Thursday, October 06, 2022

Nickelodeon Animation Reaches Across Platforms to Boost Franchises

Nickelodeon Brings in the Network Cavalry

Ramsey Naito has been running Nickelodeon Animation since 2017, and in that time the network’s programming has exploded with a raft of both homegrown series and adaptations of external IP. Star Trek, SpongeBob, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Blue’s Clues, Dora the Explorer, Rugrats… if that seems like too much for one network to handle, well, it no longer has to.

Paramount’s various subsidiaries add programming width to kiddie channels

Last fall, Naito added running Paramount Animation to her docket, and since then, the scope of potential programming across the corporate-partnered Nickelodeon networks, Paramount+ and Paramount theatrical has given the network increased space to expand. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem — the Seth Rogen-produced feature spun off from Nick’s revamped Turtles animated series — is due out next summer. Nickelodeon feature films from PAW Patrol, Blue’s Clues and Baby Shark are also on the horizon, as well as new features from Paramount properties Transformers and Smurfs. For Naito, this glut of programming presents opportunities.

“It’s a huge job, and I definitely feel the power of being stronger together than apart,” Naito told Variety of her increased purview. “Together, Nick Animation and Paramount Animation can make series, theatrical films, and be a destination for artists who can have long careers here. We’re making so much content, and the ecosystem we have within our studios is huge. Artists can come here to work on a preschool show, a big kids show, a theatrical film, you name it, and have a rich career.

“We needed to operate as one team, and so that’s been a main focus, just looking at both companies holistically. Nick already has some of the greatest IP, and Paramount has an incredible slate. And I really think bringing the Nick culture into the Paramount Animation space is really inspiring for everyone. It’s artist-driven, it’s creative, it’s a destination for talent who want to tell stories that mean something.”

Perhaps there’s no better test case to point to in that regard than the impending launch of Monster High. Adapted from Mattel’s beloved toy line, the property will get its introduction later this month, both as an animated Nickelodeon series and as a live-action musical feature film, which will unspool on both Nick and Paramount+. For Naito, this unusual launch strategy presented a way to “eventize” the series through multiple platforms.

“What’s really wonderful about the movie is that it’s a big event: it’s fun, it has incredible visuals, and being live-action, it makes audiences believe that the characters they’re seeing in the animated show are real,” she says. “And that’s truly aspirational and fun — it’s an experience to watch these unreal characters in the live-action space, and that’s what inspired the animated series. Together, they embolden each other.”

Of course, in addition to adapting massive IP for the network — Nick’s Star Trek: Prodigy will unveil its second season later this fall — and continuing to produce legacy originals including Rugrats, The Loud House and multiple SpongeBob series and movies, Nick still has the matter of making space for fresh ideas. Next year, the network will debut series Max and the MidKnights, Bossy Bear and Rock, Paper, Scissors — the latter being the first to get the greenlight out of Nick’s Intergalactic Shorts program, which was established to scout out pitches from underrepresented talent.

“We’re making so much content based on known IP, and in a world where franchise is everything, it’s especially important to be committed to making originals,” Naito says. “And the same touchstones apply [for originals and franchises]. What’s the talent that has a vision for the characters and the storytelling? Because the originals are the heart and soul; it’s what keeps us relevant, and continues to expand the library and the business for years to come. We’re very focused on doing both.

“And what’s great is that we’re in control of all of our programming, which means we can strategize how to release all of our shows. We’re not just a linear channel anymore. Streaming, Paramount+, multiple networks, digital, social, theatrical films — there are so many mouths to feed.”

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