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Frames of Time...

035_04 - Nicktoons Mini Golf
I came to the Nickelodeon Studio in the late 1990s. At the time, the building was fairly new and the animation boom fizzle had not fully hit Burbank. In fact, the studio was still in the process of treating its workers special.

Every Friday, the studio offered a free lunch. The meal was catered in from a local restaurant. Though the lines could be long, most could not refuse a "free lunch". In fact, a number of the employees used the day to invite family and friends. This often caused the wait to be quite long. The studio also had muffins and donuts in the morning and fresh popcorn in the afternoon. There were also beer parties every Friday night. Add to that a kitchen with free soda, milk and juice, and complimentary frapacino's in the summer, it's no wonder much of the crew complained of needing diets and exercise!

More famous than the free food, was the front area which featured a mini, miniature golf course. Being a fan of miniature golf since a young one, I found this to be one of the greatest ideas ever. The uniqueness of this addition did not go un-noticed by any visitor. In fact, whenever the union, or other entities wished to comment on the Nickelodeon Studio without mentioning it by name, they would discuss the "miniature golf studio" or similar term.

I had been brought into the Nick studio to assist on ANGRY BEAVERS. The show had spiraled into a production deadlock with new episodes only coming every few months. The show's creator, Mitch Schauer, had worked with me at Film Roman on BOBBY'S WORLD. Mitch recommended me as someone who understood both production and creation. I came on board, met with Mitch and execs from the studio and network. We came up with a new production plan that all seemed to agree on. In short time, ANGRY BEAVERS was the only series at Nick meeting its shipping deadlines.

Near the end of production on BEAVERS, a new series was getting started, INVADER ZIM. The studio execs felt I was the perfect fit for getting this new series started. Working with the producers and creators (especially Jhonen Vasquez), we set up a system for production. The system went through a number of changes as creative people came and went, technology needs were revised and the desire to do 3-D became a factor. Despite the customary "new show" rough starts, the production was on schedule and on budget. The crew was having fun, even if some production folks felt not enough work was going on. A medical leave caused me to hand over the reigns to a new Producer. Before I got fully assigned to another production, I was headed to Cartoon Network. (More about BEAVERS and ZIM on later dates.)

As BEAVERS production came to an end, the industry boom's fizzle finally hit Nick and a number of changes began. The sense of "continuous employment" reverted back into a "per series" hiring practice. The food began to lessen, with lunches finally being dropped shortly after I left. Sadly, due to a lack of use of the mini golf course, it was removed and a park was put in. The park, with it's lunch tables and benches, was a more practical use of the space.

I only played golf once while at Nick. It was during a studio tournament. However the idea that so much space would be devoted to a fun endeavor helped establish Nick as different. (Oddly, when Disney first looked at building it's new animation studio in the early 90s, they conceived the idea of putting a swimming pool on the roof!) When practical replaced fun at Nick, it seemed to mark a major change in the entire industry.

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