‘Doug’: A Different Project’s Failure Eventually Launched the Hit Series

As any creator will tell you, finding a successful project is a work of trial and error. Just ask any of the many people who have been rejected by Shark Tank investors or the creators of expensive films that flopped at the box office. Just coming up with an original idea is hard enough, but bringing it forward to the world and being able to convince other people to give the project a chance is even more difficult. 

Lucky for us entertainment lovers, many creators won’t take no for an answer. When things don’t go the way they hoped, they’ll retool their ideas and bring them to life in new formats, giving us movies, books, and TV shows we never would have gotten without the sting of rejection. 

That was the case for Jim Jinkins, the creator of the hit Nickelodeon show Doug. What started as a failed project became a beloved children’s series. 

‘Doug’ was one of the first original animated shows on Nickelodeon

The Nickelodeon logo
The Nickelodeon logo | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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It might be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Nickelodeon was a struggling network that couldn’t find its footing. The network — which launched in 1977 under the name Pinwheel — initially tried to bill itself as a commercial-free educational platform that parents could embrace as a positive influence for their kids.

By the 1980s, the network executives could see that this branding wasn’t working. They had already changed the name to Nickelodeon, and soon they added in commercials and shifted their focus. Instead of trying to convince parents they were providing programming that was good for kids’ developing brains, they would target kids directly by creating content that catered to their juvenile interests. 

This new approach worked wonders, and soon Nickelodeon was creating its very own original contentDoug was among the first animated series to launch, and it premiered in 1991 alongside hits like Rugrats and The Ren & Stimpy Show

‘Doug’ focused on the average life of a sixth grader

RELATED: ‘Doug’ Creator, Jim Jinkins, Created Bluffington After a Tough Breakup

Doug had a rather unremarkable plot, but that was the point. It focused on the life of Doug Funnie, a sixth grade boy who recently moved to Bluffington. We get a lot of his perspective through his journaling and doodles, and he also has vivid daydreams that include his alter-ego, Quailman. 

Doug does the things that any new kind in town would have to do: make new friends, get a crush on a classmate, and navigate a minefield of bullies, homework, and growing up. He was relatable, big-hearted, and funny. 

Jim Jinkins created the show after facing rejection

The creator of Doug is a man named Jim Jinkins. He went on to serve as a writer and producer for other children’s shows including Allegra’s WindowDisney’s Doug (the version of his show that ran for three seasons after the Nickelodeon one ended), and Pinky Dinky Doo

The inspiration for Doug came from some of Jinkins’ own struggles. He sketched out the world of Bluffington — a tiny town free of major worries — as he faced a tough breakup and wanted an escape from his own problems. Those ideas eventually became a book that Jinkins tried to pitch to several publishers. It was called Doug Got a New Pair of Shoes. Unfortunately, as Mental Floss reports, Jinkins couldn’t get anyone to take on the project. 

Rather than let that rejection put an end to his project idea, Jinkins regrouped and turned the unpublished book into his pitch for Nickelodeon. Doug and his friends got a much livelier and more robust world through the television series that came as a result.