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Three Top Nick Animation Execs Are Laid Off (Exclusive)

Rich Magallanes (left) and Jenna Boyd were two of Nick Animation's execs who were laid off last Friday.
Rich Magallanes (left) and Jenna Boyd were two of Nick Animation’s execs who were laid off last Friday.

EXCLUSIVE: As part of Nickelodeon’s ongoing reshaping of their animation division, three of the studio’s top animation executives were laid off last Friday.

The three individuals who exited Nickelodeon Animation Studio were Rich Magallanes, senior vice president, current series; Jenna Boyd, senior vice president, animation development; and Jill Sanford, vice president, animation development.

Jill Sanford.
Jill Sanford.

Rich Magallenes was an 18-year veteran of the company who began working at the studio in 1997 as a freelance story consultant on shows such as Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys and Angry Beavers. Jenna Boyd was also an 18-year veteran of the company, who started at Nickelodeon as a production intern on Kenan & Kel. Jill Sanford had joined Nick in 2012 from Disney where she had been the director of original series for Disney Television Animation.

“As announced, we are in the process of restructuring and there will be employees leaving the company as a result,” a Nickelodeon spokesperson told Cartoon Brew. “We are so grateful for the contributions they have made to Viacom.”

The layoffs are part of a broader corporate overhaul at Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom Inc. Last month Nickelodeon chief Cyma Zarghami became the head of an expanded Viacom Kids and Family Group.

“Our industry is in transition and change does not always come easy,” Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman wrote to employees at the time of that announcement. “We are working hard to adapt to changing audience behavior, to incorporate new forms of distribution and to better integrate technology into everything we do.”

In recent months, Nick Animation has been making an effort to address the shortcomings of its executive-driven approach to series creation and promote a renewed focus on artist-driven projects. It has touted its Artists Collective and Writers Fellowship programs as keys to finding the next SpongeBob. When describing the value of these programs, Russell Hicks, Nick’s president of content development and production, said, “We’re trying to build a culture that’s unlike anywhere else in the world right now.”

Last week the studio made public its plans to significantly expand its Burbank facilities with a new five-story building that will be completed next year. The studio’s new series, C.H. Greenblatt’s Harvey Beaks, will premiere on March 29, 2015.

  • Kirielson

    Wow, on one hand, maybe vertical integration will work out. However, I’m very skeptical as it may mean that projects that otherwise maybe given a shot will be silenced.

  • Barbara

    Why stop at three?

    • asdfghjk

      Right? Keep going!!!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand why this happened. Is it because Cartoon Network has a big hit with Adventure Time? Or DreamWorks is ramping up their television division? Or Disney is adding more talent to their television division?

    • optimist

      It has to do with cutting costs. As it says in the post and has been reported in the trades, these are part of layoffs that are happening across the board at Viacom right now, that they announced were coming. One of Viacom’s companies is Nick.The nice thing, apparently, is that they’re not laying off iatse members-that is, animation artists-as part of the Viacom belt-tightening.

  • AnnMarie Roberts

    As long as they’re still looking for “the next Spongebob” I feel like they still don’t understand the problem.

    I remember watching Oprah interviewing J. K. Rowling, in one of her final interviews before she left her show. In it they both recall reading an article about Michael Jackson and how he was always chasing and trying to recreate the success he had with Thriller. He never understood that that was a phenomenon, something out of the ordinary, a combination of so many different factors that he could never hope to replicate it.

    That is what Nickelodeon has been doing, and I feel like it’s working out as well for them as it did for MJ.

    • StephaneDumas

      On my side, I see more Nickelodeon like General Motors, A&P, etc… who once dominated their sectors but faced a decline….

  • starss

    Nickelodeon hasn’t been doing well for years. Something had to change drastically.

  • Richard

    Completely agree, Toonio.

    That’s even more true when you consider that those Sponge Bob/TNMT episodes are entertaining.

  • ThatGuy

    They were probably fired for not finding a new Spongebob fast enough.

  • ThatGuy

    Now here’s a question. Has ANY of these executives ever held a pencil? Drawn a SINGLE frame of animation? Why/How do these Harvard suit type end up running OUR business?

    • optimist

      Because we got into OUR business to draw and animate, to be artists, not to run a huge business, answering to other VPs and businesspeople? Because the ranks of executives are on/from a completely different track, politically(as in studio politics)? Most artists I’ve known are totally uninterested in giving up their careers as artists to go into management. There actually are some exceptions, but they’re rare for what I think are fairly obvious reasons, as stated above.

      • Kirielson

        Yep. It’s like trying to get scientists to go to congress. They just want to research and do work.

  • Joseph Adorno

    I think it’s dangerous to have pre-concieved notions about what works and what doesn’t. Nick’s ratings woes are rooted in executives relying too much on questionable R&D and corporate agenda doublespeak.

    The only reason I watched the live-action Fairly Oddparents movies was because Daniella Monet was in it. Her performance as Trina in “Victorious” is the best reason tocheck out that show.I’m surprised they didn’t develop a sitcom starring her to recoup from the ego-fueled implosion of “Sam & Cat”. And I DO think they should cut down on the number of tween sitcoms..or develop sitcoms with more distinction if they must.

  • derek

    I heard that new ‘executive scholarships’ are being considered. Applicants may be given 25,000 dollars with which to take an instinctive leap of faith and back something containing charm, humour and innovation

  • Bradc001

    You never know what’s gonna hit big…I went with friends once to pitch at another studio, While they went into the other room to do the pitch, I asked the lady if I could look through some of the pitchbooks people sent in piled in the corner of the office about 3-4 feet high. “we get about a hundred a week” she told me. I glanced at a couple on top, and then grabbed a few way down at the bottom of the pile. When my friends had finished, I layed the three pitchbooks back on the TOP of the pile in the corner….About a year later, two of those three were shows on That network. I always wondered if I had a hand in that….hehe