Magazine article Variety

Nick Toons into Next-Gen Talent

Magazine article Variety

Nick Toons into Next-Gen Talent

Article excerpt

Where will the next "SpongeBob" creator come from?

If Nickelodeon has its way, he or she will be a homegrown artist. That's because the câbler thinks it has found an edge in the race for animation talent in the booming toon business, launching internal mentorship programs to nurture talent - and hopefully keep it inhouse.

For Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon's president of content development and production, the programs are a way of paying it forward. A former children's book illustrator and animator, Hicks had a family connection to Disney animator Ward Kimball - an industry legend who was instrumental in Hicks' own career path. "I had somebody who helped me navigate a very complicated world," he says.

To help others along that path, Hicks oversees a group dubbed the Artists Collective, which connects experienced créatives with young hopefuls. It includes animators, writers and producers under contract with Nickelodeon. They're asked to provide feedback and support to projects in various stages of development - but to do so from an artist's perspective, without executive interference.

"We've found in animation that artist-to-artist communication and mentorship goes a long way," notes Jenna Boyd, senior VP of animation development.

The Collective will play a key role in the next round of Nick's Animated Shorts Program, an annual competition designed to blow the traditional development process wide open. Amateurs and pros are invited to pitch a concept and storyboards for a short to be produced by Nickelodeon. …

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