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Why Nick’s Pitch Program Doesn’t Work


After taking more than 100 pitches at its first-ever open call for animated projects at last month’s San Diego Comic-Con, Nickelodeon has announced a greenlight for Cupcakery of Doom created by Trevor Reece. Reece is a Eureka, California resident who writes for the The Press Democrat newspaper’s comics blog, and his idea revolves around a bear (Patches) and a mouse (Cheesebert) who want to take over the world.

“We loved Trevor’s clever angle and adorable characters, but overall, Cupcakery just made us laugh,” said Jenna Boyd, Nick’s senior v-p of animation development. “Trevor is a life-long Nick fan who told us he actually sent in a story idea to our very own Stick Stickly when he was a kid back in the ’90s, so we had a hunch he understood our sensibility.”


Over the past three years, Nick has made a concerted effort to present a ‘creator-friendly’-face by making its pitch process as public as possible. This was done, in part, to address their long-running inability to deliver new shows that resonate with the public, like those that are made by competitors Cartoon Network and Disney. In addition to taking pitches at Comic-Con, they launched a new shorts program and have begun a mini-college course on show development which they tested at CalState Fullerton with an eye toward expanding elsewhere.

While these programs might be effective in creating the illusion of being creator-friendly, they shouldn’t be mistaken for a network that actually is creator-friendly. Fundamentals: For a network to be creator-friendly, they have to first be able to identify potential creators.

No studio or network needs to take dozens of random people off the street to find ideas because, quite simply, the magic-bullet idea is a myth. An idea is actually the least important part of a pitch. Any concept or idea can potentially be amazing if the right person is doing it.

Not only does the history of animation bear out this point, Nick itself has numerous hits of its own which it could study, from Rugrats to Ren & Stimpy to SpongeBob. The ideas in each are fairly unremarkable. But in each case, there was a creator (or creators) who had spent years crafting a unique voice while also building a creative team who could help them execute the idea.

When a Nick development exec like Jenna Boyd says she chose someone’s idea because the person watched Nick and “we had a hunch he understood our sensibility,” it reveals a devestating lack of understanding about what qualities should be evaluated in a potential show creator. How has the creator developed their voice through animation? How has this person worked with other artists throughout the course of their career? If these questions have no answers, then you’re wasting everybody’s time.

If the most harmful effect of Nick’s pitch program was to waste a bunch of Viacom’s money producing worthless pilots, we could just chalk it up to executive tomfoolery. But it’s also a morale killer for any artist who works at the studio. Imagine that you are an artist who has spent years developing your skills to be good enough to work in the professional industry, and the company that employs you is aggressively pursuing the ideas of Comic-Con fanboys and untrained college students. How could any Nick artist believe in a studio that outsources idea creation to unqualified individuals and can’t even recognize the talent under its own nose? (And yes, I know that many of the pilots are done by artists working at the studio, but there’s an unsettling shooting-in-the-dark quality when you’re pitting amateurs against pros as if everybody has the same capacity to create a hit TV series.)

I’d wager everything I own that the next SpongeBob exists within an artist who works at Nickelodeon today. The artist may not know it. You can be damn sure no Nick animation exec knows it. That idea won’t be uncovered by taking a hundred pitches or a thousand, but rather through developing in-house talent, which is a gritty years-long process that can’t be achieved with shortcuts.

Public pitching spectacles—and even the whole idea of pitching in general—ignore the fundamental nature of how artists evolve creatively. The vast majority of artists develop a voice while enmeshed in the daily grind of creation and production. The challenge is to identify the handful who have shown an inclination to experiment, have something valuable to say, and possess the strength of character to carry forward on their own. Those artists, given the proper time and resources, can deliver the next SpongeBob.

Or, if you’re Nickelodeon, just keep taking pitches from anyone with a pulse.

  • jonhanson

    You make a fairly persuasive case but it would be more compelling if we actually had a pilot to judge. I mean the Adventure Time pilot, which is one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen, was created by a college student with no studio experience. Although you add “untrained” so it could be that you’re arguing that pitches should come from experienced animators, whether that experience comes from a studio or not, which seems like a reasonable position.

    All that said when you can’t draw a mouse or a bear that actually look like a mouse or a bear then there’s a reason to be concerned.

    • AmidAmidi

      Pen’s path to a series wasn’t as simple as creating a pilot and then making a show. There was a four-year gap between those, and during that time, he continued developing his voice and finding like-minded creative people while working on “Flapjack.” I don’t argue that there are some outlier elements to Pen’s rise, but at its core, he was still a Cartoon Network artist who was promoted from within, which is why it worked out as well as it did. The best animation, whether made during the golden age of Hollywood theatrical animation or in contemporary anime, is typically done by identifying and developing creators from within a studio, which is why recruitment and team building are far more important processes than pitching.

    • Marie

      It is also worth noting that the pilot for Adventure Time was originally developed for Nick, and they passed, which is how it ended up at Cartoon Network. So yet another example at their inability to recognize talent that is right under their nose.

  • Professional

    I don’t want to step on any toes in publicly commenting on this, but I agree wholeheartedly. Any experienced writer can tell you an idea lives in the execution, not the premise. The idea that turning over stones to find that one “fresh” premise misunderstands and demotivates the entire creative process. *Insert one of the many famous artist’s quotes about everything having been done here*

    • GENARO

      Looney Tunes are the best example of this, if they were such a good idea in of themselves there wouldn’t be any way to get them wrong, but it was creative and talented people who could take any character (or “idea”) and turn it into gold and make quality material.

    • SarahJesness

      Agreed. I always tell people, ideas mean nothing. They’re practically worthless without execution. You can take a general idea and hand it to ten different people, and you can easily end up with ten very different pieces of work.

  • optimist

    You’re absolutely right. Yes, yes and yes. But in the end, I’d bet this is more than anything else merely a ho-hum publicity-generating stunt.

    And of course, the people who actually make Cupcakery work(or try their best to)will be from among the ranks of ignored and never-publicized highly skilled artists at Nick.

  • Pedro Eboli

    Sorry, Amid, but I have to say a couple of things on this one.

    I am the co-creator of one of last years´ selected shorts for Nickelodeon International and finished the short (called “Monster Pack”) last February, so I can talk about that. I can´t say anything about the Comic Con thing, which just sounds more like a way to be present at the Con than anything else.

    But for the shorts program, it was a great experience overall. Nickelodeon gave us complete creative freedom in doing our short, even going so far as letting us pick how much we wanted to be involved (we decided to be 100% involved) and which animation studio could produce it (Birdo Studio in São Paulo, a damn fine one). And both me and my friend and co-creator are NOT “untrained college students”. Graham (the co-creator) is an animation supervisor in Vancouver and I have years of experience in the industry doing everything from commercials, music videos and other shows.

    If you take a look at the news you gave this year about the Nick Shorts program, you will notice that the people who won the Nick shorts program alongside us include the Bothers McLeod and Mel Roach, among others, all of them extremely talented and experienced people. When you make a statement like that about the winners, that they´re all pimply teenagers or fanboys, it just makes you sound uninformed about the subject you´re ranting about. Always a bad idea for a journalist.

    The Nick Shorts program was especially important for me, being from a country that´s not an animation powerhouse like the US. This gave me a channel to send my idea to a network, be seen and have my idea produced the way me and Graham wanted to.

    So it´s not only about the premise itself, it was also about the execution. Becuase we got to execute what we had in mind, without any of that folkloric “producer´s interference”. Quite the contrary, actually, with this being our first produced pitch, they gave us all the support we asked, from talks with screenwriters on Skype, to directing our recording session over conference call, to a great talk with seasoned NICK artis Chris Savino (who, btw, won one of the spots in the US shorts program).

    Of course, instead of sending my pitch to Nick, I could always go the route of making your own stuff at home, putting it online and waiting to be discovered too. It works, it really does. But it´s not everyday I have time to animate without a budget, with me being a person with rent and bills to pay. When I have the time, I love to do that stuff too. And Nick is not forcing anyone to send pitches, Nick is not promising anything it´s not ready to deliver. You get contracts, you read them, you agree or disagree. We´re all adults here. There are no amount of guns in no amount of heads. But I can already hear the cry of the pimply college students, Cartoon Brew´s actual fanbase, saying how Nick is getting a free ride, etc etc. Which is totally not true.

    I can´t comment about Nick hearing pitches from the inside. But I can tell that in the US shorts program at least 3 of the creators who got shorts made were from INSIDE Nick. Of course you have to nurture talent from the inside. But it would be equally silly to simply dismiss any visions from the outside, it´s a HUGE world out there, Amid. It doesn´t stop in LA or NY. and this diversity is what makes content great.

    So, Amid, I just wanted to share my first hand account of being in the shorts program. It was fantastic, we made what we wanted, I met tons of great people and I love the little short we made. Of course, you can keep guessing wildly about what you THINK it is, and maintain yourself angry at the whole thing. Your choice.


    • AmidAmidi

      Pedro – It’s nice that Nickelodeon USA is looking to Canada and Brazil for ideas, but the fact is that over the past 15 years, hundreds of artists have passed through their Los Angeles studio, and they’ve been largely unable to identify or develop their local talent. If they don’t know what to do with what’s right in front of them, I find it highly unlikely that they’d suddenly make great use of international talent. While I’m delighted to hear of your personal successes, those experiences don’t speak to the bigger picture, which is the studio’s inability to deliver shows that connect with kids thematically and not just commercially.

      • Pedro Eboli

        Sorry, Amid. I get a little sensitive when me and my peers are called “untrained college students” in a generalizing front page rant in one of the most visited animation sites in the web. :)

  • R. Wappin

    I don’t get it. Two little animals trying to take over the world is supposed to be a novel idea? That cartoon looks like it was drawn by an 8 year old. Also, does anyone still think cupcakes and saying “of doom” is funny? Invader Zim already beat that dead horse.

    • Gary Sorrell

      Speaking of little animals taking over the world, Pinky and the Brain.

      • Ryoku240

        Imo it all goes back to Marvin the Martian.

  • For Context

    For context, please recall a previous Cartoon Brew article about the very experienced Nick employee, Chris Savino getting his series, The Loud House, greenlit. That series is based off of the short he made in the Nickelodeon shorts program.

  • Christian Bermejo

    Yes, yes and yes… but I don’t believe team building and outside pitching is mutually exclusive. The pitch is (kind of) the single opportunity for the independent (artist or studio) to access distribution and visibility for an idea they probably don’t have the money to develop or be developed in case the idea comes from an untrained artist. But yeah, ComicCon not the best idea.

    • AmidAmidi

      You’re right, Christian. A pitch program could be designed to work and I’m sure there are successful examples.

      Nickelodeon’s program is directionless, and involves begging at Comic-Con, infiltrating college curriculums, and creating Internet contests. They’ve turned the entire process into a circus, but even worse, they have no idea how to properly identify and develop the talent already in their employ.

  • HaBla

    Also, this is your only take away from Pedro’s really long and informative response?


  • nick

    I submitted a pitch to their online pitching session earlier this year, around march and after a month received an automated message telling me it wasn’t what they were looking for.

    Had I known that Nickelodeon wanted a lame poorly drawn invader zim knock off I would have made that.

    I have a degree in Animation and have worked for studios. Yet they will take some random guy off the street? It’s insulting.

    • Naota Nandaba

      FYI the digital group and the animation studio groups are two different animals. The shorts picked for the digital group were quite good last year.

    • Oswald

      You mean “Pinky and the Brain” knock off.

  • Nick

    No need for outrage. Animation CAN be outsourced for the shorts (the most inexpensive option), but I’ve personally animated on more than one of the shorts at PUNY, an animation studio here in the States. The creators choose their animation house.

  • Nick

    I’m still waiting to hear from one of the actual chosen Nick Shorts creators about how awful their experience with Nickelodeon was… I only see a lot of people WITHOUT a short berating the program and claiming they know where the next big idea will (or rather, won’t) come from. My suggestion would be to get off the computer, put a cap on the Haterade, and MAKE something. Maybe even submit your idea to next year’s Nick Shorts program. If it’s any good, they’ll PAY you to make your cartoon and give you total creative freedom to do so. Then come back and tell us just how terrible Nickelodeon is.

  • Ant G

    I commend Nick for going against the grain and trying out a new method for seeking talent. This article is a little too traditionalist and there is an irony in an article that says Nick should not poach people with no animation experience, because the author of that article presumably does not have the show running and talent seeking experience that Nick has, to tell them how to do their job. Very rarely do short term results complement new ideas, I hope Nick is thinking of this long term and are assuring themselves that something great will indeed come out of this pitch seeking experiment

  • Romaine Coston

    Very interesting article. I do have my opinion on the matter as well. I think Nick is trying to find that one “magic show” which will boost overall ratings and give them more of a recognizable identity. For example, when one thinks of Cartoon Network, a litany of shows come to mind: The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe, Regular Show, Adventure Time, Teen Titans Go!, etc. I think one of the main problems Nick has is that they’re not ready to take a risk on MULTIPLE shows. Add to this, is the fact that Nick likes to green light shows that are similar to each other such as Sanjay and Craig, Bread Winners, Spongebob, and Rabbids. There isn’t really anything particularly unique about them, nor do they really have variety. I do believe this is why a former Nick show like, Invader Zim, has such a cult following. Nick took a chance with Jhonen Vasquez and because of that, Invader Zim is so beloved by many today.

    Also, I think Nick realizes that they cannot have a few “magic shows”, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, along with Spongebob, to carry the network. Sure, they tried to further their viewership with Legend of Korra, but that was somewhat of a flop, television ratings wise. I do believe that the Nick execs need to just hunker down, and start taking more risks/chances–within the studio AND outside of the studio. They should try to make intelligent decisions about which shows need to be green lit. But most importantly, they should make sure that the green lit shows are diverse, funny, smart, have variety, and have a wide range of appeal, i.e. Nick should green lit shows that will generate interest from kids, teens, AND adults. Cartoon Network has this with their lineup as well as Disney Channel.

    I’m an adult and I LOVE The Amazing World of Gumball. I also really enjoy Regular Show and Gravity Falls. I enjoy these shows because they don’t treat kids as dumb, nor do they insult the intelligence of children. They also add humor in there that even adults and teens would enjoy. This is essentially important as today’s kids and teens aren’t clueless and believe it or not, they love programs which challenge and stimulate them mentally. Spongebob, Sanjay and Craig, Bread Winners, Rabbids, and Penguins of Madagascar, just don’t cut it for me and I have a feeling, neither does it cut it for kids, as they move on to the more stimulating shows on Cartoon Network and Disney Channel.

    Bottom line and to recap here, I think Nick needs to continue to take chances within the studio and outside of the studio. Furthermore, they shouldn’t concentrate on a select few “magic shows”, but instead, green light a variety of shows, which will not only cater to kids, but to teens and adults alike.

  • This is part of the reason I’m going independent after I finish art school. I’m not going to waste my time working at a studio who doesn’t value their artistic team enough to reach out in-house for new show ideas. And I’m certainly not going to waste my time pitching an idea I’ve contributed years of blood, sweat, tears, and effort into culminating if someone can go to Comic Con with an idea as half-baked as “uh heres a bear and another indistinguishable creature who uh are going to go take over the world know what im sayin,” obviously put a hilarious lack of effort artistically into, and for the executive on hand to say “yeah thats good haha you really resonate with us bro.” I don’t have the time or the money to waste. YouTube offers much better prospect. And if a studio feels like I have the skill they need, a recruiter can come knock on my door. Nuff said.

    • Youtube Cartoons

      Have you looked at what’s popular on Youtube? What makes money on Youtube? Is that the kind of animation you want to do? Derpy parodies of Pokemon and other pop culture? THAT trend is just as damaging to animation as anything else. The fact that no one needs to make anything new, just do pop culture parodies.

      Sure, there’s some original content out there, but the majority is throwaway.

      • Ryoku240

        Heres the thing with youtube animation though, you have the freedom of choice in what you do.

        Yes exploiting a built-in audience would be easy, but again thats a choice. There are some original yet popular examples like Simons Cat. But then again we all know how popular cats are online.

        With TV you’re forced into meeting after meeting, changing random things according to what some focus group says, and you really end up having little freedom half the time. If your show stinks due to changes made by the execs YOU end up taking the blame on the internet.

        I do think those pop-culture parodies can be a bit damaging to animation as an art-form, I avoid them like the plague.

      • Kay

        I think part of the reason much of the animated content on YouTube (or really anywhere in America) is comedy based is because it’s safe. Let’s face it, animation is a very time consuming medium, and it’s hard for big studios (let alone independent artists) to profit on animated content.

        I for one would love to make online animations with sophisticated plots, akin to dramas or TV serials, really bigger than a one-off short. However, that would be a really hard thing to sell online on an independent basis, or to pitch to the big studios. The ambition would be for naught, especially if one were to calculate the costs of making such a creation. I am very hopeful though that society will become more accommodating on animation that isn’t purely for the laughs.

  • RScott

    Wow, it’s astounding how completely uninformed Amid is on this particular topic, which makes this article completely baseless. The Cupcakery of Doom was greenlit for the development of a two minute short, and nothing more. Secondly, there was a script associated with Trevor’s pitch, they weren’t simply greenlighting concepts. A script you haven’t read, of course, so your comment in regards to Jenna is way off base. Your judgement of his pitch is probably based on that terrible piece of presentation art, which I agree, appears that it was drawn by a three year old. Hmm…..kind of reminds me of Pendleton Ward’s original concept art for Adventure Time (as far as it being childlike art), how did that turn out?

    Pedro beat me to the punch, as I was going to use him, and Chris Savino, as only a couple of examples of some of the winners from the Shorts Program, both of whom are proven commodities in the world of animation. Nick artists are able to pitch their ideas, and do not have to do so solely through the Shorts Program. Once again, if you actually bothered to speak to some Nick artists, you could have saved yourself some unnecessary writing time. There is a ton of undiscovered talent out there, so for Nickelodeon to simply rely on their in-house personnel is idiotic. People are not turning in a one sentence concepts, and getting pilots greenlit. You are completely misrepresenting the Shorts Program, and the events at Comic-Con. It is clear that you occasionally get lazy, and choose not to do research on some of your articles.

    Cartoon Brew is my first stop on the web every day, and I am grateful for this site, Amid. You have introduced me to so many great artists, and a ton of inspiring animation, that I may not have discovered on my own. This article is a major disappointment though, you are better than this, especially as a champion of animation, that a lot of people respect.

    • AmidAmidi

      It doesn’t matter if there’s a script or not or if it’s crudely drawn or not. Ideas are dime a dozen. What is the creator’s track record of executing ideas, and how does he/she work with other artists? Develop talent first, then ideas. Secondly, you might not agree with the criticisms but they aren’t baseless. They’re based on years of having seen their development projects and listening to those who have worked at the studio.

    • Johnny

      “Hmm…..kind of reminds me of Pendleton Ward’s original concept art for Adventure Time (as far as it being childlike art), how did that turn out?”

      Pretty bad. They took that cute naive artstyle and hammered it flat and turned it into its current generic form that’s gotten more rigid and boring as the show has progressed. Masaaki Yuasa’s episode should have looked a lot better then it did but it looks like his team decided to stay as on-model as possible which is a huge shame.

      As for the artwork provided in the article that really does look like it was drawn by a untalented child.

  • Not yet in terms of popularity.

  • megadrivesonic

    Need proof there’s a problem with nicks pitch system, i can sum it up in one word ” Breadwinners”. Dont want to sound arrogant but I full heartedly can say that i can make a show better then what was hatched by those hacks.

  • Naota Nandaba

    It’s a two way street. Just because you create a system where people can create shows doesn’t mean they will. I have been a Nick for over a decade and have found them to be a very artist friendly company. Internally we are always given priority to pitch in person or over skype. Also they have a “open-door” policy where we can setup a pitch session any time of year. The shorts program is exactly as stated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go the traditional route. For me I see it as a way to get a short film made on Nick’s dollar. If they choose not to use it, shop it elsewhere down the road. The have a sunset clause. Internally there is also a lot of fear that the company will steal, however this rarely happens, just because you come up with a show about a cat that chases a mouse doesn’t mean they didn’t get a dozen others like it that year.

    I will acknowledge that I don’t get a calls to say “Hey pitch me something”, I wouldn’t want that anyway. If I volunteer something then they own it. If I participate through one of these programs then I have a bit more of a say over the contract. Steve Borst worked as a writer for promo content in New York before getting is break a short time after leaving ( It does happen.

    Also another thing worth noting you can’t assume all animators working for a large company want to become show-runners. Easily 4:5 want nothing to do with running a show. If you work for Nick the opportunity is there to pitch. If you have something worth while they will pick it up. Adventure Time as a screw up however we can’t assume that Nick is rejecting all these amazing pitches to just pickup crap.

    I constantly see these sad tales of companies who are “artist-friendly” paying crap wages. Nick does not pay crap NY/LA they pay is higher than you would expect. Not everyone can be a creator, at least when your not your treated fair and get a descent wage. Its up to the individual to decide if they want to try for something else. I for one am much happier to see this new trend where they are searching for talent instead of the yesteryear where they just sourced the same creators over and over for shows.

  • Naota Nandaba

    They will let you animate it all your self or with your friends, if your so inclined, however you have to hit your deadline.

  • Naota Nandaba

    It can’t be helped that Spongebob is successful. So you suggest they take it off air because its making too much money. Realize the audience, most people here fail to realize that the audience for Nick is 8-12 years old. Look TMNT movie is crap, I won’t touch it but holy-crap people swallow that shit. You know what I was in my basement this AM and the landlord was talking to a plumber about how awesome it was and how fun it was for his kids. So you know what maybe we don’t know what the audience want. Maybe they want Spongebob and an oddly lipped Michelangelo.

    On a side note, I have never worked with a more dedicated harder working group of people who just want to make something for children to enjoy.

    The best advice I got from one of the development team members was to think back to your childhood, what would the 10 year old you want to watch, what would they connect with? That is in essence what they are looking for.

    • Funkybat

      That advice probably wouldn’t work for me; what 10 year old me wanted to see on TV is slightly more likely to be greenlit today than it would have been in the 80s, but its still pretty outre’. The Littles, Gummi Bears and DuckTales were pretty much the closest that mainstream animation came to meeting my wishes back then.

      Occasionally, a miracle will occur. 20-something me couldn’t have asked for a better show than The Venture Bros. and that’s exactly what I got at that time. The closest thing to what 10 year old me would want to see that’s aimed at kids today is Gravity Falls, but I suspect I wouldn’t have fully appreciated it back then. I’m glad 30-something me is getting to see it!

  • Karl Hungus

    This article is why CartoonBrew is an invaluable and irreplaceable voice for the animation industry.

  • Anonymator

    Pedro – You’re right about Breadwinners, it seems to be doing well. BUT – Did you know that Breadwinners was a short that was developed in Nick’s shorts program, and they PASSED on it? The creators decided to make the short themselves, post it on the internet, and it got popular. THEN Nick realized it was a good idea and they green-lit it. If anything this proves one thing they’ve got their heads in some weird places.

    • Funkybat

      I wish they responded similarly after seeing the internet popularity of The Modifyers, which they DID pay to produce the pilot of, only to not move forward. Of course, the creators have long since moved on to other things, but it would be so great if that actually became a series.

  • Wally Kandoo

    It would be nice if this critism had an impact. It won’t. The only thing I wish they understood is that we become visual artists because that’s how we best communicate. If I was better at acting or telling jokes, I’d be an actor or a comedian, and yet they always fall for ‘actors’ or ‘comedians’ who are second rate, which is why they’re not actually actors or comedians-or models for that matter. Not to mention…if you’re looking for the best talent: consider those who were attended to the best schoolS.

    • Fried

      Because acting and good comedy are staples of a memorable film. If you take that out, all you have are pretty drawings, and often times the best artists make for terrible storytellers (Don Bluth).

      Just because you are not a good actor on-screen does not mean an artist doesn’t understand acting, they just translate it better through drawings (or whatever medium you choose) than with their actual face. They’re able to capture the subtle twitches of a mouth or eye if they are given the time to really think it out and work on scene, vs. having to do it on the spot with people watching which takes a whole different set of skills, but understanding the character goes both ways for an artist or actor.

      As does making something funny. On-the-spot = comedian, which an artist may not be good at. But they should still understand comedy. There is nothing wrong with someone who doesn’t drawing wanting to get into animation, demanding it somehow be separate is an elitist mindset and suggests that if an artist wanted to start writing for a sitcom series, they shouldn’t be allowed either.

      • Wally

        First, it’s funny that you quote Don Bluth, because he’s talking about himself, I think.
        I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. In your example, I think writers would be equally annoyed by an artist trying to write a sitcom-assuming the writers studied writing, and the artist did not. That’s not elitist. If anything, it’s more offensive that someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing doesn’t have respect or regard for those who do. In other words, if you want to write sitcoms, study screen writing first.

  • Ummm

    Independent animation artists have lots of experience, contacts and have often already executed great work, often more than the average Nick employee at their first art job. To be very clear- talented artists are not all working for studios. Some of the best (Glen Keane) are not studio bound in the morning. Nick is smart to find these gems amongst the peoples. I would think this should be celebrated. The more animation is open and not a closed off, elite art form- the better.

    • D

      I agree totally, many independent animators who honed their skills outside the studio system working on their own projects have tremendous ability and if they want to jump into the pitching process they should be encouraged to do so.

      I was merely trying to say that Nickelodeon having no parameters for who can submit a pitch, which seems to have occurred with this whole Comic Con pitch farce, is a terrible idea because this grants people with no artistic skill/experience the same chance of getting a pilot or series as your well trained industry pros, independent animation dynamos and recent animation school graduates.

      I also agree with your sentiments that animation should not be a closed off or elitist art form and independent animators and artists wanting to engage in the pitch process through Nickelodeon is a great idea. Once again though this Trevor Reece is not an industry or independent animator/artist he is a writer and an old-school Nickelodeon fan. For Trevor’s pitch to be successful when many trained and independent animators probably had their pitches turned away is unacceptable.

      • Umm

        Artists who were honed by big studios and are attempting to make things happen outside of the studio system. No encouragement is needed. I do appreciate what you are saying since there are loads of untalented people walking around out there. I would hope that the trained talented artists would rise to the top of the pile fast, and if they are not, it is the fault of Nick employees who should be a strong and fine tuned filter for the ocean of ideas.

  • Ummm

    It sounds from other employees who have posted here that pitches are wide open to those who have jobs at the studio. It should not be embarrassing that a wide net is cast out to a world full of independent artists. But I agree that, not cute ironic, but simply bad art and, not ironic, but simply lazy ideas are not going to get the young adult audience, or more importantly, young kids watching. Great ideas like Spongebob may have look simple to an executive but there was depth, great understanding of real humor, and humanity in that project. Making simple great art is deceptive and it sounds like the executives have fell for some bad pitches that don’t have anything “real” behind them.

  • Oswald

    Bravo, Amid. I just shake my head at Nick’s scattershot talent hunts – especially when the results look as pathetic as “Cupcakery of Doom”. Its title is based on incongruity – cupcakes and doom! – wow, edgy – and not a very clever title at that – and its characters look like they were drawn by a alumni of a kindergarten class. Does Nick really think that kids like to look at stuff like that? Good god. Kids deserve better. And so does television animation.

    Thank god for Wander Over Yonder and Gravity Falls. They provide kids with a lovely alternative to Nick’s smacks-of-desperation offerings.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I think all of the designs/artwork look horrible. Not just Nick but also Cartoon Network and Disney Television too.

  • Gorganzola

    I think more so than anything these open pitches are meant for smaller studios and independent animators out there to have a venue for pitching. I know Amid always regards it as pitching for untrained teens and fanboys which is inevitable when hosting an open call but it doesn’t necessarily determine the actual intended target. As an independent animator who has survived outside of the studio system I think it is unfair to say that all talent is housed within companies especially when more and more creators are taking the independent route due to how much easier it is to operate as an independent with the internet and all the tools we have available. I can never see myself working at a studio and I have done many animation projects for a wide spectrum of clients and I don’t think it is fair to assume that all the talent would be coming from in house. I get it that it is irritating if someone untrained happens upon something because they have no proof of execution but at the same time you are holding on to the same catch 22 mentality that prevents most people from entering the industry, the fact that they need experience before they can be hired to get experience. This is why crowd sourcing sites and other avenues are helpful for first establishing footing if nothing else as well as allowing those passionate about an incredible industry to exercise their creative muscles. To say an idea is a dime a dozen is a baffling comment to make. I think yes though there is simplicity in many of the most successful ideas and yes creative talent did drive their success the ideas themselves fundamentally have to work. And to think some lame cookie cutter idea in the hands of a seasoned incredible animation talent is going to do wonders then you can’t. As they always have said you can’t polish a turd.

  • jonhanson

    Disney has a bear show in the works? Are they finally rebooting Gummi Bears?

    • Twanker

      Nope. I know of a TV pilot. Sounds like good show as opposed to Cupcakery. It may never see the light of day though.

    • Funkybat

      Gummi Bears was fantastic for its time. It was the first show for kids I can recall that had strong, meaningful continuity, character development, and an overarching mythology of its “universe.” I was on the edge of my seat whenever they discovered something that filled in the pieces of what happened to the ancient Great Gummis. Disney didn’t really do anything that strong in those areas again until Gargoyles, which was just amazing.

  • Ryoku240

    Hes gotta get a $300k diploma first.

    • megadrivesonic

      Your kidding, just to pitch a cartoon that most likely won’t get picked up by nick because it doesn’t have enough pop culture references?

      • Ryoku240

        Not to pitch it, but executives look favorable upon a CalArts diploma.

        • megadrivesonic

          what about one from the Art Institute of Phoenix?

  • Ryoku240

    When I was younger I recall Nick magazine looking for show ideas, the top selection wasn’t half bad, only thing is that none of them actually became shows and you had to hand the rights to your characters to Nick.

    My idea wasn’t that great, just something about a cat and a penguin that went on adventures, probably got recycled into a newspaper. The artwork was GREAT though, in that it was very crude and childish which makes me wonder if I was ahead of my time.

  • megadrivesonic

    ID love to, But tell me, How on earth does one person just get a studio pitch? I may be an animator but that doesn’t automatically mean I know these things.

    • Pedro Eboli

      Well, megadrivesonic, this is why there are things like the Nickelodeon shorts program. I don´t have a 300k diploma in animation, like Mr Snarky Comment down there said. I worked originally as an advertising copywriter for years and only began my career in animation 6 years ago, at 27.

      Nick and Frederator take pitches all the time, if you want to. Apart from that, most production companies are willing to take in pitches and read them. they´re not networks, but they´re always looking for content to sell to the networks (most shows on most kids networks all over the world are made by third parties).

      Most shows are created by just one person. Then the studio/network/whatever develop it into a fully realized project (usually alongside the original creator). Of course, you don´t HAVE to know these things from the get go. You learn them. So be patient and willing to listen and study. Look for pitch packages from shows that are out. The one for Adventure Time has been avaliable online for years, and it´s a great reference. And a lot of creators are willing to share their original pitches with people. It´s not secret, and it sure as hell it´s not rocket science.

      What you DON´T want to do, especially if yoú´re beginning, is to make troll-like comments like the one you made about Breadwinners. It not only makes you sound arrogant, but frustrated and immature. It atuomatically labels you as a snarky, angry student, it pushes people away. And you might not be that guy. You might be a wonderful person, for all I care. So instead, do something more productive than bitching online, and instead INVITE people to share and talk things with you. Look for the professionals you admire, see what they have to say, learn and grow. The online community can be an awesome, enriching place if you´re willing to bring people closer, instead of pushing them away with snarky and trollish behaviour. It will make you a better person, and it´s amazing how people will want to share and talk with you.

      Btw, the short me and my friend sold to Nick doesn´t have a single pop culture reference in it. there you are pushing people away again, man.

      Have a great weekend, buddy! I sincerely hope we all can see, enjoy and share your work in the future.

  • sasquatchman

    Well I think it is good to take pitches from folks wherever you can and give everybody the opportunity and not just those who can draw. For example, I’m no animator and cannot really think of a job I could get in at Nick to get me through the door and then work several years to finally be able to pitch something. There are ton of creators out there who do not go that route and would love to sell their ideas to make a living. I hate when indie guys are excluded and since they don’t have an in they cannot be around. It is nice that Nick gave the fan a chance. Sorry I only agree with this 50%

    • Brad

      Team up with an artist then. Animation IS a medium of “moving pictures”. If you’re a writer, then write a book; a script; a screenplay; a blog, etc. Or, do something on YouTube. But, do you think it’s a good idea for non-artists to compete with those who spent YEARS studying and refining their artistic skills? Would people watch sports if they were played by non-athletes (unless they’re your own children, of course). People don’t realize how insulting it is to look at this shit, when there are so many skilled professionals who could actually make things that can inspire and enrich.

      • DangerMaus

        It’s a competitive world, so people might as well just deal with it. The process just reminds me of a job interview. Does any rational person actually believe that the most qualified and skilled individual gets the job every time?

        This thing with this Trevor Reese fellow obviously impressed some suit in the decision making process, regardless of its rudimentary art look. The suits like it (probably because they end up owning it outright) and they know they have a legion of art robots to massage it into something approaching a level of art suitable for broadcast.

        Being skilled and employed in the industry does not bestow the right to be at the head of the line when it comes to creating or having a show selected for production, no matter how much others wish it were so.

        I mean, honestly, are people going to tell me that there aren’t professionals in the industry that have better ideas and skills than the professionals that came up with the likes of “Uncle Grandpa” and “Breadwinners”? Are those guys really the pinnacle of artistic creativity and skill in today’s animation industry?

        To tell the truth, judging from what seems to be making it on TV in terms of animation, skill and talent has nothing to do with it. It’s more like a lottery. If you get picked then you have hit the jackpot. From that point on, if you keep getting shows greenlighted then (maybe) skill and talent become more of a factor.

        Also, this was one guy in ten million, without an animation background, that had lightning strike and got lucky to have his idea put into development. ONE GUY! Yet, you goes off on a mean-spirited rant like as if the roof of the world has fallen in. He makes it sound like as if a one-off occurrence is the signal that the barbarians are at the gate.

        Man, until I found this site I didn’t have any realization of how mean-spirited and insular the animation industry is. It is quite the eye-opener.

        • Brad

          The sad thing is that you’re mostly right. I don’t agree that the industry is mean-spirited or entitled. To the contrary, most working have paid their dues getting those jobs. And most will tell you that artists are great to work with. That’s probably because their work speaks for itself. There is a lot frustration about the very things you talked about though.

          My point was simply that someone who claims he can’t draw should either team up, or work in a field that doesn’t require drawing.


    Nick’s mostly dead to me. But they have some good shows, like The Penguins of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and probably Korra. Also possibly MvA.

  • Untrained College Student

    That’s kind of cool how Nick is willing to give anyone a shot.

  • Roberto Severino

    Wow Amid. I agree with you 100%. Well said sir. Nickelodeon really needs to wake up.

  • Doug

    If everyone complains that Nick has all its eggs in one basket with SpongeBob, isn’t a program like this a great way for them to open themselves up to something new with minimal financial risk? Like others have pointed out, they greenlit a 2-minute short film, not an entire series. Nick produces dozens of shorts a year in their pilot development programs, most of which are created by established animation professionals from within Nick or other studios. This is just one of many they’re adding to their shorts production slate.

    It’s likely that this short isn’t going to be picked up for a full series, but that doesn’t mean this is a bad idea, a waste of anyone’s time or money, or a sign of misguided executives. Even if this short doesn’t go anywhere beyond, dozens of animators and artists working on it will gain experience, get paid, and earn a foot in the door at Nick to potentially pitch new ideas in the future. And keep in mind that some kids in the 2-11 demo might actually enjoy watching the short, which is the goal of a children’s media network. All of that at an extremely small expense in Nick’s animation budget, which is already supporting several full series and dozens of other pilots, all of which employ artists and provide that valuable experience that will one day pay off when some of them graduate to become showrunners.

    There’s no reason to look at this negatively. This short isn’t being produced instead of something by an artist within the studio. It’s being produced in addition to those. Keep in mind that this entire Comic-Con program was conceived mainly as a PR stunt, and it succeeded, getting covered by outlets that don’t usually cover children’s animation, like the New York Times, Deadline, and the Hollywood Reporter.

    Pig Goat Banana Cricket and Bad Seeds prove that Nick is looking for interesting and successful animators to run shows. Try to keep in mind that this Comic-Con program was just a fun stunt for fans. Let’s look on the bright side, wish the creator luck on the project, and be happy that Nick is interested in trying new things.

    • DangerMaus

      Finally,someone with some actual perspective. Bravo.

  • Darissa Townes

    Judging from the crudeness of the one image we have of Cupcakery of Doom, I’m interested in seeing how this idea evolves.

    Not bashing on the creator by any means, but out of those hundreds of pitches at Comic-Con, THIS was the only one Nick liked?? Surely there were more than this.

  • Tori Rhodes

    I wish. The 90s Are All That is just a bone they threw out to placate the masses. It’s a meager two hour block that starts at midnight and doesn’t even air on the main network (it’s confined to TeenNick only).

  • Funkybat

    Lego Movie far exceeded what most people (me included) expected from the initial trailers. When I learned Lord/Miller were directing and writing it, I was far more interested. The end result was way more entertaining and thought-provoking than I thought possible.

    Once in a while, a major studio whose primary goal is to make profits will, almost in spite of itself, finance and support the development of a film that actually qualifies as art and actually has meaningful things to say. The Lego Movie was one such rare bird.

    • D C Mahler

      The Lego Movie was a piece of marketing genius because they managed to successfully disguise a feature length commercial for a single product. And it was great. But don’t kid yourself, at the end of the day it was still an absolute money grab; the characters and scenarios were created around the product.

  • luz

    i’m making a short with a studio, and i have zero experience. i i just drew on paper with a pencil forever. my main comment is that you have to have confidence and know your characters. this article is very bratty.

    • Henry Cohn

      I agree that this article is somewhat “bratty”, but don’t think you can make a good short unless you have, at least on your own, experimented with the medium for a few years.

  • James

    I don’t necessarily agree with all of this, but their certainly is something amiss when comparing nicks success with Disney or Cartoon Network. Problem with ideas are, is that once a person has a story idea made, that idea can’t automatically be stolen by someone who can do something better with it so they skip over it. If it is the idea of a generally unskilled animator, but they still like the idea, they should buy it off of him or her, or pay royalties if it is a success, rather than just skip over the idea entirely. I think ideas do matter, without any ideas, even the most talented creator would be practically nothing but a robotic means of drawing boring pieces over and over again perfectly.
    I think cartoon network did well in making frederator, and giving everyone an opportunity to get themselves on the radar, and potentially on the air, and from what I read nick is doing a similar thing. Though what I also actually agree upon here is that good shows usually come from a person who has had a bit of practice on other shows, be them from the studio or not.

  • john

    i like a strong story with funny moments in it, than funny story with less strong stories. i like avatar-the last airbender, generator rex, thundercats and storm hawks. and i have created many anime based stories in many themes like drama, wuxia, adventure, cyborg, action, romance, slapstick, comedy, space, aliens, superpowers, superhero etc. i have created over 10 ideas and are all based on anime style storytelling, and some can even be pitched to western studios. i live in europe and am an amateur but with great stories and titles. and am looking for contacts or references to who i should pitch them to,i would appreciate it and be forever greatfull. if you any idea my email is [email protected]

  • zorrewe jefferson

    well, send scripts… problem solved.

  • Thomas Scott Roberts

    I’ve always felt a bit like the kid looking in the shop window at the toy he could not have.

    I wrote and drew a regular, recurring feature for Nickeoldeon Magazine for ten years, based upon my own comic book series PATTY-CAKE. It tested as very popular with readers. I could usually count on kids coming to my table at comic cons who knew Patty from Nick Mag (more than those who knew her from the harder to locate independent comic.) They quoted favorite strips.

    All the while, I was writing and drawing comics based on existing Nick properties, from RUGRATS to JIMMY NEUTRON and FAIRLY ODD-PARENTS. I contributed to Nick Mag right up until it folded, and continue to write and draw for SPONGEBOB COMICS.

    All this time, the one thing I lacked that had always before seemed necessary was an animation background. People asked me all the time why PATTY-CAKE hadn’t been made into a show. All I could tell them was that Nick didn’t seem to be looking at the features in its magazine for properties. They were looking to people already connected to animation. I had and still have no team to put together a short. Yet PATTY-CAKE was in development for animation before, until a certain other studio ran into business problems, and canceled all kinds of projects, mine included. I could not boast to Nick that my property had been optioned and in development, because it might make it seem ‘shopped around.’

    And now we hear that Nick is trying to solicit ideas from the ‘man in the street.’ From people with none of the background I’d thought was essential. But I don’t get to cons anymore. Patty doesn’t get seen anymore. Yet I still believe it would make a successful show. I just never seem to be in the right place at the right time when they have the right priorities.

  • That also kinda ripped off jimmy neutron, as did chicken little.