Nearly every ’90s kid can hum the theme from Doug. At least, the Nickelodeon version. Douglas Yancey Funnie was your average 11 1/2-year-old with an overactive imagination. The journal writing, banjo playing Doug was the new kid in school, as his family had just moved to Bluffington from Bloatsburg. He quickly becomes friends with Mosquito “Skeeter” Valentine, while avoiding the school bully, Roger Klotz, and falling in love with Patti Mayonnaise. Did I mention his neighbor, Mr. Dink, is purple?
Created by Jim Jinkins, Doug was one of the first Nicktoons, premiering alongside other ’90s staples Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy. The show followed Doug — and his internal monologue — as he went through life dealing with normal issues that plagued 11 1/2 year olds. The show never delved into deep or somber material, instead showcasing things like having a crush, bullying, learning to dance, and lying. A key element to the show was Doug’s overactive imagination. He would often fantasize about being various characters he invented like Smash Adams, Race Canyon, and of course, Quailman. All of these characters were parodies of popular heroes. I’ll let you guess which.
There were many inventive ideas and images that made the show and characters unique. Characters on the show came in a range of colors. The Funnie’s are white (ish), while Skeeter is blue, Roger is green, Patti is … tan, I guess. And yes, his neighbor, Mr. Dink — “Hello, Douglas!” — is purple. The naming conventions used were also different, but endearing. Aside from the odd last names, there was a strange obsession with beets. The main reference being a band based on The Beatles named after the root. “Killer Tofu!!!”
I’m not the first person to notice this, but it’s likely Doug was schizophrenic. His fantasy sequences would end with him in the middle of some action similar to what was taking place in his head. Smash Adams was in a jail cell? Doug would come out of his fantasy crouched behind the bike rack, holding the bars as if they were trapping him. Other characters would rarely, if ever, comment on his actions, making me wonder if the other residents of Bluffington were just as crazy. And what was he doing when he was enacting the more intense scenes of his daydreams?
The show had two distinct flavors over its run. Doug ran on Nick from ’91 – ’94. Disney purchased creator Jinkins’ studio Jumbo Pictures in ’96. The show ran with new episodes from ’96 – ’99 as Disney’s Doug (and briefly Brand Spanking New! Doug). While the creative team remained the same, a few changes were made. Doug’s wardrobe was slightly altered with his white undershirt becoming long-sleeved instead of a T-shirt. Aside from a few cosmetic changes, time moved forward 3 months, allowing Doug to hit 12 years old. Roger was now rich, the Beets broke up, Honker Burger shut down, there’s a new baby sister named Dirtbike, and worst of all, Porkchop’s house. Doug’s lovable sidekick no longer lived in an igloo. Now it was a tepee. Heresy!
Disney’s Doug changed the format as well. Nick’s episodes were composed of two 11-minute segments, while Disney’s episodes took the full 22. Though Disney’s version ultimately proved to be more popular (I think broadcast vs. cable played a huge factor), a few people didn’t like the new version, particularly Billy West. West (Futurama, Ren & Stimpy, M&M’s commercials) voiced Doug and Roger on the Nick version. Due to payment disputes with Disney, West refused to return, saying years later that he didn’t care for the new version due to Doug’s voice replacement, Tom McHugh. Others complained, as well, but it’s the Internet, what else is new?
Doug ended in ’99, with a movie that spring titled Doug’s 1st Movie. With the success of the Rugrats movie, the originally intended direct-to-video movie was pumped to theaters. The movie played like an extended episode, animation and all.
Doug was a fantastic show that I was the perfect age to experience. This show made me feel more secure about myself by creating relatable characters and situations. Fans have loved the show, going so far as to recreate the opening, or parody a live action feature.
Care for one version over the other, or enjoy both equally? What color would you be? Mail in your response.
Banging on a trashcan…