Back in 1996, when creator Craig Bartlett‘s Nicktoon Hey Arnold! debuted in front of what would become an entire generation of fans, Lane Toran was the young man who found himself voicing the title role. Fast forward to the end of the show’s first season, however, and Toran found himself out of that role due to changes in his voice. He would go on to voice supporting roles on the series before moving on to other animated shows and a live-action acting career. Now, more than 20 years after Hey Arnold! began, Toran and his fellow cast members are returning for the Nickelodeon movie special, Hey Arnold:The Jungle Movie.
I had a chance to chat with Toran about his memories voicing Arnold, the experience of moving away from the show, and what it means to him to come back to it all these years later, albeit for a different character with a whole new perspective. Toran will be playing Che, a new character introduced for the TV movie who has a surprising tie back to the original cast of characters. Toran talks a bit about Che below, along with the family atmosphere of Hey Arnold! and the positive power of nostalgia.
How did you find out about Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie?
Lane Toran: I think Hey Arnold! contacted my manager and that’s how I first heard. The cool thing about Craig is that it’s kinda become like a family. He keeps everyone involved. I voiced Arnold in the first couple of seasons, but then my voice changed; he still brought me back as a different character, as Wolfgang. They’re just like that. They want people to be a family there and that’s how it is.
It’s always been there. When people find out that I voiced Arnold, they’re reaction is … usually they’re shocked. It’s so crazy, but so fun. In the recent time since the announcement of the movie, it’s been kind of crazy. There’s been a lot of press about it, so it’s definitely become a larger part of my life recently, for sure.
Did you ever think you’d be revisiting this series?
Toran: I know the fans have been petitioning for so long to have The Jungle Movie made, and I knew it would always be a possibility. I didn’t just automatically think that I’d be a part of it, honestly, which I’m super grateful that I am. I had a feeling that something would happen later on.
What was it like for you to revisit the series, even as a completely different character?
Toran: It’s just fun. Seeing everyone again was like a reunion, just being a part of something. I’m a fan of the show as well, so I have the same excitement the fans do about watching this film.
What can you tell us about your character, Che?
Toran: He works on the ship in San Lorenzo. That’s where the character pops up. He’s Olga’s love interest. Another thing, too, that’s kind of funny: Craig made a character in there that looks like me in real life. He doesn’t say anything, but if you’re watching, he’s in the background and he has a beard and suspenders. It’s pretty funny.
What’s his newfound popularity been like?
Toran: I’ve got to say, it’s kind of life-changing. I had an Instagram page prior to that, and I was kind of getting known on there just for my beard, which sounds so funny, but that’s when it was really popular. The beards were just like a new thing and cool back then. Then, all of a sudden, I probably had like 70-some-thousand followers at the time, and then the Buzzfeed article came out and literally overnight or a few days, I gained almost 100,000 followers just from that article. In that aspect, it’s crazy.
What would you say has opened up more doors in your career: the beard or Hey Arnold?
Toran: [laughs] I think it’s kind of hand-in-hand, honestly. If I hadn’t been on Instagram doing what I was doing, that article never would have come out.
Arnold’s been voiced by a number of actors over the years, so what was it like for you to pass the baton?
Toran: Let’s talk about Mason [Vale Cotton] first, because Mason is awesome. I think everyone is going to absolutely fall in love with him in this. He did such a good job. I’m super proud of him. It was crazy, when I first heard his voice I was amazed; I thought it sounded so similar to mine. I was super happy about that.
Back when I was recast a long time ago, of course it sucked back then, it wasn’t like a happy thing. But they tried for a long time to digitally raise my voice, but shit happens. It just didn’t work, but that was okay. I was still part of the show afterwards. I still got to hang around with them, and it was all good. It all worked out.