For Jim Jinkins and David Campbell, founders of the Manhattan-based toon shop Jumbo Pictures, acquisition by the Walt Disney Co. last year could not have come at a better time. “While we’d had great fortune with the ratio of things we created and developed to what we sold, we were watching all this drying up and getting very tiny,” Jinkins says of the studio. So Disney, faced with programming newly acquired ABC as well as its own cable channel, bought Jumbo. But in this case, acquisition did not mean absorption. “They bought us and hired us to run the company and keep it Jumbo,” Campbell explains.
Under Disney’s auspices, Jinkins and Campbell moved their signature creation, “Doug,” the comic misadventures of an 11-1/2-year-old boy, from its berth at Nickelodeon to ABC’s Saturday morning lineup, with the title “Brand Spanking New Doug.” While not exactly brand spanking new, the show did undergo some changes.
“We tell 22-minute stories now, and we decided to let Doug turn 12; therefore, everything is a little more complex,” Campbell says. He stresses, however, that the changes were not dictated by Mouse folk. “Some have criticized Disney for what they have done to ‘Doug,’ but Disney has not touched ‘Doug,’ ” Campbell insists. “I wanted to crank it up a little bit. That was my decision.”
Adds Jinkins: “I never made ‘Doug’ for Nickelodeon. I made it for kids, and I’m still making it for kids, not for Disney or ABC.”
The two have, however, jumped into the Disney mainstream by executive producing (along with studio regulars Tony Craig and Bobs Gannaway) the upcoming series version of “101 Dalmatians.” “We wanted to get involved with Disney proper,” Campbell says. “We want our people on the East Coast to be invested in Disney and we want all the Disney people to feel the same way about Jumbo.”
In developing “Dalmatians” for television, Jinkins (who counts the 1961 animated feature, which serves as source material for the series, as one of his favorite films) says he “just kept it simple. You look at the movie and see where it ends, then pick it up there and keep going.” The series will focus on the adventures of three puppies out of the vast litter, whose nemesis is a sleekly redesigned (by Craig) Cruella de Vil. The show also will introduce a new character, a chicken named Spot who thinks it’s a dog.
As if 65 episodes of “Dalmatians” for both network and syndication and eight additional episodes of “Brand Spanking New Doug” weren’t enough, Jinkins and Campbell are developing a feature-length Doug story for homevideo release, and are hoping to branch out into live-action projects (both have extensive live-action backgrounds).
The Jumbo players also are planning to take full advantage of Disney’s vast licensing and marketing machine. “Disney knows how to take a success out to all the other realms, from fast food to books to toys,” Campbell says. ” ‘Doug’ was very successful previously, but only in television; nothing ever happened with it in any other area.”
Jinkins is particularly delighted that the company plans to market “Doug” books, since the character derived from an unpublished kids book he created a decade ago. “It’s so huge and exciting, it’s hard to even realize it’s happening,” he says.