zany world of cartoons that Nickelodeon animators create.
"It's just a very creative environment," Storyboard Artist John
Fountain said. "This is a cartoon studio that looks like a cartoon
Walking through the studio's black iron gates -- with its large
decorative foot -- can be an over-the-rainbow kind of experience. After
leaving the sidewalk, visitors walk passed a rounded green-tiled fountain
and by a neatly-trimmed grass park.
The building's wacky interior -- a green slime staircase, purple sofas
and porthole-dotted walls -- is as whimsical as the exterior.
To get the look they were after, studio designers Walt Thomas and
Henry Goldston of the Los Angeles-based architectural firm AREA consulted
Nickelodeon artists while they worked on preliminary plans.
Layout and Background Supervisor Brian Mark, who has worked on the
network's "Hey Arnold!" show for more than five years, said the loose
atmosphere in the studio fosters creative expression.
Mark said he's seen how the other half works, having quit a job in the
"I used to be a three-piece suit guy," Mark said. "It's not like you
come here and you're tracking the 'Hey Arnold' account. You're creating a
fantasy world for people to enjoy."
Mark said the first thing he does when he shows up at work after
driving in from his Venice home is to fill his cup at the cappuccino
machine. Animators have nicknamed the machine the "Nickelodeon brain
trust" for its ability to wake up talented-but-sleepy heads.
Also on their way to their cubicles, animators can snag a croissant or
banana from the kitchen or even crack the seal on some bottled water.
Nickelodeon, which counts 77 million domestic viewers, has been the
number one rated cable network since 1995. Nickelodeon is owned by Viacom
Inc., a corporate giant which also owns Paramount Pictures, MTV, Simon
and Schuster, VH-1 and Showtime.
The studio produces four half-hour cartoon shows at its Burbank digs,
in addition to segments for the anthology show "Oh Yeah! Cartoons!" -- a
half hour show featuring three seven-minute shorts.
In addition to "Hey Arnold!" and "Oh Yeah! Cartoons!," Nickelodeon
produces "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Cat Dog" and "Angry Beavers" in
Studio animators are also at work on two new shows -- "The Fairly
Oddparents" and "ChalkZone."
Andy Suriano, a comic book artist and painter from Detroit who joined
the network in February, designs characters for "Fairly Oddparents."
Suriano and the rest of the show's team of animators are given a lot of
artistic leeway by the show's creators.
As befitting a place where creativity has free reign, Suriano said his
bosses welcome his input on the script and other elements of the show.
The studio strives for a brand of over-the-top comedy evident in the
earliest Nick shows, he said. One of those was the popular "The Ren and
Stimpy Show," introduced in 1991.
Suriano said the show he's working on is no different.
"There's a certain manic quality in the show," Suriano said. "There's
a world that exists and I'm contributing to that."