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From Doug to Danny Phantom:
The Incredible, Fantastic, Unbelievable Origin of Nicktoons

They're as iconic as green slime and the familiar orange aomeba logo, and for two different generations of Nickelodeon viewers, they have always been a part of the network. Nicktoons have become as much a part of the consciousness of America's youth (and in effect the rest of the world) as Nickelodeon has for over a decade. From the premieres of the first three shows (Doug, Rugrats, and Ren and Stimpy) on a Sunday morning in August 1991 to the premiere of a cultural phenomenon like Spongebob Squarepants to a pair of action-oriented cartoons (My Life As A Teenage Robot and Danny Phantom), Nicktoons has become one of the most successful and profitable franchises in television history.

Before we talk about how the Nicktoons project began, we have to talk about how the project was introduced.

Part One: Nickelodeon Before Nicktoons

QUBE logo [image]In 1979, Nickelodeon, which began life as kid-friendly part of an innovative (and clearly ahead of its time) service called QUBE (it was essentially true interactive television that utilized pay-per-view and modems long before they entered our consciousness), became a full-fledged cable network. Warner Amex, the network's ownership group owned by American Express and Warner Communications (the "Warner" in TimeWarner which had been immersing itself in a new company that would evolve into Time Warner Cable), hired legendary television pioneer Cy Schneider (aside from creating the first television toy ad, he also created the first toy tie-in series, Hot Wheels) to oversee Nickelodeon. The mission was to create a network to cater to the youth market of America. "The Young People's Network," as the network originally tagged itself as, certainly provided programming for children. Unfortunately, the programming pleased critics and parent groups, but not kids, who saw the programming as boring and uninteresting. It was then that Mr. Schneider began to use the tactics that made his career a successful one. He hired Geraldine Laybourne in 1981 as an acquisitions executive whose vision was to turn Nickelodeon from The Young People's Network to The First Kids Network.

You Can't Do That on Television [image]

She bought a little-known local Canadian show called "You Can't Do That On Television," which premiered in the US in 1982 and centered the network's core rebelious image around that. The iconic green slime, which is still a standard at Nick-themed attractions and the annual Kids' Choice Awards, actually came from this show. In fact, a lot of people, including a few Canadians who visited stateside, believed YCDTOTV was a Nickelodeon brand. It wasn't, of course, but that's when the cogs really started to click within the management of Nickelodeon.

Double Dare [image]

In 1985, after losing $30 million per year in operating costs, Warner Amex sold MTV Networks to Viacom (a syndication company that was spun off from CBS, Inc.) for $700 million and with that purchase, a young executive named Geraldine Laybourne, who had took the reins of chief executive of the network a year earlier, and christened Nickelodeon with a new logo, a new image, and commercials (the director responsible for Nickelodeon's new look was Betty Cohen, who would later join Turner Broadcasting in 1988 creating the personas for both TNT and, to a larger extent, Cartoon Network). Also around this time, Nickelodeon began to develop their portfolio. Their first original program was Double Dare, a game show conceived by Geoffrey Darby, a co-creator of their most successful show You Can't Do That On Television. Like that popular show, Double Dare thrived on mess and a kids first attitude. Through the years, Nickelodeon continued to develop original programming from game shows to variety shows. However, they wanted to create their own animated programs. Linda Simensky, who joined Nickelodeon in 1985 in the original program development department, became instrumental in creating the original animation department of Nickelodeon, which was actually created with $40 million in revenue earned from Double Dare. After seeing a myriad of cartoons either based on existing properties, Nick execs wanted to make something that would not only entertain children, but also change the way Americans look at animation.

By taking on the dominance of such American animation companies like Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, and Disney by finding solace in lesser-known companies like Klasky-Csupo, whose major claim to fame was animating the Simpsons shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, and Spumco, who, guided by animation veteran John Krisfaluci, had animated the ill-fated Beany and Cecil revival and Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, which sparked controversy by a conservative organization who misinterpreted a scene as something else, and independant animators like Jim Jenkins (who worked on shows like Pinwheel and Hocus Focus for Nick) , Joe Murray, and Craig Bartlett (who created the Penny shorts for Pee-Wee's Playhouse), the "Nicktoons" project went into effect in 1989.
 
On Sunday, August 11, 1991 at 10 AM EST, this animation revolution began. And the world was never the same again.

[Written by Toon Zone community member, Jeff Harris]


This is anunofficial web site and not endorsed by Nickelodeon Networks or Viacom International. All characters and names are © copyright 2006 Viacom International, Inc.. All original page content is © copyright 2006 Toon Zone.