Rugrats, Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show Premiered 25 Years Ago: 15 Things You Didn't Know About These Groundbreaking Series
Did you know the guy who did Doug's theme song was Gizmo in Gremlins?
Twenty-five years ago Thursday, Rugrats, Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show premiered on Nickelodeon. It’s hard to believe, but just seven years prior, the network was a huge failure, operating at a $10 million loss in 1984. By 1985, they’d launched Nick at Nite; in 1988, the Kids’ Choice Awards and Nick Jr.
So when the network opened Nickelodeon Studios within Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, all eyes were on them. And it didn’t disappointment, launching three soon-to-be iconic original animated series – Rugrats, Doug and Ren & Stimpy – all on the same day: Aug. 11, 1991. Since the cruel passage of time is all that unites us these days, we’re taking a look back at 15 things you might never have known about these iconic series.
1. Doug had the shortest lifespan of the original lineup
Poor Doug Funny’s show only ran for four seasons before it was acquired by Disney and relaunched as part of ABC’s Saturday morning lineup. Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy lasted nine and five seasons, respectively.
2. Rugrats was actually off the air for over two years
The show’s original run ended in May 1994, lasting barely three years. Over the next two years, the only new episodes created were the show’s two Jewish-themed episodes (which received critical acclaim) until the series was revived in 1997.
3. Bart Simpson and Chuckie Finster shared a voice
Nancy Cartwright replaced Christine Cavanaugh as the voice of Chuckie Finster in 2002, until the show’s end in 2004.
4. And Ren & Stimpy (and Doug) Are Both Voiced by Another Animation Veteran
Billy West, in addition to being the voice of the red M&M and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, voiced both Doug Funny and his nemesis Roger Klotz; Ren (for several seasons) and Stimpy. He would then move on to playing half the cast of Futurama and take over iconic cartoon voices like Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Shaggy, Popeye and Woody Woodpecker.
5. Ren & Stimpy date back to 1978
Series creator John Kricfalusi developed the characters while at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada, in 1978. Approached by Nickelodeon in the 1980s, he pitched them three shows. Ren and Stimpy were originally the pets of one of the children in another show Kricfalusi pitched called simply Your Gang.
6. Kricfalusi was the first casualty of Nickelodeon’s tight control
Kricfalusi served an apprenticeship under maverick animator Ralph Bakshi. Consequently, the first two seasons of The Ren & Stimpy Show were surreal, scatalogical and painstakingly animated. However, his efforts to push the envelope of what animated shows could do – and lackadaisical attitude towards deadlines – caused him to battle frequently with Nickelodeon’s brass, and he was fired from show after its second season. He was offered a consultant position, but turned it down, and the show limped on for three seasons after his departure.
7. Doug’s original name was ‘Brian’
Animator Jim Jenkins created Doug as an autobiographical character in the 1980s with the original name of “Brian.” After the name was changed, the character made it into a children’s book – Doug Got a New Pair of Shoes, rejected by New York’s publishing houses – and two TV commercials before eventually pitching it to Nickelodeon.
8. Bluffington is based on Richmond, Virginia
Jenkins grew up in Richmond, and he based Doug’s hometown Bluffington on his own, outlining it extensively in the show’s huge “bible,” which every writer had to read from cover to cover to keep the series consistent. Virtually every aspect of the fictional universe was mapped out, from characters’ homes’ floor plans to maps of the town’s streets.
9. Cheryl Chase was John Kricfalusi’s secretary when she was cast as Angelica
Chase auditioned for Tommy, Phil and Lil before the character of Angelica was even created. She got the part, but she had to record her lines during a four-hour break from her regular secretary gig at Kricfalusi’s studio Spumco. “I called Rugrats my ‘waitress job’ because I still needed to work” she told Decider in June. “It wasn’t paying enough.”
10. Kricfalusi deliberately wanted a Peter Lorre voice for Ren
“I knew I wanted a Peter Lorre voice for Ren, because I had been doing it myself for years while pitching and acting out stories,” he told Decider in 2016. “I auditioned every voice actor I knew and I couldn’t get the intensity or insanity I wanted out of anybody. Someone was watching me direct all the actors and suggested I do it myself and put it on tape. I never wanted to be a voice actor. I hate the sound of my voice every time I hear it on my answering machine. But I did the recording, sent the tape in to Nickelodeon, and ended up getting the job.”
11. Patti Mayonnaise was literally cast from a mayonnaise commercial
First of all, listen real close: That’s Constance Shulman, or Yoga Jones from Orange Is the New Black. Jim Jinkins saw the commercial above, loved the voice and by coincidence, his wife happened to be teaching an aerobics class Shulman was attending.
12. The man behind Doug‘s mouth-music was also the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins
Fred Newman’s role as Gizmo in Gremlins was his first film job. He’d also written a book called Mouthsounds in 1980, so he was pretty much the guy you want – who wasn’t Michael Winslow – to make weird noises in your film or TV show.
13. Ren & Stimpy were LGBTQ icons
“We got lots of letters from gay couples who identified with Ren and Stimpy,” Kricfalusi told Decider. The pair shared a bed, lived as partners and discussed a wedding. Also, Kricfalusi “outed” them as a couple in a 1997 article with the San Francisco Examiner.
14. Doug had a serious moral mission
Jenkins was a youth minister and briefly pursued an apprenticeship after college. “I wanted each story to have a purpose and not just be random jokes,” he told Decider. Head writer Ken Scarborough told the site that Nickelodeon “hated that we were teaching lessons.”
15. One Rugrats animator would graduate to decidedly more mature fare
Peter Chung, who worked on Rugrats for its entire run, would later work on the groundbreaking animated series Aeon Flux for MTV and contribute a segment to the expanded universe world of The Matrix in The Animatrix.