Studio Tour: Nicktoons

Animation World Magazine attended the opening celebration of Nickelodeon's brand new animation studio in Burbank, California. Join us on a visual tour of the first new television animation studio to open in Hollywood in 35 years.

Some of the studio's interiors rival the set of Pee Wee's Playhouse. Photos by Rick Wilson, courtesy of Nickelodeon.

On March 4, 1998, Nickelodeon and parent company Viacom threw a bash to celebrate the opening of the new Nicktoons animation studio at 231 West Olive Avenue in Burbank, California. Animation World Magazine's editors were among the crowd that included Viacom chief Sumner Redstone, Paramount prexy Sherry Lansing and other power players in the animation industry.

Outside the studio's iron gates, a gathering of union labor supporters formed a picket line to protest Nickelodeon's independent hiring practices. However, their voices went mostly unheard amidst the din of the party inside, where guests ate, drank, toured the colorful facilities and played rounds of miniature golf.

Declared by Nickelodeon to be the first brand new studio for television animation production to open in 35 years, the 72,000 square foot facility, designed by Los Angeles architecture firm AREA, houses 200-300 employees and up to five simultaneous productions. And, oh yeah, it also has a miniature golf course, an indoor basketball course/screening room, an artists' gallery, a studio store, and a fountain that shoots green water into the air.

The golf course even includes a challenging

Artist-Inspired

Albie Hecht, president of Film and TV Entertainment for Nickelodeon, is cited as the visionary behind the design and building of the studio. In 1996, Hecht met with Nickelodeon artists for a brainstorming session on the elements of their ideal studio, and, with their feedback (and some inspiration from the fabled Willy Wonka chocolate factory), created "a playful, inspirational and cutting edge lab which will hopefully give birth to the next generation of cartoon classics." He added, "For me this building is the physical manifestation of a personal dream, which is that when people think of cartoons, they'll say Nicktoons."

Sumner Redstone said, "Unique, original and experimental animation has really been a hallmark of our company all these years, and we've really done well by it. I'm confident that a lot of fantastic creative work is going to come out of this great new building right here in Burbank."

The Nicktoons studio houses five, project driven production units. Each has its own color and design environment and includes a living room, writer's lounge and storyboard conference room. The studio also has a Foley stage (for recording live sound effects), a post-production area, sound editing and mixing rooms and an upstairs loft area with skylights for colorists. In their spare time, animators are invited to experiment in the new technology suite, which will be stocked with a variety of animation tools.

Current shows in production at Nicktoons are Hey Arnold!, Angry Beavers, Oh Yeah! Cartoons! and CatDog, as well as development for feature films based on Hey Arnold! and Rugrats.

Exclusive Photo Tour of Nicktoons!!!

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An artist-designed golf course spans the the studio's front yard. Photos by Rick Wilson, courtesy of Nickelodeon. jacksonnicktoons03d.jpg

Viacom chief Sumner Redstone with a couple of Angry Beavers. Photo by Wendy Jackson, © Animation World Network.

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Photo by Rick Wilson, courtesy of Nickelodeon.

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Sprinkled with green confetti: Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell, CatDog creator Peter Hannan, Albie Hecht, Sumner Redstone, Viacom executive vice president Phillippe Dauman, Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett, Fred Seibert, and in front, the voice actors for Hey Arnold! characters Arnold and Helga. Photo by Wendy Jackson, © Animation World Network.

Wendy Jackson is associate editor of Animation World Magazine.

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