It's been over 10 years since fans were treated to new episodes of Hey Arnold!. And, for over a decade, fans of Nickelodeon's hit cartoon about a kid with a football-shaped head have been asking the same question: what happened to Arnold's parents? Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie finally puts that question to rest, putting an end to the greatest mystery from the series. In the new Hey Arnold! movie, Arnold and his class go on an international school trip to the jungles of San Lorenzo, a fictional country in Central America, the same country where his explorer parents were last seen.
Since fans met Arnold when Hey Arnold! premiered in 1996, what happened to his parents has been a mystery haunting both the viewers and Arnold himself. In addition to his trademark blue and orange outfit, his football head, and his wacky yellow hair, the one thing we know for sure about Arnold is that he lives with his grandparents, and have for quite some time. Who his parents were or where they went wasn't even addressed until the show's Season 3 episode "Parents Day," in which it was revealed that Arnold's parents were explorers and had disappeared on a humanitarian mission to San Lorenzo, along with the plane that was carrying them. They were never heard from again — until now. In Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, Arnold finally learns what exactly happened on that trip to San Lorenzo, and — spoiler alert — comes face to face with his parents.
In Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, Arnold and his classmates — now in the fifth grade — go down to San Lorenzo and work together to find his missing parents. With Helga and Gerald by his side, Arnold is committed to finding his mom and dad, and he's not going to let a group of unruly pirates (yes, really) or a few jungle dangers get in his way. But locating his parents is just the first step in creating a real Hey Arnold! family reunion. It turns out, Arnold's parents haven't been galavanting around San Lorenzo, they've been sick and unable to return home.
After many jungle adventures, Arnold finally arrives at the place where his parents were last seen: a mysterious community run by children. The kids are in charge there because all of the adults have fallen ill with sleeping sickness, and are essentially in long comas. Arnold's parents, who originally traveled down to San Lorenzo to try to cure the sleeping sickness epidemic, have also come down with the sickness. After helping a few people, they ran out of the cure and became infected — they've been asleep for the last 10 years.
Desperate to get his parents back, Arnold and his friends manage to find a cure for the sleeping sickness. After curing everyone in San Lorenzo, including his parents, Arnold finally gets the family reunion he's always wanted, and he takes his parents home. (In case you were wondering, yes, sleeping sickness is a real thing — known as Typanosomiasis, according to the World Health Organization.)
Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie wraps up a huge mystery, but it also sets the stage for a possible TV reboot. "The movie's been made to act perfectly as closer so that everybody feels satisfied that all of the storylines got wrapped up," show creator Craig Bartlett in an interview with The AV Club. "And also, at the end of the movie, they're starting sixth grade, so season six is also my hope." The two hour special Hey Arnold! movie could be just the beginning of a brand new generation of new Hey Arnold! cartoons.