Viacom-owned MTV Networks is positioning its recently announced $420-million commitment to original animation programming at Nickelodeon and MTV as an investment in the creative process.
‘Nickelodeon is one of the leading places in the industry to make animation because we are not making the tried-and-true stuff that other people are making,’ says Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell, adding: ‘We are creator-driven. We have an acceptance of diverse design styles and ideas. And in TV, we always have been a home base for independent and spirited people who make great animation. We thought we could coordinate our development with a lot of interesting people and see what works.’
The $420 million will be invested over the next five years. The company wants to produce animated television series, feature films, interstitials and other animated products. In total, more than 850 half-hour animated episodes are expected to be produced, in addition to a major expansion of Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons Animation in Los Angeles and MTV’s New York animation studio.
A joint animation council will be formed to oversee production, operations and talent development. The council will coordinate between the two studios, offering animators an opportunity to work on a broad range of projects. Nickelodeon and MTV will maintain their independent development activities, although there will now be a focus on broadening the opportunities for talent and the exchange of ideas.
Upcoming animated television programs include Hey Arnold! and Angry Beavers. A weekly series for MTV entitled Daria, based on the female character in MTV’s Beavis & Butt-head, will also be developed. Since almost 25 percent of Nickelodeon’s programming schedule uses original animation, the majority of animation created under the new program will be produced for Nickelodeon.
MTV Networks intends to continue using independent producers, such as Klasky Csupo, for much of its programming content. Klasky is working on a number of projects including Rugrats, AAAHH!! Real Monsters, and a pilot for a new series entitled Elmo & Kiwi. The move now expands Klasky Csupo’s relationship with Nickelodeon and extends that affiliation to include MTV and VH1.
In the increasingly competitive world of children’s animation, MTV Networks feels that this move will prove an additional building block to continued success since its launch into animation in 1991.
Scannell stresses that ‘animation has been a great success for us in the past, and we want to do more of what put us where we are now.’