The film used "Aroma-Scope," which allowed people to smell odors and aromas from the film via scratch and sniff cards (reminiscent of 1960s Smell-O-Vision), and it was not used again theatrically for eight years, until the release of Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.
The Rugrats go on an adventure through the safari. Tommy impersonates Nigel Thornberry, who is his role model and spoofs his nature show. However, the babies' broadcast is cut short when they come across a tiger and then a crocodile, both of which threaten them. Just as they begin sinking in quicksand and are nearly attacked, this is revealed as only imagination; the babies and their families are about to go on vacation on the Lipschitz cruise ship.
When the families arrive at the dock, they miss the Lipschitz cruise. Tommy's father, Stu, has rented a ramshackle boat called the S.S. Nancy which he reveals to be their real mode of transportation, and their real vacation. The families are angered that Stu did not consult them on his plans, and soon the boat is flipped over by a wave during a tropical storm. Everyone is forced to abandon the ship and board a life raft as the ship sinks. Everyone blames Stu for causing all of this and lose hope of being saved. Things start looking up when Angelica sings about having hope on the karaoke machine she brought, until she drops her Cynthia doll into the ocean and starts crying.
The next morning, they arrive on a small, seemingly uninhabited island (possibly in Southeast Asia). The adults argue about who should be the leader. When it gets out of hand, Betty suggests a test: she draws a circle around the fighting adults and tells everyone to step out of the circle, saying that it is the bad circle. They all step out and say that they all feel better, except Stu, and make Betty the leader, much to Stu's chagrin.
On the opposite side of the island is the famous globe-trotting family the Thornberrys (out to film a clouded leopard). Tommy, Chuckie, and the rest of the kids, except for Angelica, set off to find them, for they suspect they are somewhere on the island. Along the way, Chuckie gets lost and runs into the Thornberry's Tarzan-like child Donnie, who steals Chuckie's clothes.
Meanwhile, Eliza, the gifted Thornberry, is exploring about the jungle with Darwin, her chimpanzee companion and runs into Spike, the Pickles' dog. Since Eliza can talk to animals, Spike (now voiced by Bruce Willis) talks for the first time; he informs her that his babies are lost somewhere on the island. Under the impression that Spike means he is looking for puppies, Eliza (and a reluctant Darwin) agree to help him find them. Following a close encounter with Siri, an angry clouded leopard whom Spike believes to be just a regular domestic cat, they learn that he meant the human babies.
Simultaneously, Eliza's father, Nigel, finds the lost babies. He heads in their direction but ends up tumbling down a hill and suffers amnesia after a coconut falls on his head. Angelica (going by "Angelitiki, the Island Princess") runs into Debbie, the teenage Thornberry, and takes off with Debbie in the Thornberry's all-purpose mobile communication vehicle (commvee). While distracted, the two girls accidentally sink the commvee.
With the other parents' help, Marianne Thornberry, the mother of Eliza and Debbie and the wife of Nigel, raises the commvee and uses the automatic-retrieval system to rescue Nigel, who has regained his memory, and the babies. They are reunited with their families and forgive Stu, and everyone finally gets on board the Lipschitz cruise. Spike vows never to lose his babies again.
Main characters from RugratsE. G. Daily as Tommy PicklesNancy Cartwright as Chuckie FinsterKath Soucie as Phil, Lil, and Betty DeVilleDionne Quan as Kimi FinsterCheryl Chase as Angelica PicklesTara Strong as Dil PicklesCree Summer as Susie CarmichaelJoe Alaskey as Grandpa Lou PicklesJulia Kato as Kira FinsterMichael Bell as Drew Pickles and Chas FinsterJack Riley as Stu PicklesMelanie Chartoff as Didi PicklesTress MacNeille as Charlotte PicklesPhil Proctor as Howard DeVilleTony Jay as Dr. LipschitzLacey Chabert as Eliza ThornberryTom Kane as Darwin ThornberryTim Curry as Nigel ThornberryFlea as Donnie ThornberryDanielle Harris as Debbie ThornberryJodi Carlisle as Marianne ThornberryBruce Willis as Spike (The Rugrats)Chrissie Hynde as Siri the Sunda clouded leopard (The Wild Thornberrys)Ethan Phillips as Toa (The Wild Thornberrys)
Rugrats Go Wild was originally made by Klasky Csupo's television unit (directed by Mark Risley and written by Kate Boutilier), but after screenings, Paramount decided it should be shelved and remade into a feature film.
Among the biggest hype this movie received was Bruce Willis voicing Spike, and the use of "Odorama" cards to enhance the viewing experience, Burger King and Blockbuster released a scratch and sniff piece of cardboard that was to be scratched and sniffed during the run of the movie.
There were many complaints, however, that the only thing that the "Odorama" cards smelled like was cardboard. The Odorama card was somewhat of an homage to John Waters' (decidedly adult-oriented) film Polyester. Despite the homage, Waters felt he was ripped off and realized that New Line Cinema, the studio that released Polyester, didn't renew the copyright for Odorama. He later said that "a cheque would have been an homage".
"Odorama" cards would later be released with the DVD release of the movie. Early trailers for the film give the title The Rugrats Meet The Wild Thornberrys.
During its initial theatrical run, Go Wild was presented in "Smell-O-Vision". During certain scenes in the movie, an icon would Pop up on screen with an item inside of it (example: a smelly shoe). When this happened, audience members would smell a scratch-and-sniff card (which were handed out at the box office) with the corresponding image.
Rugrats Go Wild is the only Rugrats film to receive a PG rating by the MPAA.
The film was released on videocassette and DVD on December 16, 2003. Most VHS copies included a "Smell-O-Vision" scratch-and-sniff card, as did most initial run DVDs; however, later copies of the DVD, while still retaining the option to view the film with the scratch-and-sniff on, did not include additional cards. The film is also available as a part of the Rugrats 3-disc set of all three films, as well as a double feature 2-disc set that also included The Rugrats Movie.
As of March 23, 2014, the film held a 41% rating at the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus is, "The Rugrats franchise has gone from fresh to formulaic." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gives the movie a score of 38/100, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". The film grossed $39.4 million domestically and $55.4 million worldwide on a budget of $25 million. The film brought in less than each of the other two Rugrats films. The film opened at #4 with Finding Nemo at the #1 spot.
An original soundtrack was released on June 10, 2003, from Hollywood Records.
The following is a list of songs that appear on the Rugrats Go Wild soundtrack.