Janice Burgess Dies: Nickelodeon Executive Who Oversaw ‘Blues Clues’ Development, Created ‘The Backyardigans’ Was 72

Janice Burgess, who as an executive, producer or creator had a hand in some of the most seminal Nickelodeon animated series of the past 20 years, died Saturday in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. She was 72.

In 1998, Burgess created the first iteration of what would eventually become The Backyardigans, a fanciful show where five animal neighbors in a communal backyard imagine new settings and adventures. The first season of 20 episodes aired in 2004, with critics praising its appeal for both kids and parents as well as its “artistic exactitude” when portraying different genres and setting.

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The series ran for four seasons on Nick Jr. (through 2013) with Burgess taking home the Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program in 2008. During that time, she also worked as the story editor for Nickelodeon’s revival of Winx Club and is credited as a writer on Bubble Guppies.

After working for Children’s Television Workshop in the early ’90s, Burgess joined Nick in 1995 as executive-in-charge of production, overseeing the development of Blue’s Clues and Little Bill. She later became the vice president of Nick Jr.

Writer Fracaswell Hyman, who met Burgess while both when he was head writer on Nick’s Gullah Gullah Island and she the exec in charge of production, wrote on Instagram, “Janice swept in with her acid-tongued wit, flowing Hermes scarves and omnipresent cigarettes. Instead of an overseer, she became a friend. She recognized my magic before I did and made sure I was in the room and under consideration for many of the shows that came my way including Little Bill and Taina.”

Hyman continued, “Her script/story critiques were astute, clear and constructive…and oh, how we laughed! I will miss my dear friend. RIP.”

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