Tommy, Chucki, Phil, Lil and Angelica are ready for their closeup. Nickelodeon has just announced that the pint-sized stars of the cabler’s popular “Rugrats” toons are making the transition to the big screen. Directors Norton Virgien and Igor Kovalyov, who have both worked on the TV series, will be directing “Rugrats, the Movie,” set for a late 1998 release via Paramount. Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo are the film’s producers.

“The ‘Rugrats’ movie will give us the opportunity to fully explore the characters in a new way,” says Deborah Breece, Nickelodeon Movies prexy. “Although we’re trying to keep the details of the plot under lock and key, I can tell you that we’re introducing a completely new ‘Rugrat’ character.”

Breece says the feature will retain the series’ clean, quasi-naive style of animation, while using digital technology to enhance the possibilities of the medium. When asked about the budget, she diplomatically says, “It’s far less than a Disney picture, but far more than a TV series.”

The actors who supply the voices for the series also will work on the feature. This summer, Nick hopes to sign several major Hollywood names to add some star power to its guest voice lineup.

“Harriet the Spy” was the Nickelodeon’s first theatrical release. Nick’s second live-action pic, “The Good Burger Movie,” based on a comic sketch from the “All That” series, (with Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell) will hit theaters before the “Rugrats” movie.

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