My Take On… #222: Did Disney Really Destroy Doug?

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When you think of the 90s and its’ animated series that still hold up for nostalgia, one of those shows was definitely Doug.

Doug is an American animated sitcom created by Jim Jinkins. The show focuses on the early adolescent life of its title character, Douglas “Doug” Funnie, who experiences common predicaments while attending school in his new hometown of Bluffington. Doug narrates each story in his journal, and the show incorporates many imagination sequences. The series addresses numerous topics, including trying to fit in, platonic and romantic relationships, self-esteem, bullying, and rumors. Numerous episodes center on Doug’s attempts to impress his classmate and crush, Patti Mayonnaise.

Jinkins developed Doug from drawings in his sketchbook that he created over the course of the 1980s. Doug, a mostly autobiographical creation, was largely inspired by Jinkins’s childhood growing up in Virginia, with most characters in the series being based on real individuals. He first pitched Doug as a children’s book to uninterested publishers before Nickelodeon purchased the show. Following this, the series went under further development, in which Jinkins meticulously detailed every aspect of the show’s setting. Jinkins was insistent that the series have a purpose, and instructed writers to annotate each script with a moral. The show’s unusual soundtrack consists largely of mouth noises.

The series premiered in 1991 on the cable network Nickelodeon, as the channel’s first original animated content alongside Rugrats and The Ren & Stimpy Show. The series’ original run consisted of 52 episodes over four seasons that were broadcast from 1991 to 1994.

A simple premise so really, what made Doug stand out and become as beloved as it does with that simple plot. Well, for one thing, the series was clever enough to keep all the stories relatable and topical to many people. Hell, even today, some of the topics the show was able to cover are still relatable, even in a technology advanced time we live in right now.

Another reason why the show works as well as it does is because of the great characters and the voice actors they got for them, all of them fit their characters very well, they got the right actors for them, and very rarely was there ever a character that felt out of place in terms of the voice actor they got for them.

Then, two years later, it was brought back only this time by Disney. In 1996, Disney acquired the series, retooling it with several creative changes, thus renaming it Brand Spanking New! Doug (retitled Disney’s Doug in 1998), and airing it for three years on ABC’s Saturday morning lineup. It became a top-rated show, inspiring various books, merchandise, a live musical stage show, and a theatrical feature, Doug’s 1st Movie, released at the series’ conclusion in 1999.

Well, okay, the animation looks about the same as it did on Nickelodeon so clearly that must mean the show was still just as good as it did on Nick, right?

….eh, not so much. Not only is Disney’s Doug seen as an inferior product compared to its’ original series but it was just seen as sanitized BS. It’s important to remember that this was back in the late 90s when Disney was still under this idea that every live-action movie made at that time as well as their TV shows had to appeal to the cool kids or how Disney saw cool kids, this was the time of shit like Quack Pack, Mr. Magoo, Meet The Deedles, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Inspector Gadget, just these TERRIBLE movies and TV shows where Disney forgot what it was before and just made whatever crap they could get to make sure they appeal to the cool kids and just failing miserably.

So, the question is did Disney really destroy Doug because of that? Why didn’t it work as well as it did on Nickelodeon?

For starters, while the animation looks very much like what they did over at Nickelodeon, there was just this sense that something was off like Disney never really understood why Doug worked on Nickelodeon and had to add their own flair to something that they had no idea what made it work the first time around.

Starting with the newest voice actors they got for this. Billy West works so well as Doug because West gave him the voice of an average kid in high school so when he talks, your audience can connect to him because “hey, he speaks just like how I speak. In the Disney version, Doug sounded much too older than he probably should be, Tom McHugh plays him in the new version and he sounds more like Doug in college than he does in high school and automatically, you’re taken out of the series because of that. Hell, Roger, who was also voiced by West, is played by Chris Phillips, who you’ll recognize for his work, and he does a better impersonation of West as Roger, why couldn’t they get him to be the replacement for Doug too? Besides that, a lot of the voices are back from the original series, a lot of the same people are playing the same characters they played in the original show and that makes it even more confusing because it’s like everybody else hasn’t aged but Doug has judging by that voice.

The stories got way too convoluted and way too out of place. The entire first episode of the new series is essentially everything getting rebooted, Doug doesn’t want to get his haircut, his parents are about to announce they’re going to have a baby (yeah, gotta throw that TV cliché into the mix now) and they pad that out all the way to the very end, they don’t even try to hide the fact that “hmm, maybe Doug’s mother is having a baby?” Even kids could figure that out right from the get go, Roger ends up becoming rich when Mr. Bluff ends up buying the trailer park he lives on to build a new school, Patti is homeschooled now, the Beets have broken up, everything that had been set up before Disney looked at and went “okay, let’s get rid of everything that was set up in the original and just start all over.” And it’s like, come on, we can accept a few changes but my god, 85% of the first episode is nothing but rebooting everything that had been set up previously.

A lot of the stories also go on for way too long. Instead of these breezy 11 minute shorts that Nickelodeon did, now we had 22 minute stories and the scripts are mostly written by people who can’t figure out how to write for 22 minute stories and keep us, the audience, invested in what’s going on but it can’t because all we have is just padding for stuff that is completely unrelated to what’s going on.

And then there was Doug’s 1st Movie and you’d think, “well okay, now they have a legitimate reason to make a feature length story because they are making a movie surely, this can work right?” Nope, get this, in October 1998, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride came out on video and one of the previews on their was for a feature length direct-to-video Doug movie so you’re thinking, okay, it’s direct-to-video, lower my expectations and it could be enjoyable.

Lion King 2 came out on VHS October 27, 1998, a month later, The Rugrats Movie was released and it was a massive hit at the box office, it was the #1 non Disney animated feature film for a while after that. And all of a sudden, that Doug movie that was suppose to be a straight-to-video feature suddenly had to become a theatrically released feature film and sure enough…

First of all, calm down trailer announcer guy, I mean, my god, this has to be the most overhyped trailer announcer ever. Second, a lot of these questions in the trailer for this are never answered in the movie and if they are, you already know the answers because most people my age at that time would’ve already figured out what those answers were going to be. THIRD, they did not do ANYTHING different in this movie to make it look like it was meant to be on the big screen, not a damn thing, it looks like a direct-to-video movie blown up for the big screen, it is the definitive definition of a cash grab, the only reason Doug’s 1st Movie went to theaters was solely because The Rugrats Movie was a massive hit, that’s it.

And also, the plot completely goes against everything the show was about, Doug & Skeeter trying to protect the Lucky Duck Lake Monster, a real creature in this world so now, this show that was meant to be more realistic and set in stone has now entered absurdity when you throw in this monster, this would never happen in real life. And not only that, every single character in this movie is so stupid, it’s like every character in this movie that was taken seriously in the series has now been reduced to cardboard cutouts of their former selves because some of the decisions that these characters make in this are so stupid and unrealistic.

So in answer to the question on if Disney really destroyed Doug, I would say yes, it did. They took a show with a simple concept, a boy going through his everyday life with his friends and family in his hometown and made it completely ridiculous and make no sense by the end of it. Not to mention, they Disneyfied is to a point where it got so tedious and boring that you stopped caring about these characters you’ve come to know and love. Thankfully, Disney has gotten out of that “what are the kids of today up to?” phase and have become that great studio they used to be again because that was a dark period of time for them in the late 90s and what they did to Doug was the centerpiece of those disastrous five years.

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