Nickelodeon has launched an in-house artist development program called the Artists Collective, aiming to reverse its fortunes and create culturally relevant shows that rival those of competitors Cartoon Network and Disney.

The new group, according to Variety, will connect the studio’s experienced veterans with younger artists.

Overseen by Nick content development and production president Russell Hicks, the younger participants in the Artists Collective will receive advice and encouragement on their projects from veteran studio artists, including Chris Savino, creator of the upcoming The Loud House, and writer Scott Kreamer (Fanboy and Chum Chum, El Tigre).

“We’ve found in animation that artist-to-artist communication and mentorship goes a long way,” Jenna Boyd, senior-vp of animation development, told Variety.

The network cites Brian Morante’s Earmouse and Bottle, selected from their 2013 pitch program, as a successful product of the Collective. With the input of Savino and Kreamer, a full pilot is now being produced based on Morante’s short below:

Concurrent with the Collective, Nick runs a similar but separate program called the Writers Fellowship, which gives TV writers an opportunity to work on Nick shows, as well as write spec scripts and pitch ideas to network execs. Nick’s forthcoming live-action series Bella and the Bulldogs emerged from the program; the show’s creator’s, Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza, became writing partners after meeting in the Writers Fellowship.

Last summer, Cartoon Brew criticized the haphazard approach of Nick’s development program, writing:

“[T]he next SpongeBob exists within an artist who works at Nickelodeon today…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.”

Nick execs have now begun to espouse a substantially similar point of view. “If we’re going find the next SpongeBob, we need to find the next Steve Hillenburg, and that person needs to be working at Nickelodeon now,” said Jenna Boyd.

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