Monday, November 23, 2015

Nickelodeon Confirms New "Hey Arnold!" TV Movie In Development; Looking To Revive More Older Nick Shows; Promotes Chris Viscardi

Variety is reporting the very exciting news that Nickelodeon has confirmed that the network is developing a brand-new TV movie based on the popular Classic Nickelodeon original animated series (Nicktoon) "Hey Arnold!"!

UPDATE: Added Nickelodeon's official press release announcing the fantastic news, below!

"Hey Arnold!" originally ran between 1996 and 2004 and focused on a football-headed fourth-grader who lived with his grandparents in a boarding house. The TV movie will feature a storyline that picks up where the original series ended and will resolve unanswered plotlines–including the whereabouts of Arnold's parents, long missing from the series. A specific date for when the new content might be ready or air is still to be announced.

With the revival of Nickelodeon favorite "Hey Arnold!", Nickelodeon is formalizing a quest to build part of its future by tilling its past. The network has named Chris Viscardi, co-creator of the classic Nickelodeon live-action series "The Adventures of Pete & Pete", as the networks Senior Vice President of Content Development for Franchise Properties – a new role. While Viscardi will oversee creative strategies for key content such as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Dora The Explorer," he will also mine the network's vast library of original series to develop new shows for modern audiences, which means that Nickelodeon could potentially revive old series like "Ren & Stimpy", "Rocko's Modern Life" and "The Wild Thornberrys," though the network's executives declined to discuss specific projects other than "Hey Arnold!".

"Kids who grew up on these characters are now of the age that they are having kids and families themselves," said Russell Hicks, President, Content Development and Production, for Nickelodeon Group, in an interview. "Our library has come to fruition and it’s time for it to start coming back to life."

Hicks and Viscardi say they aren't trying to bring older millenials back to the network, though they recognize developing new versions of Nick classics might create some family viewing opportunities. The tweaked shows are being readied "for the current audience that we have," said Hicks. "You have to remember people who are going to watch really don't have a recollection of 'Hey Arnold,'" he added. "You have to make it relevant to them but also nod to the audience that is going to be interested."

Viscardi has experience in reviving classics for today's audiences. He was a writer on 20th Century Fox's 2007 reboot of "Alvin and the Chipmunks," and he also has a hand in modern Nick fare, like "Sanjay and Craig," on which he is an Executive Producer and writer with longtime creative partner Will McRobb.

Executives said they were not cutting back on new projects as they seek opportunities to reboot classics. Nickelodeon has more than 13 new animated projects in production and "over 40 things in development," said Hicks. "There is a robust pipeline of new fresh product," he said.

Nickelodeon's emphasis on getting new value out of its library comes as the network and its counterpart Nick Jr. have gained in the ratings during the most recent quarter. Investors have in the recent past expressed concern about Viacom's Nickelodeon empire as new technologies catering to kids – including subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) outlets like Netlifx and Amazon – have wooed away some of TV's youngest viewers. But in recent weeks, according to data from Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger, an emphasis on new original programming has helped some of the Nickelodeon networks gain ratings share at the expense of rivals.

The spirit of the older shows will be kept intact in their new incarnations, said Viscardi. He praised the "very irreverent, and surreal and wonderful" qualities found in many of the most popular Nick efforts. Some series embraced more of a "punk rock attitude," while others were "sweeter." Viscardi said he is not considering just animation. He is also open to reviving some of Nickelodeon's classic live-action series, which over the years included everything from "You Can't Do That On Television" to "Clarissa Explains It All." Mitchell Kreigman, the creator of "Clarissa," recently published a new book, "Things I Can’t Explain", chronicling the heroine's life as a young adult in the big city.

The network is likely to give first look to properties Nickelodeon already controls, but Hicks and Viscardi said they remain open to considering content that ran on the network that is owned by someone else. "Doug," an animated series about a pre-teen kid and his friends that aired on Nickelodeon in the 1990s, for example, is currently controlled by Walt Disney. But Viscardi said executives see the series "as part of Nickelodeon history."

Not everything is going to get a new day in the sun. "We are very selective about the series, what we go back to, and think about how we can take them and make them special," said Viscardi. "It's really important to us to be really consistent with the storytelling that was there long ago on the series but also work to reimagine it, even just a little bit, and make it appealing and thrilling for today's audience." In a different case, Nickelodeon is just letting the old stuff out for another airing. The company recently launched "The Splat!", a primetime and overnight block of classic programming, on its TeenNick cable network.

TV shows are not the only content being considered. Nickelodeon is up for trying anything, ranging from digital shorts to projects with Viacom's Paramount Pictures, said Hicks.

The executives say their focus was guided to Nick's library of content by chatter about the old shows on social media – and some happenstance. Craig Bartlett, the creator of "Hey Arnold!," was pitching a different idea and started talking to Nick executives about the ways the characters from the old series continued to gain mentions in online forums, citing fan art and fan fiction to short films on YouTube. Barrett will be writer and executive producer on the new "Arnold" move, and Nickelodeon is reaching out to other creators of older shows, said Viscardi, hoping to work with them or perhaps partner them with younger creatives who grew up on their programs.

"We are in discussions with them now and will probably have more to say in the next few months," said Viscardi. "There's a good likelihood we'll be doing more than just 'Arnold' in terms of doing specials."

Original source: ToonZone Forums member MDawg.

Original Nickelodeon USA Press Release via Business Wire:

Chris Viscardi Named Senior Vice President, Content Development, Nickelodeon Franchise Properties

Hey Arnold! Original TV Movie in Development under Viscardi with Series Creator Craig Bartlett on Board as Executive Producer

November 23, 2015 01:30 PM Eastern Standard Time

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nickelodeon has named Chris Viscardi, co-creator of the kids' classic The Adventures of Pete and Pete, to the newly created role of Senior Vice President, Content Development, Nickelodeon Franchise Properties. Viscardi will oversee the creative strategies for the network's key franchises, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer; and mine the network's rich library of original series to reimagine and develop select shows for today's audiences. Additionally, he will work closely with other Viacom divisions like Paramount Pictures to explore partnership opportunities for Nick. Viscardi will be based in Nickelodeon's Burbank, Calif. headquarters, reporting to Russell Hicks, President, Content Development and Production, Nickelodeon Group.

Chris Viscardi named Senior Vice President, Content Development, Nickelodeon Franchise Properties (Photo: Business Wire)

First up for Viscardi is the development of a Hey Arnold! original TV movie, with the beloved series' original creator Craig Bartlett returning as writer and executive producer. The new TV movie will feature a storyline that picks up from where the original series ended in 2004 and will resolve unanswered questions and plotlines--including Arnold finally getting answers about the whereabouts of his missing parents.

"Chris is a creator who innately understands the Nickelodeon DNA and our audience because of his long history with us," said Hicks. "As someone who has worked on two generations of Nickelodeon hit shows, Chris is the perfect person to manage our most important franchises and reimagine stories and characters from our library for today's kids and for the Millennial generation who grew up on them. It's also incredibly exciting to pair Chris with another master storyteller, Craig Bartlett, to bring our iconic Hey Arnold! back to life in a new, modern way."

Currently, Viscardi serves as one of the executive producers on Nickelodeon's Emmy-nominated animated series Sanjay and Craig, where he plays an integral role in mentoring the show's first-time creators and co-executive producers Jim Dirschberger and Jay Howell. Under his guidance, the show launched to almost 4 million viewers, and it is now in its third season, attracting a bevy of celebrity guest stars including Anthony Bourdain, Snoop Dogg and John Leguizamo, among others.

Viscardi began his career at Nickelodeon, where he and Will McRobb created the award-winning series The Adventures of Pete & Pete, along with the groundbreaking alternative animation series Kablam! Noteworthy writing and producing credits include Ed, Necessary Roughness, Bravest Warriors and Brutally Normal. He also co-wrote the films Alvin and The Chipmunks and The Tale of Despereaux, as well as the Nickelodeon/Paramount films Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Snow Day.

Nickelodeon, now in its 36th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books and feature films. Nickelodeon's U.S. television network is seen in almost 100 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 20 consecutive years. For more information or artwork, visit Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB).

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