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:
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.
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.
5. At the time, it wasn’t that common to have actual children recording the voices for children’s characters.
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.
8. The voice Francesca uses for Helga is her natural voice…just exaggerated.
9. The show usually tried to illustrate Arnold with his baseball hat on his head...because underneath there's a bald spot.
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.
12. Francesca doesn’t think that Helga and Arnold are necessarily a good match.
13. Though she didn’t see Helga as a role model when she was younger, Francesca sees her as one now.
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.
16. The kids used to try and make each other laugh while working.
17. The quote people ask Jamil to say the most is, “Watch the hair!”
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.”