Viacom characters Viacom characters

A continuing series in which we map out what major corporations own in terms of characters, studios, and distribution platforms.

This week’s company is ViacomCBS, which exists since the 2019 (re-)merger of CBS and Viacom. The multimedia giant owns a panoply of tv networks and channels (including Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central) and many major studios, not least Paramount. The company also has multiple streaming units, which it has started to consolidate around the recently rebranded Paramount+.

It should be noted that ViacomCBS is controlled by National Amusements, which holds over 75% of the company’s voting shares. National Amusements also owns Showcase Cinemas, a movie theater chain which operates in the U.S. and a few other countries.

What follows is a list of animation-related companies/divisions and content ViacomCBS owns or co-owns, compiled to the best of our knowledge. This, and future entries in the series, will be updated as new information becomes available. In earlier entries in the series, we explored the animation holdings of Comcast, Fox Corporation, and Sony Group Corporation.

Production and distribution

Paramount Pictures, one of Hollywood’s “Big Five” studios. It distributes animated features by Paramount Animation (see below) and others, such as 2015’s Anomalisa; it won an Oscar for its 2011 animated feature Rango. Paramount’s history of producing and distributing animation has seen it partner with illustrious studios like Dreamworks Animation and Fleischer Studios (which it eventually acquired).

Paramount Animation, the studio’s animation division, which was founded in 2011. It has released five features to date — Monster Trucks, Sherlock Gnomes, Wonder Park, and the Spongebob films Sponge out of Water and Sponge on the Run — and has a large slate of titles in the works, the next of which is WWE co-production Rumble. Paramount Animation outsources the animation production on its films.

Nickelodeon Studios, the group of production units affiliated with the channel:

Nickelodeon Animation Studio has produced many series for its sister network, including Spongebob Squarepants, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, The Fairly Oddparents, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. It also provides content to third parties like Netflix, with which it signed a major deal in 2019.

Nickelodeon Movies produces films, including The Rugrats Movie, The Adventures of Tintin, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and the upcoming Paw Patrol: The Movie.

Avatar Studios is creating original content based on the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra franchise.

Paws, Inc. owns the Garfield IP.

MTV Entertainment Studios, the channel’s production arm, which works also with third parties. For instance, its upcoming reboot of Clone High is heading to Warnermedia’s HBO Max.

ViacomCBS International Studios, the production arm of ViacomCBS Networks International, which recently set up kids’ division VIS Kids. The unit will produce animated and other content for ViacomCBS channels and platforms, as well as third parties. Animated originals include Gloria Wants to Know It All and Deer Squad (co-produced with Nickelodeon International and China’s Iqiyi).

CBS Eye Animation Productions, an animation studio with CBS Studios, which is CBS’s tv production arm. It is behind shows like Showtime’s Our Cartoon President, and Tooning Out the News, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Prodigy (all for Paramount+).

Miramax, in which ViacomCBS has a 49% stake (the rest belonging to Qatar’s beIN Media Group). The Weinstein-founded studio has distributed animation in the past, including a heavily reworked version of The Thief an the Cobbler. In 2019, it launched a new family and animation unit, but nothing has been announced since and the unit’s first head, Michael Lachance, has since left the company (according to his Linkedin profile).

Rainbow S.p.A., an Italian studio in which ViacomCBS has a 30% stake (the artist Iginio Straffi owns the other 70%). It is behind animated series that are popular in Europe especially, like Winx Club. The studio has collaborated on productions with Nickelodeon. Its subsidiaries include Vancouver-based animation studio Bardel Entertainment, which animates Rick and Morty.

Broadcast and streaming

Nickelodeon, a pioneering cable channel aimed at children, which has aired some of the best-known American animated series in history. It entered original animation (which it releases under the “Nicktoons” banner) in the early 1990s with Doug, Rugrats, and The Ren & Stimpy Show, and has gone on to score major hits with shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. ViacomCBS also operates a number of sister channels, including Nick Jr. (preschool), TeenNick (teenagers), and Nicktoons (animation only).

MTV, a widely influential music cable channel that set up an animation department in the late 1980s and went on to produce acclaimed animated series, often with a dark or experimental bent. Beavis and Butt-Head, Æon Flux, Clone High, and Daria are among its best-known shows. MTV also supported short-form animation in the form of showcases like Liquid Television and Cartoon Sushi, as well as by commissioning eye-catching animated bumpers, idents, etc.

Comedy Central, a cable channel that scored a monster animated hit with South Park, and has also broadcast Drawn Together and Ugly Americans The channel is central to ViacomCBS’s burgeoning adult animation strategy, with a Beavis and Butt-Head reboot and Daria spin-off Jodie heading to the channel.

The CW, a joint venture between ViacomCBS and Warnermedia. The network has broadcast its fair share of animation, not least through its digital platform CW Seed, which has notably released animated web series based on DC Comics characters.

ViacomCBS owns many international channels, some of which have substantial animation programming, like France’s Game One and J-One.

Paramount+, the streaming platform formerly known as CBS All Access, which was recently relaunched with its new name and a vastly expanded library. The service is home to current and upcoming animated originals, including Star Trek: Prodigy, the cg Rugrats reboot, and The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run. It also features a large offering of animation from ViacomCBS’s catalogue, including Paw Patrol, Blue’s Clues, Bubble Guppies, and Dora the Explorer.

Pluto TV, a free, ad-supported streaming service. It features many vintage MTV and Comedy Central series, including Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria, and Drawn Together, via its Comedy Central Animation channel.

Noggin, a mobile- and web-based streaming service that provides educational and interactive content for kids. It features content based on popular Nickelodeon properties like Spongebob and Dora the Explorer.

Characters and shows

ViacomCBS has an impressive roster of recent and contemporary animated characters and franchises under its roof, including Spongebob Squarepants, South Park, Rugrats, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beavis and Butt-Head, Dora the Explorer, Ren & Stimpy, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Doug, The Fairly Oddparents, and The Loud House.

In 1941, Paramount seized control of Fleischer Studios, whose films it had released. It renamed the division Famous Studios, then Paramount Animation Studios (before shuttering the operation in 1967). The rights situation surrounding all these films is complicated. Paramount has kept only a portion of the library: the cartoons produced before October 1950 and after March 1962 (Comcast-NBCUniversal’s Dreamworks has the intervening library), except the Popeye and Superman productions (which are at Warner Bros.). What’s more, many of the earlier films have entered the public domain. But the company retains the rights to some Fleischer classics, including Betty Boop shorts and the 1941 feature Mr. Bug Goes to Town.

On the classics front, ViacomCBS also owns the Terrytoons library, which includes characters like Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Gandy Goose and Sourpuss, Deputy Dawg, Flebus, and Tom Terrific.

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