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Nickelodeon recovers from ratings slump with new cartoon 'Breadwinners'

Nickelodeon's new cartoon 'Breadwinners' comes as the kids network, which has rebounded from a ratings slump, looks for its next generation of hits in a changing industry.

February 07, 2014|By Meg James

Nickelodeon's new cartoon was hatched not through traditional television channels but in a Studio City efficiency apartment nicknamed the "Doodle Chamber." The 41/2 -minute cartoon about two feisty, accident-prone ducks was intended to be a one-off, a little film crafted to entertain fellow animators at a short-film festival held at a New York bar.

But in the hurly-burly world of children's television, network executives are desperate to find that next big hit. When animator Gary Di Raffaele, who goes by the name Gary Doodles, got an inquiry from a Nickelodeon executive about his duck cartoon, which he had posted on YouTube: "I thought it was spam," Di Raffaele said. "I couldn't believe someone from Nickelodeon would contact me."

Within a couple of months, Nickelodeon hired Di Raffaele and co-creator Steve Borst to expand "Breadwinners" into a full-fledged television series, which premieres Feb. 17 and then moves to hallowed cartoon ground: Saturday mornings. Nickelodeon hopes that SwaySway and Buhdeuce, two oddball ducks who deliver loaves of bread in a rocket-powered van, will bring home the bacon to help the network further recover from a frightening ratings collapse, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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PHOTOS: Creating Nickelodeon's animated comedy 'Breadwinners'

In 2012, Nickelodeon's ratings plunged 30%, allowing archenemy Disney Channel to grab the ratings crown. It was a tectonic shift in the pecking order of children's TV: Nickelodeon for 17 years had been the No. 1 network among kids ages 2 to 11 by fielding a mix of animated and live-action shows that would appeal to different groups: boys, girls, preschoolers and the grade-school crowd.

Disney Channel has been the go-to channel among older children, particularly tween girls, with its wholesome scripted shows such as "Jessie." Time Warner's Cartoon Network — with its irreverent animation, such as "Adventure Time," starring an old dog named Jake with magical powers — has been a boy magnet and a perennial third.

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