March 10th, 2016 / Variety / Geoff Berkshire
Nickelodeon Animation Studio has big plans for the future.
With 31 titles currently in production, including live action, movies and shorts, spread out across various L.A. areas from Glendale to Santa Monica, the company aims to unite the entire Nick family in a single facility opening in Burbank next year. And the studio hopes the new state-of-the-art five-story glass structure will become a hub for the entire animation industry.
“This will be the first time all our creative teams are actually together,” says Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president of content development and production. “Currently, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is being done in Glendale, ‘Dora the Explorer’ in downtown Burbank and ‘SpongeBob’ is housed at the animation studio. It will be the first time these major brands and creative hubs come together under one roof. I think it’s going to create a very exciting time and help next generation of creativity.”
Since the new site will house both live action and toon productions, the studio will also officially change its name from Nickelodeon Animation Studio to simply Nickelodeon Studios.
The opening coincides with Nickelodeon Animation’s 25th anniversary in 2016 — its three original series, “Rugrats,” “Doug” and “Ren & Stimpy” bowed in 1991 — and one of the goals for the new facility is to draw upon that history.
“We will tell our story throughout the whole building,” Hicks says. “When you walk in you’ll see the first creators. Our philosophy is creator-driven content, they are the ones who have a vision and we wrap a studio around them to support that vision.”
The creative campus is designed as an open and inviting space where employees feel the freedom and inspiration of an artists’ retreat. Among the perks: an on-site restaurant and coffee shop, a central courtyard with designated lecture space and a music room.
A Nickelodeon Studios app will include a rundown of events for the day including guest speakers, tours and screenings, and allow for easy communication and scheduling across all departments. Noting that he’s observed that creative ideas spring more frequently from casual interactions than forced meetings, Hicks wants to seize the opportunity for greater collaboration and mobility between Nick’s various production arms.
“We’ve had a lot of success with people going into live action from animation and vice versa,” he says. “We just want to increase that. And increase our student outreach to our internships. To be housed in one area of Los Angeles is the ultimate goal.”
More than just a base for Nickelodeon, Hicks vows to open the studio up to the community with tours and programs targeted at aspiring animators, aficionados of the form and industry pros.
“We want to be a hub of the animation community in California, with lecture series and open houses,” he says. “No matter where you’re from, you can come to Nickelodeon and see a lecture series from one of the greats talking about what they’re doing.”