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Transcript:Reddit Interview with Nick Executive, February 8, 2012

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Real-world

This is an interview, conducted on 'reddit', with an anonymous Nickelodeon executive. His executive status was verified by a moderator.[1]


Question How long does the average animated episode take to make?
Answer About nine months from beginning to end. From writing to delivery. Obviously we do many at the same time though.
Question [Related to above.] South Park does it in one week.
Answer Yeah, South Park is very different that traditional animation. They have to use tricks as well as killer production schedules at time lines because their show is topical and always has pop culture or current events references.
Question What is your favorite show to work with personally?
Answer Currently I'm a big fan of the new Avatar spin off "The Legend of Korra" as well as Kung Fu Panda and many others. I like them all for different reasons but really gravitate toward those with amazing score as music is a huge part of what makes a show great for me and those both have it.
Question When is the Legend of Korra going to premier?
Answer Not sure of a date yet. Soon.
Question What was the scariest/hardest decision you have ever made regarding your work?
Answer Well, it is children's animation so I wouldn't say there have been any life-threatening issues that have come up but it isn't as easy as people might think. Finding a balance between creativity and safety for children can be challenging. Standards notes are meant to protect but sometimes feel like they come from a vacuum outside of reality. One time we were told we couldn't have a character jump out of a window on InvaderZim (it was PigBoy) so we had him jump through the window and fly up instead of fall down ... they were fine with that.
Question Why has Nickelodeon fallen so much?[nb 1] Even though it's still number one, it just wasn't that it used to be.
Answer I suppose that's a matter of opinion and likely a result of us "growing up" or out of the demographic that we are shooting for. Tastes change for us but also for the general public. I feel like Nick still gives high quality writing, animation, story, etc. but maybe those that think it is falling have a different opinion of what is "good". I miss the 90's stuff but am not 100% sure that it would work today. Like I said, it isn't my area to program or come up with ideas, but I feel like what is out there is pretty darn good. Do you have suggestions for making it better that are realistic?
Question Have you ever met someone relatively famous working in the studio? Like, for example, did you ever get to meet Jhonen Vasquez?
Answer Heh. Yes, I worked closely with Jhonen on a daily basis and remain friends with him today. I get to see lots of "famous" people from all forms of media (TV, Film, Reality, Music, etc.) as voice-over work is pretty popular with many of them.
Question Which departments are, in general, assholish and which departments are crazy nice?
Answer Well, no department in particular is problematic really ... it is the people that occupy it that can be assholes ... but that's true of everywhere I think. Seriously, no department here is any worse than any other.
Question Which would you rather take on: one hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
Answer Well, the idea of a horse sized duck scares me on some level while seeing hundred duck-sized horses sounds much more cute and intriguing. I guess either way you get a lot of shit.
Question What do you find to be the most prominent differences between the children's television of your childhood and now? Do you think these differences say anything about society at large?
Answer I do agree that we are more protective of kids today. We are more worried about offending or injuring or "crossing the line" than we seemed to be when I was young. The reality of a litigious society wrapped in a PC blanket. At the same time, the fact that we can reach more people in more ways now is kind of cool and challenging so ... yeah.
Question With the anonymity that you're using to do this AMA, what would you like to say to and/or about your superior(s) in regards to cancellations of animated shows that were popular with the general populace that was raised on '90s cartoons as well as shows that you enjoyed working on?
Answer I didn't start her until 2001 so most of those shows were off the air by then. Like I said earlier though, I'm not sure some of those would work these days. People "above" me do lots of research and don't just make those decisions lightly when they decide to make changes so I feel pretty confident that they are doing it with the best of intentions. With that said, do I agree with their decisions to stop the things they do? Not always, no. Some have been very painful for me on many levels. There are people involved that become like family and it is hard to lose them. Also some shows that I thought were amazing and hilarious and saw so much potential in, they canceled or didn't pick up and it confused me. Sometimes I wish they would give them time to grow but in today's super competitive marketplace it may not make sense to do so.
Question How did you break into the industry of animation? Was it always your intention to do so?
Answer I didn't plan to do this. I have degrees and planned to teach English but I always loved music in film and wanted to be near it somehow. I started working at an entry level position in 1997 and then moved up through the ranks at Film Roman on King of the Hill so I got to work on traditional cell animation which was amazing. Then I started working at Nick in 2001 and haven't looked back.
Question Are there any episodes that are written, produced, and then tossed for being too risky or something? I was always curious if there were "Lost" episodes of shows.
Answer There are some unfinished episodes of Invader Zim but that's just because it was cut off midstream. Animation costs way too much to produce and then throw out and there are many stops along the way if something is going wrong (executives, testing, etc.) so something might change drastically but there usually aren't episodes that get cut all together. There are some acquisitions that may need to be adjusted content wise to fit the network but for the most part I don't think things are bought or produced that wouldn't be airable since again it takes far too long and costs too much to do so.

Follow-up questions on The Legend of Korra

Question How do you guys feel about the Legend of Korra leaks around those parts?
Answer I answered this elsewhere. I'm not a fan. I mean I know it has been forever since the last series and people are excited but it is still wrong. It screws a lot of people out of their hard work and is damaging in many ways.

I was very happy with all of the positive feedback it got, if anything good came out of it. There was very little negative feedback which is good ... but I didn't expect there would be as it is awesome.

Question Whoops, sorry I didn't see that last one. If I could ask a follow up, why hasn't Nick gotten to them yet? He's not being very smart about the leaks, with watermarks for his website everywhere.
Answer It is in process. But once something "gets out" there really is no stopping it. I'm hopeful that he will stay true to his word and not release the entire episode, but ...
Question Has Nick ever considered using viral marketing techniques? I'm asking because many people now suspect that Nickelodeon, or an employee thereof, is responsible for the recent flood of Korra-related leaked clips and screenshots. If not, how do you usually handle leakers?
Answer I don't know if the company has any plans in place or in the future but I do know that we are involved in social media and are always going to have to adjust to how people hear about or receive our stuff.

With that said, no the leaks were not intended. People who steal stuff and go against the wishes of the creators by posting stuff are scum. The world does not belong to you (one) just because you think it does and it hurts people even if you don't think it does. How we track people and deal with them I probably shouldn't say ... other than "hopefully harshly".

Question What is your favorite show to work with personally?
Answer Currently I'm a big fan of the new Avatar spin off "The Legend of Korra" as well as Kung Fu Panda and many others. I like them all for different reasons but really gravitate toward those with amazing score as music is a huge part of what makes a show great for me and those both have it.
Question When is The Legend of Korra going to premier?
Answer Not sure of a date yet. Soon.
Question Is Nick going to treat it as badly as they did AtLA, in terms of lengthy and ever-changing premier schedules? Still bitter.
Answer Can't say how they are going to roll it out but I hope it doesn't make you bitter. M&B are really working closely with the network and everyone wants it to be a success.
Question Do you know when Nick will announce the airdate for Legend of Korra? Within the next month?
Answer I know it isn't helpful, but "soon" is all that I can say. There are discussions and plans going on now.
Question Thanks, I get it. You can't go around revealing everything. I just want to know, how much of Korra have you seen? Is it better than the original Avatar? Is it mindblowingly awesome?
Answer Thanks for understanding. I've seen all there is ... it is amazing. As for if it is "better", I'd say the animation is better but it is so hard to compare against the original. I personally think it is awesome and that everyone will be very happy once they get to know the characters ... the same way we got to know everyone the first time around. Yes, it's awesome.
Question Also, while you're here: Is the official title The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra or Avatar: Legend of Korra?
Answer The Last Airbender : Legend of Korra. What you saw on the leak was international version.
Question I was wondering if you knew how Mike and Bryan felt about the Legend of Korra leaks? I know when the first one came out their was a rumor going around that they asked us not to spread them, and to delete them. I wanted to know it something like that was substantiated. Also why they have not been removed yet? The websites watermark is all over the leaks. It seems like a very easy process to shut it down, or to at least delete the video. Thanks for your time and for answering all these marvelous questions!
Answer They really don't want them out there but again, there is only so much that we can do at this level. At a certain point you have to hope that people will listen and not be jerks and spread it.
Question So after the Last Air Bender movie came out how disappointed/upset were the people who made the series over how poorly the movie represented the series and how crappy it looked? Also what do you think the difference is that has shows like Zim canceled while Spongebob continues on even though they are basically same type of shows?
Answer It wasn't a great day. I'll leave it at that. I wouldn't agree that they are the same type of shows, and unfortunately I don't know the answer. Sorry.

Origin

Notes

  1. This refers to the recent Nickelodeon ratings slide[2] that led to revenue forecast downgrade by by a Wall Street analyst.[3]. Viacom has cited this as one of the reasons for their earnings fall[4].

References

  1. andrewsmith1986 (2012-2-10). Verified:The guy is legit.. reddit. Retrieved on February 20, 2012.
  2. Georg Szalai (2011-12-5). Viacom CEO Talks Nickelodeon Ratings Issues, Ads, 'Paranormal Activity,' Shareholder Returns. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on February 20, 2012.
  3. Georg Szalai (2011-12-9). Nickelodeon Ratings Slide: Analyst Cuts Quarterly Ad Revenue Forecast for Viacom in Half. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on February 20, 2012.
  4. Brian Stelter (2012-2-2). Viacom Earnings Fall; Nickelodeon Ratings Are Cited. New York Times. Retrieved on February 20, 2012.

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