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Nick’s Creative Studio

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As Nickelodeon celebrates
its 25th anniversary, Below the
Line went behind the scenes to
take a peek at the Burbank studio
where toons such as SpongeBob
SquarePants, The Fairly Odd-
Parents and CatDog are born and
raised.
“We’re in the kids’ animation
business and we’re going to have a
place that represents that creative,
innovative [spirit],” says VP/general
manager Mark Taylor of the
building’s funky design.
Architects and interior designers
Los Angeles-based AREA
worked with executives and staffers
in planning the 72,000 squarefoot
facility, the company’s main
studio since 1998. It features an
80-seat theater that doubles as a
basketball court, an art gallery
for showing work by in-house
and outside artists, and a famous
façade that boasts rooftop statues
of its top-rated shows.
Separate work areas are set up
for each show, so a writer and
storyboard artist working on the
same show can easily access each
other. The spaces feature windows
of different shapes; walls,
carpets, ceilings and furniture are
in bright, cartoon colors.
It’s is a huge step up from the
company’s old digs. Its former
studio space was “in the ugliest
office building you could possibly
imagine,” according to Butch
Hartman, creator and executive
producer of The Fairly OddParents
and Danny Phantom. On seeing
the new building Hartman
thought, “Somebody’s finally done
it. Somebody’s finally built an animation
studio for animators.”
Hey Arnold! creator and executive
producer Craig Bartlett says
Nick executives paid close attention
to artists’ input in designing
the building. He praises its abundance
of natural light and floor
lights that help reduce glare. “We
were intimidated by the space at
first,” says Bartlett. “It was such
a creative space that the writers
would say, ‘the room is outcreating
me.’ But after a few months we
were completely used to our parallelogram
windows, amoeba coffee
tables and the furniture that was
just as kooky as the exterior.”
Nick execs promote staff loyalty
and camaraderie with perks like
free breakfasts, and kitchens with
free beverages in every work area.
Thumbing their noses at hierarchical
parking assignments, the studio
has no reserved spaces on the lot.
Hartman describes the 350-
employee operation as a familyoriented
studio, where you know
everybody. “I haven’t worked at a
lot of other places,” says Hartman.
“But the shows here seem more
creator-driven… if you create a
show, they’ll pretty much let you
do what you want to do. You live
or die by your own devices.”
Postproduction director Jason
Stiff has worked at four other studios
where there was always a
problem integrating different elements
of post work, he said. Not
so at Nickelodeon, which sports
five Avid and five Pro Tools editing
bays. His entire department is
located in one area, at the building’s
center.
“The function and form is
unique to this studio,” Stiff said.
“We can move easily from one edit
bay to another.” And if two editors
are working on the same show to
meet a deadline, “they can put it
all up on one server and see what
the other is doing,” he adds.
When children tour Nick’s studio

they are visibly and audibly
enthralled. Their responses add
to the artists’ pride in their work,
says Taylor. Adds Stiff: “It makes
you feel like we’re actually doing
something for kids.”

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