Burbank California has been Nickelodeon’s West Coast headquarters since 1998 and has only grown in that time. Their original 72,000 square-foot studio was insufficient to house all their productions, and they have now expanded into a new building. The new state-of-the-art is over 200,000 square feet, serving over 700 employees hard at work on over 20 show productions. The ribbon cutting ceremony of the new facility took place on January 11, 2017, and Nickelodeon opened its doors to members of the press for a guided tour followed by the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The press gathered in a newly created art gallery. A multipurpose room for various events, the room was filled with works of over 50 artists. The displays rotate monthly and serve to advertise new shows and talent. Outside, a 23,000 square foot courtyard connects the new building to the old one. A new reception area stands beside a Zen Garden with a 400 pound statue of Stimpy as a Buddha in a tranquil pose. Although the courtyard was set up for the event, it will have stone benches etched with quotes and sketches, wire character sculptures, and flagpoles that will fly banners of current live-action and animated shows in production.
Each the building’s five floors has its own color. With all this new space, Nickelodeon was able to centralize more of their productions, moving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie to Burbank. The building’s ground floor contains the archive library. Nearly 40 years of Nickelodeon history lives there, from original sketches and storyboards to Marvel’s Ren & Stimpy comic books from the 90’s to old copies of Nickelodeon magazine.
With executive offices on the fifth floor, we went up to see the work space on the fourth floor. Each floor is an open space working gallery. There are no corner offices. Instead, the corners have a community space/lounge areas themed with different Nickelodeon shows. A Butch Hartman-themed lounge area has artwork from such shows as Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom with seating, a TV, and video games. White board walls and chalk board walls for doodling line the halls, and every floor has a main conference room and a pantry.
The tour stopped at one of two Maker’s Rooms. David Steinberg, SVP of Production for Nick Animation, showed us inside the more traditional maker’s room, which he called a creative sandbox for artists to work on new ideas and create pitches for Nickelodeon using paper and pencil along with paints and pastels. The other maker’s room is more technology oriented, containing a digital lab and animation software.
We got to pop our heads into the office of Chris Savino, currently working on The Loud House. Savino began at Nick in 1991 with Ren & Stimpy and loves his new work space. To him, the best part of the new building is having the dry erase walls and chalk boards. Although they are making cartoons, being able to draw on the wall for themselves is kind of a break in and of itself and a form of expression. According to Savino, the old building was oddly compartmentalized, and now he can wander out into the space and run into people on different shows that he wouldn’t interact with before.
Although we didn’t get to see everything, we passed an 88-seat screening room with an Old Hollywood meets today design. The building also has three voiceover studios, a fitness room, and space for playing musical instruments and video games. The final stop on the tour was a Nickelodeon VR experience. The goal of the folks who work in alternative animation is to reach audiences through new platforms. We got to step into Slime Zone, a social VR experience that allows users to pick an avatar of a Nickelodeon character and wander around a virtual space, play games, watch cartoons and, of course, shoot slime at each other.
You can enter a café called Hoek & Stimpson Coffee Co. through the splat at the end of a giant Nick marquis. In front of this is where the ribbon cutting ceremony took place. The event was kicked off by SpongeBob SquarePants himself, Tom Kenny, along with Bill Fagerbakke, the voice of Patrick. They greeted everyone and then introduced Jess Talamantes, the Mayor of Burbank. Talamantes presented Nickelodeon with a certificate of recognition and thanked them for choosing Burbank as their home and creating more jobs. Next at the podium was Cyma Zarghami, President of the Nickelodeon Group, who has been with the company for 31 years and was there when the Burbank studio opened in 1998. She thanked everyone involved and called it a symbol of Nickelodeon’s achievements, saying “Our mission is to make the world a more playful place.” Zarghami then introduced Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of the Board, who says it’s easy to be enthusiastic because they have a great team and a great company. Kenny, Fagerbakke, and other Nickelodeon stars from the shows Game Shakers and The Thundermans held out a green ribbon with orange Nickelodeon lettering for Zarghami to cut to the roaring applause of everyone in attendance.
Toonzone News would like to thank the team at Nickelodeon PR for arranging our visit and the tour. Photos and video provided by Nickelodeon.