If you grew up watching Hey Arnold!, you probably remember how cool the city Arnold and his friends lived in was. They were always sitting outside on door stoops, and Arnold's family lived in a nontraditional house with other city dwellers. But contrary to popular belief, BuzzFeed pointed out on Thursday, April 19 that Hey Arnold! didn't take place in Brooklyn, New York as many fans had believed. Apparently, the fictional city of Hillwood was inspired by Seattle, Portland, and, yes, Brooklyn. The real kicker, though, is that Hillwood was apparently in Washington state.
The Hillwood reveal isn't strictly new information. AltPress revealed last May that Hey! Arnold takes place in the Pacific Northwest. But then this week, BuzzFeed writer Lauren Yapalater wrote an article about the news. In the BuzzFeed article, Yapalater, a native New Yorker, recognized her own city in the cartoon, and she has some compelling arguments about why Hey Arnold! looks like it took place in Brooklyn. There are yellow cabs in the city, and the kids' stoop sitting habit is quintessentially Brooklyn. Plus, the cartoon skyline could easily have been inspired by New York's skyline. Yapalater makes some convincing points, and it's easy to see why so many fans of the Nickelodeon show thought it was about New York City.
So, if Hillwood is in Washington state, why does it resemble Brooklyn so much? Well, according to Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett, the answer is actually pretty simple. Because Hillwood is a fictional city, Bartlett was able to pull inspiration from multiple places, including his hometown of Seattle, as well as Portland and, yes, Brooklyn.
In an interview with CityLab published last November, Bartlett revealed that he was influenced by multiple cities when creating Hey Arnold!'s fictional setting. Speaking about Hillwood, Bartlett told the outlet,
"It's a northern city with a little bit of Seattle, a little bit of Portland, and a little bit of Brooklyn. There's certain aspects of New York that made it in —for one, the stoops. But whenever we needed a big-city feature, we usually borrowed from New York — there's a copy of the Brooklyn Bridge, and we even showed the Twin Towers. We also used Chicago's Wrigley Field for a couple baseball episodes, but called it "Quigley Field.'"
So if you, too, thought Hillwood resembled New York, you're not wrong. But it sounds like Bartlett didn't want the fictional city to resemble any real one too closely. It's not an Anytown type of place — no matter what state it was in, Hillwood was definitely an urban metropolis — but it's not just inspired by New York, either.
Fans were shocked to learn about the news, though, with many surprised people tweeting about Yapalater's article. Some fans flat-out denied the news, with one person tweeting, "I absolutely refuse to believe this." Another fan called the reveal "devastating."
Funnily enough, there's another show that fans can't agree on its location, either. Some fans believe that Riverdale is in upstate New York — it would explain why Veronica is able to, say, get cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery with relative ease. Others believe Vermont would be an ideal setting for the town's maple syrup business. And some fans have pointed out that the show could easily take place in Washington state, too.
It's nothing new for a show's setting to take a backseat to the characters' stories in a TV show. As Bartlett himself pointed out to CityLab, that's the case with many shows that take place in suburban settings. But it's less common for a show to feature its city as prominently as Hey Arnold! did without basing the city off of an actual place. Then again, maybe that's why Hillwood seemed so enticing for fans.