Creatively speaking, you can say that the linear-TV arrival of Welcome to the Wayne—Nickelodeon’s first digital short to be adapted for the small screen—has been a long time coming.
Originally greenlit for a TV series in April 2015, the toon created by Billy Lopez (Peg + Cat) and executive produced by Michael Pecoriello (Yu-Gi-Oh!) made its premiere this week, as Nickelodeon—and its competitors like Disney and Cartoon Network—continue to mine inspiration from the digital realm.
While Nick remains tight-lipped on how many views the six x 3.5-minute original Welcome to the Wayne digital shorts, which launched on Nick.com in 2014, racked up online, the kidsnet is clear about its plans to excite traditional TV viewers about serialized content.
“With the launch of Welcome to the Wayne as a TV show, we’re really going beyond the online audience space,” says Lopez. “We’re very excited for any fans who watched it and can appreciate this as the next step in the adventures of these characters. But we’ve also made sure that anybody can start without having seen the digital series.”
The new 20-episode show follows a serialized mystery arc where its main characters are trying to figure out why their apartment building, the Wayne, is so strange. The cast includes Alanna Ubach (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) as 10-year-old Ansi, the anxious new kid in town; Lopez as Olly Timbers, the adventurous son of a toymaker; and Dana Steingold (Avenue Q musical) as his sister Saraline.
“One of our big challenges was making a show that’s serialized and hooks you in for a long mystery. But it’s also built to exist as a stand-alone story, and kids can tune into episode 15 not having seen one through 14 and really enjoy it,” says Pecoriello.
“There have been lots of little tricks we’ve tried to use to sneak in exposition points and drop enough threads throughout each episode that can be answered for viewers who have been following it seriously,” adds Lopez. “We’re doing our best to have it both ways.”
Nickelodeon is also positioning the show to be its next fan-favorite, says Pecoriello. To that end, the kidsnet looked to drum up excitement by sending Lopez to San Diego Comic-Con last week, where he was a part of a Nickelodeon signing that included Butch Hartman (Fairly OddParents, Bunsen is a Beast) and Chris Savino (The Loud House).
“I was sitting between two people whose shows are very popular, and no one had even seen mine yet,” says Lopez.
But that’s now all changed. Welcome to the Wayne premiered new episodes this week Monday to Friday at 5:30 p.m., right after hit series The Loud House. Repeats will air on Saturday mornings at 10:30 am following SpongeBob SquarePants until September, at which time it will have a second premiere week with new episodes.
“The time schedule was basically Nickelodeon saying this is the next exciting thing,” says Pecoriello. “All the groups at Nickelodeon, from games to social media, have given us so much support over the last two months to get brand-new kids who have never heard of it super pumped. Digital was just the tip of what this show is and can be. It is so rich and lends itself to not only multiple seasons (fingers crossed) but it also has the makings of a franchise that can extend into all sorts of things, including books and toys.”
Currently, there are a number of games on Nick.com and the Nick app based on Welcome to the Wayne, with talks about making a standalone app and consumer products line in the future.