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How TV series ‘Doug’ hopped from Universal Studios Florida to Disney-MGM Studios

by Jeff DePaoli

If you were a theme park kid in the ‘90s, one of your favorite spots was most likely the old Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios Florida — it certainly was for me. As I recently went down a rabbit hole researching the old Nickelodeon Studios, I came across an image that sparked a memory in my mind. Surrounding the brightly-colored and eccentric studio building were some photo-op standees featuring beloved Nickelodeon characters. One of them included the characters Doug Funnie and Patti Mayonnaise from the hit Nicktoons series, “Doug.” As I recalled having my photo taken with Doug and Patti when I was a kid, it also sparked the memory of “Disney’s Doug Live!” at Disney-MGM Studios. But how did an iconic Nickelodeon character end up in a Disney park?

doug
Photo by Jeff DePaoli

“Doug” isn’t some throwaway series for Nickelodeon. It is an important part of Nicktoons history. When Nicktoons first launched in 1991, there were only three original animated series greenlit as part of the launch. One of them was “Doug,” along with “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and “Rugrats.” Of course, series can’t continue making new episodes forever (unless it’s “The Simpsons,” apparently), but a move from Nickelodeon at Universal Studios Florida to Disney-MGM Studios was an unexpected curveball that I don’t think anybody had predicted. As has often been touted, Nickelodeon often thought of themselves as the anti-Disney.

Nevertheless, after Nickelodeon decided not to renew the series after its fourth season ended in 1994, through a contractual loophole the character rights went back to “Doug” creator Jim Jinkins allowing him to work on new projects with these same characters. In 1996, the then head of ABC’s Saturday Morning lineup, Geri Laybourne — who just so happened to be the former president of Nickelodeon — decided to bring Doug and his friends to the alphabet network, which had been recently purchased by The Walt Disney Company.

Ultimately, Disney brought the characters back to television in 1997 with “Brand Spanking New! Doug” for seasons five and six, then later renaming it once again to “Disney’s Doug” for its final season ending in 1999. Disney had big plans for Doug as we would see Doug’s impact expand in 1999.

“Disney’s Doug Live!” premiered at Disney-MGM Studios in March 1999 as a stage musical featuring live vocals and created by the same folks who worked on the Disney animated series. I have very fond memories of seeing this short-lived show in person. Just days after the opening of the theme park show, “Doug’s 1st Movie” hit theaters, but it would end up being Doug’s only movie. Although Disney had plans to continue making Doug movies, the reviews and box office numbers weren’t enough to keep the franchise alive. This ultimately meant that “Disney’s Doug Live!” would only survive in the theme park for just over two years, ultimately closing in May 2001.

So, that is the crazy story of how a character made famous at Nickelodeon and featured at Universal Studios Florida ended up in a Disney theme park. It’s a bit crazy, but also really fascinating in my mind. I would be remiss not to mention that one of the voice actors who was part of “Doug” ever since the beginning also has a part of Disney-MGM Studios history on his resume. Actor Fred Newman voiced Skeeter Valentine and various other “Doug” characters, but may be most recognizable to ‘90s kids as the adult co-host of “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club” which shot at Disney-MGM Studios. If you’re as endlessly fascinated by this sort of ‘90s entertainment history, I suggest checking out “The Orange Years” documentary all about the origins of Nickelodeon.

Did you grow up watching any of the versions of “Doug?” If so, which iteration was your favorite? Did you ever get a chance to see “Doug” represented in any of the theme parks? Let me know in the comments.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.


Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.

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4 comments

Robin Fay ONeill January 9, 2022 - 3:32 pm

I am a big fan of Nicktoons! My son is now 24. His 1st movie was Doug’s 1st Movie at age 1-1/2. He had a small stuffed Doug as well as many of the other characters. Unfortunately, his 1st trip to Disney had Bear in the Big Blue House because Doug Live had just ended.
I still love the show. This was a great article. I did wonder how Disney acquired Doug.
We are still Nickelodeon fans. Miss it very much.

Reply
Jeff DePaoli January 12, 2022 - 2:43 pm

Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and that you learned something. FYI, Bear in the Big Blue House would have been on the Playhouse Disney stage. Doug was in the space that later staged American Idol and now Frozen.

Reply
Paul January 23, 2022 - 5:28 pm

I remember seeing Doug at MGM in 1999. It had to be that year because we went again in June 2001 and it was closed.

We were in our late 20’s and didn’t have kids at the time. We didn’t watch the show but I remember vividly the live show having an emotional impact on me.

It was similar to the impact saying goodbye to Stanley, JoJo’s Circus, the Little Einsteins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse had on us as our daughter outgrew them and moved to things like iCarly, Wizards of Waverly Place, Hannah Montana and things like that.

I wish Hollywood studios would convert the huge area where the Star Wars meet and greets were to a place where these old characters could come out and be met and enjoyed again. Our daughter is 18 now and has great memories. She would go see them everytime she’s there even as an adult!

Reply
Jeff DePaoli January 24, 2022 - 1:25 pm

I would love some nostalgia in the parks, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios especially seems to not lean into the past too much. It would be cool if there was a little Disney-MGM Studios museum in the park to recognize how that one started. It has changed so much.

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