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18 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About “Hey Arnold!” That You Probably Never Knew

Move it, Football Head!

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During this year's San Diego Comic-Con, BuzzFeed chatted with the voice of Helga from Hey Arnold!, Francesca Marie Smith. Here are some of the best Hey Arnold! ~secrets~ we learned both from Francesca and from the show's Comic-Con panel:

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1. When Lane Toran — the original voice of Arnold — could no longer play the character because his voice had changed, creator Craig Bartlett had him voice the bully Wolfgang.

“One by one, the Arnold voices grew up, and I had to say, ‘Look, I’m sorry, you don’t sound like Arnold anymore, we’re going to have to replace you,” said Craig. “So he came back as Wolfgang the next year. And then maybe two years after that, Phillip Van Dyke’s — [who also played Arnold] — voice broke and he had to be replaced. So I brought him back as Ludwig, the second bully. I tried to keep people in the family.”

2. When Jamil Walker Smith (who played Gerald) had his voice change, instead of recasting him, they wrote in a storyline about his tonsils altering his voice.

“Jamil’s voice changed, but I said, ‘What could we do about that?’ so we had that tonsils episode,” Craig said. “And it was very meta because Arnold said at the end of the episode, ‘Well your voice may sound different, but you’re still Gerald.’ So I did what I could.”

3. That “You make my girlhood tremble” scene went right over Francesca's head.


“Yeah not a clue, nothing whatsoever,” Francesca told BuzzFeed. “And it wasn’t until recently that that popped up on my radar again, and I was like, ‘huh.’”


4. One of Jamil and Craig’s favorite memories on set was doing a walla, which is the sound effect of imitating the mumblings of a crowd in a background scene.


“I loved it because then I felt like later when I watched the episode, [I was like], ‘I was at the party!,” Craig said. “It’s great to do walla because you can hear yourself being a part of that funny, weird background.”

5. At the time, it wasn’t that common to have actual children recording the voices for children’s characters.


“I think maybe Peanuts did it, and there was maybe a handful of [other shows], but it was pretty special for us as actors, and hopefully that translated into what made the show feel very authentic and charming for audience members, too,” Francesca said. “But man, we grew up together, we really did.”

6. Not only did Francesca and Anndi McAfee voice Helga and Phoebe, respectively, but they also voiced Ashley B. and Ashley A. on Recess.

“We have worked together for so long on so many things,” Francesca said. “You know, we did [Hey Arnold!], and there was another show called Recess that we were on together.”

7. People have definitely recognized Francesca as the voice of Helga in real life.

Corina Marie for BuzzFeed News / Set Designer: Adi Goodrich

“There have definitely been a few moments through the years — especially while judging speech and debate or teaching… and someone would realize [I’m Helga],” Francesca said. “I would get really worked up about something and they would hear Helga come out in my voice. They could not take me seriously anymore. It was just all over at that point.”


8. The voice Francesca uses for Helga is her natural voice…just exaggerated.


“She just expresses things and goes to extremes,” Francesca said. “And thankfully I generally don’t in my day-to-day life.”

9. The show usually tried to illustrate Arnold with his baseball hat on his head...because underneath there's a bald spot.


“It’s so funny — when Arnold has that hat, there’s actually a little bald spot because the hat’s been there so long,” Craig said. “So we try to avoid having the hat off ever.”

10. Francesca used the episode “School Play” as part of a project for her independent schooling.

“I set up this whole thing with my schooling to compare and contrast the original [Romeo and Juliet] play and this version we were doing,” Francesca said. “So that was a really fond memory for me of the way that I grew up and my personal life being so bound up in this really cool show.”

11. And Jamil's mom used to pick him up from school to go to his Hey Arnold! job.


“I remember my mother picking me up from school, getting in the car, and handing me the script, and driving [to work],” Jamil said. "And it was for like six years [for] half the school year every Tuesday and Thursday. I would go to Hey Arnold! and it was incredible — it was special."


12. Francesca doesn’t think that Helga and Arnold are necessarily a good match.


“[Her obsession with him is] not even necessarily about Arnold as a person — it’s more about an object of affection for her, a way to crystallize all of this incredible passion and intellect and angst and everything else,” Francesca said. “So I don’t know that in the long run they necessarily are a match. I don’t even know that she even gets anything from him as a person, at least in the relationship we see. I think it’s more just about an idealized fixation in some ways. And that’s very important for her.”

13. Though she didn’t see Helga as a role model when she was younger, Francesca sees her as one now.


“I do feel like there are elements that are worrisome and are bad and I wouldn’t want kids to emulate,” Francesca said. “But where I’m landing…is that she exemplifies a lot of intelligence, a lot of passion, a lot of drive. And I think she gives girls a model for understanding how deeply you can feel — that it’s okay to feel that strongly and be struggling with crazy family life and other things that you may not be able to wrap your head around when you’re that age.”

14. Gerald’s jersey number is 33 because, well, Craig just liked the look of it.

“I just thought it looked good there,” Craig said. “Two ‘3’s next to each other — I just thought it had a nice look.”

15. While recording the show, the cast used to sit in one long row in a giant room together, which Craig says is increasingly rare in animation now.


“It was a blast,” Craig said. “I think that’s a really good way to record a show… They know what just happened. And they’re swept up in the story, hopefully. And that’s how we did it.”


16. The kids used to try and make each other laugh while working.

Instagram: @anndimcafee

“We all tried so hard to make each other laugh,” Anndi said. “We were ridiculous. We were so much energy and we had to be reigned in so many times… It’s that energy of pushing each other and joking with each other and creating new things.”

18. And, though “Move it, Football Head” is one of Francesca’s favorite lines, she’s a really big fan of Helga’s iconic “trembly sigh.”

“It just feels really good, especially when you land it right,” Francesca said. “That [sigh] captures a lot.”