Nickelodeon’s Christmas Gift to NYC Animators

(photo from Paint Monster blog)

The holidays just got a little less jolly for NY animation artists. I’m hearing reports that among the casualties of yesterday’s massive 850-person layoffs at Viacom is the entire Nick Digital Animation Studios division. If word on the street is accurate, they’re shutting down the whole shop; from top to bottom, everybody is out the door. This would be a big blow to the New York animation community: Nick is not only one of the largest animation employers in the city but also the last network animation studio remaining on the East Coast. Among the affected shows are Dora the Explorer, The Backyardigans, Go Diego Go, Bubble Guppies, and the forthcoming Umi Zumi, the latter being the only show animated in-house. No word yet on how they’re going to continue producing these shows or when everybody is getting laid off. Feel free to add details in the comments.

UPDATE: Nick employee Linda Beck has written a lengthy post on the ASIFA-East blog about the current situation. Here are a few excerpts from her post, “The End of an Era, Nickelodeon Digital Animation Studio Closes Shop”:

Wednesday morning, a large portion of your community crowded unsuspectingly into conference room 4-110, and were given the news that 1633 Broadway would no longer be the home of the Nick Digital Animation studio.

The crushing blow was that, after a long and difficult deliberation, the Network had made the decision not to rebuild the studio in a new location. After a decade of producing ground-breaking, award-winning pre-school animated television, an Era was given an end date.

The studio itself and the production units, or shows, are two different things. There are four remaining production units on the 4th Floor of 1633. “Dora the Explorer”/”Go, Diego, Go!”, “Backyardigans,” and the yet to premiere “Bubble Guppies,” and “Team Umizoomi.” The former three stay mostly intact and will simply move to other locations. “Team Umizoomi” has a full team that includes Designers, Animators, and Editors. Those are the people who no longer have a Network studio to call home.

But if you’re looking for a villain in all this, you’re not going to find one, at least not on the Network level. In a move that, in my knowledge, is unprecedented, the artists who are being dismissed early are not only being paid through the end dates on their contracts, but are being given severance packages on top based on the years they’ve worked with Nick Animation. It was a classy way to handle it.