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From Thumb Thumbs to 3D Glasses: The Spy Kids Timeline Explained

Our mouths are still watering over that dehydrated McDonald's meal!

By Josh Weiss
aJuni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) wears spy tech glasses in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002).

If you grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was almost impossible not to be enamored with the Spy Kids franchise (now streaming on Peacock). With his family-friendly — and delightfully cartoonish — spin on the James Bond formula, writer/director Robert Rodriguez tapped into something truly special. He delivered the ultimate vicarious experience for wide-eyed youngsters, who could easily identify with the two lead protagonists: siblings Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alexa PenaVega and Daryl Sabara).

What kid wouldn't want to travel around the globe on secret missions, toy around with all manner of sci-fi gadgets, and microwave dehydrated food packets into steaming trays of the finest McDonald's nosh? And as the series went on, Rodriguez continued to up the imaginative ante, throwing in everything from genetic monsters to 3D glasses. Let's take a closer look at the whole franchise...

For More on Spy Kids:
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This Week in Genre History: Spy Kids saved the world (and we met the Thumb Thumbs)

The Spy Kids Timeline Explained

Spy Kids

The first Spy Kids movie takes place nine years after Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (played by Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) decided to retire from their lives as agents of the OSS — aka the Organization of Super Spies — and raise a family. But when several of their former colleagues are kidnapped and transformed into hideous mutants by inventor/kids show host, Floop (Alan Cumming), and his scheming right-hand man, Alexander Minion (Tony Shalhoub), the married couple springs into action for one last mission. However, years of retirement have made Gregorio and Ingrid a bit rusty and they too are captured, leaving the fate of the world up to their bickering children, who, it turns out, have inherited their parents' uncanny knack for spy-work. Carmen and Juni make Floop see the light, rescue the kidnapped OSS agents, and prevent Minion from conquering the planet with an army of robot children. And let's not forget the Thumb Thumbs. Still one of the wildest visuals to ever grace the silver screen.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams takes place an indeterminate amount of time after the first movie. But since the sequel was released a little over a year later, let's just assume that's how much time has passed within canon (the same goes for the gap between Spy Kids 2 and Spy Kids 3-D). Following the successful mission at Floop's castle, the OSS has decided to launch an entire division of underage operatives capable of carrying out assignments that no adult can. The Cortez family is riding high until a band of magnetic miscreants makes off with a dangerous piece of government technology known only as the "Transmooker Device." Blamed for the incident, Juni finds himself disavowed by the OSS and must salvage his reputation by recovering the Transmooker from a mysterious island inhabited by skeleton pirates and Moreau-like genetic abominations cooked up in an underground lab by a reclusive scientist named Romero (Steve Buscemi). You've probably come across his famous line of dialogue, which has since become a viral meme: "Do you think God stays in heaven because he, too, lives in fear of what he's created here on Earth?" Pure poetry! And those monster designs? Simply iconic! Romero's beasties, along with R.A.L.P.H., made for must-have action figures back in the day.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Despite clearing his name in The Island of Lost Dreams, Juni has left the agency to become a private investigator (fun fact: the opening case of the dried-up water park features a brief appearance by a young Selena Gomez). Our hero's solo gumshoe career doesn't last long once the OSS comes knocking. Carmen has gone missing inside a fully immersive video game ominously-titled Game Over. Juni must enter the virtual world and shut the whole operation down before the game's creator, the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone playing a precursor to Ready Player One's James Halliday), can take over the minds of young players around the world. Throughout the course of the film — which does have some clever uses for the whole 3-D gimmick — we learn it was the Toymaker who was responsible for the accident that paralyzed Juni's grandfather (Ricardo Montalbán) 30 years prior. Oh, and the final battle, where all our favorite characters from the previous movies show up to defeat a giant robot, was basically the Avengers: Endgame of its time.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World

Released eight years after Game Over, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World serves as a soft reboot of the franchise, with Carmen and Juni relegated to supporting roles as they pass the torch on to a new generation of heroes: Rowan and Cecil Wilson (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook). The fourth franchise installment takes place seven years after the OSS axed the Spy Kids program "due to budget cuts," Carmen explains (despite its 2011 theatrical debut, All the Time in the World kicked off production in 2010). Rodriguez cheekily acknowledging the passage of time between movies feels appropriate, not only because the series was out of the spotlight for so long, but also because the film's presciently-named antagonist, Tick Tock (Jeremy Piven), nearly ends the world by speeding up time itself.

Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World are now streaming on Peacock.

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