November 11, 2017


(Nickelodeon, August 11, 1991-January 2, 1994
ABC, September 7, 1996-June 26, 1999)

Jumbo Pictures, Walt Disney Television Animation, Plus One Animation

Billy West (Nick) - Douglas Yancey “Doug” Funnie, Roger M. Klotz, Boomer Bledsoe, Joseph “Joe” Valentine, Coach Spitz
Tom McHugh (Disney) – Douglas Yancey “Doug” Funnie
Chris Phillips (Disney) – Roger M. Klotz, Boomer Bledsoe, Larry
Fred Newman – Mosquito “Skeeter” Valentine, Porkchop, Cleopatra “Dirtbike” Funnie, Mr. Bud Dink, Joseph “Joe” Valentine (Disney), Stinky, Ned Cauphee
Constance Shulman – Patricia “Patti” Mayonnaise
Alice Playten – Beebe Bluff, Ruby Valentine
Becca Lish – Theda Funnie, Judy Funnie, Connie Benge, Wendy Nespah
Doug Preis – Phillip Funnie, Lamar Bone, Chalky Studebaker, William “Willie” White, William “Bill” Bluff III, Walter “Skunky” Beaumont (Disney), Monroe Yoder, Clyde “Chap” Lipman
Eddie Korbich – Albert Sleech, Moose “Moo” Sleech
Fran Brill –Loretta Lequigly (Nick), Emily Kristal (Disney)
Guy Hadley (Disney) – Guy Graham

            It’s rare when a show can be a part of the debut of two different eras of television.

Classic Doug.

            Cartoonist Jim Jinkins created his character one day while doodling in his sketchbook. Initially, he planned to make it an autobiographical character named “Brian”, but decided on “Doug” instead as it sounded plainer and middle of the road. Jinkins viewed Doug as an alter-ego and drew him in a variety of scenarios in his sketchbook. 

Doug's book debut.

            In 1984, Jinkins’ life took a hard turn and he wanted to create a bit of escapism from the harshness of reality. He began to develop Doug and his environment further, with the help of friend and eventual business partner David Campbell and margaritas from a local Mexican restaurant. Campbell suggested turning Doug into a children’s book, which Jinkins did. He shopped Doug’s Got a New Pair of Shoes to all of New York’s publishers and it was passed up by everyone except Simon & Schuster—at least until a management change happened before the deal could be finalized. In 1988, Jinkins brought Doug to television in a series of Florida Grapefruit Growers commercials (narrated by Lorenzo Music) and for USA Network promotional bumpers in 1989.

Doug, Judy and their parents are comin' to town!

            Meanwhile, cable network Nickelodeon was looking to expand its original content and find creative people to do it. Jinkins met with executive Vanessa Coffey and showed her his Doug book. Coffey immediately became excited for the project and quickly ordered a pilot based on Jinkins’ characters. His was one of three pilots chosen out of eight to become one of Nick’s debut “Nicktoons”. Jinkins negotiated a contract that would allow him to maintain a strong measure of control over the show, allowing his Jumbo Pictures studio to produce the series. He also got the right to shop the series to another network if Nick failed to order a complete run of 65 episodes as a means to keep his creation alive. 

Doug hanging out with Porkchop and working on a Quailman story.

            The show, while no longer strictly autobiographical, drew heavily on Jinkins’ experiences growing up and the people he knew. It centered around the title character, 11-year-old Douglas Yancy Funnie (Billy West), moving to the fictional town of Bluffington (loosely based on Jinkins’ childhood home of Richmond, Virginia) with his family: mother Theda (Becca Lish), father Phillip (Doug Preis), older sister Judy (also Lish), and faithful dog Porkchop (Fred Newman). Doug spent a lot of time writing about his experiences and lessons learned in his journal, while also partaking in some creative writing; particularly in the adventures of his own superhero, Quailman (inspired by Jinkins home movies playing pretend). The Funnies lived next door to the Dinks: Bud (Newman) and Tippy (Doris Belack). Doug often turned to Mr. Dink for advice, although most of the time his eccentric neighbor was no help at all. The Dinks’ name came from the acronym for “Dual Income, No Kids”.

Doug with Skeeter and Patti.

            Doug’s first new (and eventually best) friend was Mosquito “Skeeter” Valentine (Newman), who helped Doug navigate the strange ordering system at the local fast food hangout, the Honker Burger. Skeeter was modeled after Jinkins’ best friend, Tommy Roberts. Doug’s other close friend was Patricia “Patti” Mayonnaise (Constance Shulman), who was kind and helpful towards others but could become very competitive and exhibited a short fuse when pushed far enough. She was based on Jinkins’ crush from junior to high school and her name came from two girls he knew growing up. There was also the Sleech Brothers; identical twins Albert and Moose (both Eddie Korbich) who were geniuses and occasionally helped Doug with some of his problems. Their other friends were Beebe Bluff (Alice Playten), the spoiled heiress to the Bluff family fortune, and Connie Benge (who had a different appearance and went unnamed in the first season, voiced by Lish), Patti’s best friend who seemed to have a crush on Doug. 

Roger with his gang of Willie, Boomer and Ned.

            Of course, no town is a purely friendly place. Doug often found himself at odds with the local bully, Roger Klotz (West), based on a bully that plagued Jinkins’ neighborhood. Roger was three years older than everyone else, having been left back repeatedly. He lived in a trailer park with his mother and cat, Stinky (Newman). Roger also had an on/off crush on Judy (awk-ward!). Roger’s main cronies were William “Willie” White (Pries), the dimwitted son of the scatterbrained Mayor Bob White (Greg Lee); Ned Cauphee (Newman), the smartest and most vocal of the trio with ten brothers and twin sisters; and Boomer Bledsoe (West), who was comparatively the nicest of Roger’s gang. Antagonists weren’t just fellow classmates, however, but also authority figures. Particularly in the form of Assistant Principal Lamar Bone (patterned after Don Knotts, voiced by Pires), who was extremely strict and uptight when it came to his job, although not entirely unreasonable when presented with a good argument.

An assortment of the unique colorings of Bluffington's citizenry at the Honker Burger.

            A creative choice was made to give the characters all unique skin colors. Doug was pink, Skeeter was blue, Patti was orange, Roger was light green, Mr. Dink and Bebe were purple, and so on down the line. Jinkins selected that coloring after being inspired by his set of 200 design markers (and a few margaritas during the initial brainstorming sessions). In the years following, many would assume that Skeeter’s blue skin, along with his mannerisms, would indicate that he was African American. In reality, Jinkins just thought he would look good in blue. In interviews, Jinkins would say the colors “came to symbolize the irrelevance of race.”  Animation was handled by Hanho Heung-Up Company and Shanghai Morning Sun Animation.

An early rendition of the series' characters.

            Doug debuted on Nickelodeon on August 11, 1991 alongside Rugrats and The Ren and Stimpy Show. Jinkins wanted to change the show’s name to The Funnies, but the network encouraged him to use the original title. Jinkins was heavily involved in every aspect of the show and intended for it to have a timelessness that would keep it relevant in decades to come. He tasked the show’s writers to place a central theme at the top of each script to detail the issue Doug would be facing and what he’d learn from it. It was also important that the show didn’t become too preachy in its messages, so the production’s schedule was built around several weeks being dedicated to crafting the scripts. Every writer also had to familiarize themselves with the series’ massive bible which included a backstory for the town, street maps, and detailed floor plans for every featured house. The stable of writers included Ken Scarborough, Matt Steinglass, Marcy Winograd, Alan Silbeberg, Alan J. Higgins, Joe Fallon and Joe Aaron, amongst others. To oversee the writers, Nick assigned Mitchell Kriegman from Clarissa Explains it All and Will McRobb of The Adventures of Pete & Pete as the story editors.

Their favorite band, The Beets.

            For the music, Jinkins wanted to get away from the typical sound you’d hear in a cartoon soundtrack. The majority of the music utilized simple instrumentation by Dan Sawyer with mouth sounds provided by Newman, and his scat singing was used for scene transitions. The most complicated piece of music was the series’ theme. The theme was composed before the intro was even made, which was unusual. For the outro, a song from that episode’s second segment would play until Porkchop donned a pair of headphones that drowned out the music with a piece from the first one. That practice continued throughout the first season, but was abandoned in subsequent seasons for a single piece of music over the same animation. Each episode’s title card featured Doug opening a door into a dark room and his turning a light on to reveal his name. Porkchop would then scribble the title below it and Doug with chase him off-camera with a variation of a gag to follow (such as getting his foot stuck in a paint can) before he returned and turned the light back off.

Doug runs into Patti, Connie and Beebe.

Doug ran for a total of four seasons, falling 13 short of the 65 Jinkins contracted Nick for. The network cited the show’s expensive budget as the reason why they wouldn’t order a new season. And while the show did gain good ratings after a rocky start, it really didn’t fit in with the manic energy of the other Nicktoons shown at the time. As Nick had a two-year window to reverse their decision, Jinkins and Campbell tried to speed up the process by letting them know every time another network expressed interest in continuing the series. Ultimately, Nick didn’t change its mind, leaving the door open for Disney executive Linda Steiner to acquire the show for Disney’s recently-acquired television network: ABC.

Trading burgers for ice cream.

Jinkins sold Disney both Doug and his production company. To explain the gap between runs, it was treated as an extended summer vacation for the characters and the new show began with the kids starting a new grade at Beebe Bluff Middle School; advancing from 11 to 12-years-old. That was far from the only change: Roger and his mother became rich through a real-estate deal with the trailer park; The Beets, the favorite band of the main characters, broke up; The Honker Burger, their primary hangout, became the trendy Chez Honque and was replaced by an ice cream parlor run by Mr. Swirly (Bruce Bayley Johnson); Connie lost a significant amount of weight; the Sleech Brothers completely bypassed middle school and went to high school, leaving them out of school-based stories; with Mrs. Dink having been elected mayor, the former mayor became the principal of the junior high. Many of the characters got new, yet similar, looks: Doug’s sleeves and pant legs grew, Skeeter wore a blue vest, Patti switched from skirts to pants and had shorter hair, Roger’s leather jacket became a leather vest, and Beebe gained pants under her dress, amongst others.

The Funnies with their new addition, Dirtbike.

Several new characters were introduced. Doug gained a new baby sister, Cleopatra “Dirtbike” Funnie (Newman), so named based on a suggestion from Judy and her making fun of a list of Doug’s suggestions. Walter “Skunky” Beaumont (Pries) was a slacker surfer dude that was commonly mentioned in the Nick series and only heard once, but was made a regular character in the Disney series. Guy Graham (Guy Hadley) was the handsome and eccentric, though selfish and inconsiderate, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper (where Doug worked) and was made Doug’s rival, particularly for Patti’s affections; however, unlike Roger, Guy actually liked Doug. Doug’s new teacher was Emily Kristal (Fran Brill), who was a friendly and immense book lover and eventually became romantically involved with Patti’s father.

Quailman has a new rival for Patti's affections.

The biggest change of all came behind the scenes. As West’s status grew in the years since starting Doug, Disney couldn’t afford his salary on the show’s budget (rumored for years to be because he hated the changes Disney was making) and instead replaced him with Tom McHugh as Doug and Chris Phillips as Roger and Boomer. Along with West, many of those involved with the production of the series had also moved on to other projects and were unable to return for Disney’s run. Jinkins himself also had other commitments, meaning he wasn’t able to put as much attention on Doug as he had during the Nick years.

The series returned to television on ABC on September 7, 1996 for an additional three seasons, joining the One Saturday Morning programming block when it debuted the following year. Initially, it was called Brand Spankin’ New! Doug until it was renamed Disney’s Doug for the third and final season. Unlike the Nick version, the Disney show opted to feature a single story in every episode and the moral wasn’t as subtly presented. Along with returning writers Scarbrough, Steinglass and Fallon, new series writers included Don Gillies, Glenn Leopold, Dennis Garvey, Marcy Brown, Scott Fellows, and Steve Bannos, amongst others. Steve Granat and Cydne Clark served as the story editors, while Jim Rubin was the script coordinator. As Nickelodeon had copyrighted the original Doug theme, Disney’s version used a new theme as well as more instrumental music by Sawyer. Some of the original score did remain, but in a much smaller capacity. 

During the final season, a live stage show called Doug Live! opened in Disney MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and ran from 1999 until 2001. Doug and Patti appeared as meet ‘n’ greet characters around the park. Disney also revisited the concept of giving Doug his own movie. In 1993, Nickelodeon had planned to give its Nicktoons their own films with 20th Century Fox, but the plans fell through. Ultimately, Nick did succeed in bringing The Rugrats Movie to theaters in 1998 through Paramount. Doug’s 1st Movie was initially going to be a direct-to-video release called The First Doug Movie Ever, but when Rugrats proved successful, Disney decided to give Doug a theatrical release. Opening on March 26, 1999, the film was critically panned as feeling too much like an extended episode of the series, but due to its small budget it was able to become a commercial success by pulling in $19.4 million.

Doug continued to air on Nickelodeon in reruns until 2003, as well as on the Nicktoons channel from 2002-2005 and later on TeenNick in the programming block called The Splat. The Disney version was packaged for syndication under the Disney’s Doug title with a new closing credits sequence, replacing the one of Doug chasing Porkchop across the screen, and character-based shorts between commercial breaks. Reruns ran on The Disney Channel from 1999-2002, Disney’s One Too on UPN from 1999-2000 and Toon Disney from 2001-04. It would also have a run as part of the Kids’ WB weekday morning line-up.

Ad for Doug's 1st Movie toys.

Disney heavily merchandised Doug during its run. They released trading cards, toys by Mattel, a handheld game by Tiger Electronics, a video game by ImaginEngine and Disney Interactive, lunchboxes and clothing. Three series of books were published by Disney Press: Disney’s Doug in the Disney Chapters series, which adapted various episodes, Doug Chronicles, which were all-new stories, and The Funnie Mysteries, which were all-new stories with a mystery twist. Picture books were also published for younger fans. Short comics were printed in the pages of Disney Adventures magazine. For the series’ debut, Jack-in-the-Box included toys with their kids meals, and McDonald’s did the same in 1999 for the release of the movie on VHS by Walt Disney Home Video.

Disney's Doug on VHS.

Beginning in 1993, Nickelodeon released a series of VHS tapes containing multiple episodes of Doug through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Video. They later released three of the five seasons onto DVD across three sets between 2008 and 2009. In 2014, the entire Nick run was released in a complete series set. Beginning in 1997, Walt Disney Home Video released the Disney version onto VHS with two episodes apiece. However, to date, the only part of the Disney version to see a DVD release was the film as part of the Disney Movie Club in 2012.

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