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Nickelodeon is reaching into its vault of classic animated programming, bringing back the likes of Rugrats, Hey Arnold! and Blue’s Clues to draw both its target audience of preteen kids as well as their parents, who grew up with those popular 1990s franchises.
Leading this charge back to the future is Nickelodeon Animation senior VP Chris Viscardi, who began his career at the network in 1991 as a producer, co-creating the network’s classic series The Adventures of Pete & Pete with Will McRobb. Viscardi’s credits also extend to writing and producing the Emmy-nominated animated series Sanjay and Craig, as well as co-writing the 2007 theatrical film Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Prior to heading out to San Diego Comic-Con, Viscardi spoke with B&C senior content producer R. Thomas Umstead about Nickelodeon’s animated-series reboot plans.
What is Nickelodeon’s strategy behind rebooting classic animated shows?
We have so many of our own properties that have been successful in the past and that we know have a built-in fan audience of adults who grew up with them as kids. That fandom hasn’t decreased as the years go on, and now we have a generation of adults that want to share what they grew up on with their kids.
Will TV’s reboot mania keep gaining momentum?
We’ve seen a number of franchises across the television landscape that have been called back, and it’s pretty cool when they’re done well. When we look back at our properties, we look at the ones that we love the most and we know that our fans love the most. We brought back as a movie Hey Arnold!; we have a great special set for Rocko’s Modern Life and an Invader Zim movie that’s coming out soon; but Rugrats was the one we kept looking at and wondering about. Our audience continued to say please bring that one back.
Does rebooting a popular series like Rugrats provide a marketing and awareness boost?
The audience that was familiar with a show in its earlier form is really important when you reboot a franchise, because it gives you the opportunity to talk to that original audience and get them excited about it. That excitement then filters down to a new generation of kids who might not be aware that it was ever a property in the past, but because adults are talking about it and it’s a big part of the social-media world, we find that kids get excited about it as well.
How will the new version of Rugrats look different?
The characters and the style of Rugrats are very iconic, and it has an idiosyncratic quality to it that looked like nothing else in the era when it came out. So as we’re exploring that visual design, we’re looking at 2D, we’re looking at exploring CG, and we’ll play it out over the next handful of months and see what version of it feels best for our storytelling.
Are there plans for any other reboots, and will Nick keep making new animated originals?
We’re going to continue to explore the library, and the way to do that is to talk to fans that grew up on those projects as well as to our creative teams. All those reboots we’re talking about were once originals at one point, so it’s really important to us to constantly be making new content for kids and families. We have a bunch of stuff in development — The Loud House and SpongeBob SquarePants are two incredible shows for us to have on our air, and we’re always looking for what the next complements to them will be.
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