Sunday, May 11, 2014

At Nickelodeon

The end of last week I spent a few hours at Nickelodeon Cartoon Studios in Burbank, walking around and talking to artists.

A couple of years ago, Nick was developing new animated shows that were mostly CG. The company had jettisoned several veteran executives and decided to focus on 3-D computer graphics, hitching the corporate wagon to the new hot format.

But the gambit didn't turn out precisely as planned. Budgets got bigger, but audiences didn't. ...

... Of the top 10 most-watched cable networks in March, only one slipped more than Nick. And therein lies more bad news for Nick, because that network is its evening offshoot: Nick at Night fell 36 percent to 942,000 average daily viewers. ...

Nickelodeon discovered that, even though CG animation is de rigueur in the theatrical realm, it doesn't drive audiences in TV land. Four to eight-year-olds are just as content watching hand-drawn and flash animation, as they are the pricier CG stuff.

So eighteen months ago, Nickelodeon performed a course correction, brought in new execs, and ordered some hand-drawn shows that ... whattayaknow! .. did pretty well. And last week there was this:

... A second season [of 20 episodes] is in the oven for Nickelodeon’s Breadwinners, a popular animated series that ranks #1 in its Saturday 11:00 a.m. time slot with Kids 2-11/6-11 and Boys 2-11/6-11. The announcement was made today by Russell Hicks, President, Content Development and Production. ...

Breadwinners, of course, is in the older pencil tradition of Nickelodeon.

But it's a step back from the company's earlier intention to make CG cartoons the core of Nick production. As a supervisor said:

"Russell Hicks got hired here as the head creative guy a year-and-a-half ago and he's changed things around quite a lot. There's seven or eight directors who give input, get together and look at stuff in development [I said it sounded like Lasseter's "brain trust".]

Yeah, sort of the same thing. Russell was an artist before he went into management. He still comes in early and draws, walks around to see what's going on. He saw some of my roughs and knew immediately what the idea I was working on was about. He didn't need finished, polished drawings because he knows what the rough drawings mean when he looks at them.

That's a BIG help." ...

Nick, like other cartoon companies, is enjoying boom times with its current product, which is why I'm seeing more artists in more cubicles. Nothing at all wrong with that.


Laura Hohman said...

The only downer there is the CG folk who they collected now have no new shows to jump onto; so instead they must jump ship. Luckily other studios seem to be expanding in the area.

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