Lili (Photo: Doug Griffin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

In an interview with fellow actress Yvonne Orji for Great Big Story, Cree talked about the lack of representation in animation and her responsibility to the community.

“I know for Susie, one of the most important things was that she sound smart and that she’s very well-spoken because there were not a lot of brown girls in cartoons,” Cree told Orji. “As a matter of fact, there still aren’t.”

In addition to Cree Summer’s return to the animated show, the revival will reunite the entire voice cast from the Nickelodeon series’s original run. E.G. Daily will reprise her role as Tommy Pickles alongside Nancy Cartwright (also the voice of Bart Simpson on The Simpsons) as his bestie Chuckie Finster, Cheryl Chase as cousin Angelica Pickles, and Kath Soucie as the twins, Phil and Lil DeVille.

Paramount released a first look trailer of the series. The animation has a new look, but the cast and good times and adventures are still the same. Based on the 1991 Nickelodeon series, the Rugrats revival will follow a group of toddlers as they “explore the world and beyond from their pint-sized and wildly imaginative point of view,” per Variety.

Rugrats is one of the most iconic cartoons recognized by fans around the globe, and this original version is one we are taking great care and pride in creating for a brand new audience,” Ramsy Naito, president of Nickelodeon Animation, said in a press release. “Having the voice cast behind these special characters come together is one of the essential pieces to making the show reconizable and we can’t wait to watch this talented group bring them to life again.”

The original series, which had a successful run for 13 years, lead to three movies, including The Rugrats Movie in 1998. The show also won four Daytime Emmy Awards and six Kids’ Choice Awards. It also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now, over 30 years since Rugrats premiered, Susie Carmichael and the rest of the baby gang are back in action. Cree showed off her voice-over acting chops as Susie Carmichael and shared some of her best moments playing Susie on Rugrats.

Cree Summer Talks Susie Carmichael’s Best Moments:

The show will air on new streaming service Paramount+. ViacomCBS also has a live-action Rugrats movie in the works as well.

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