Nick to open own toon lab

Zarghami unveils plans for Burbank-based Inkubators

Nickelodeon is embracing the changing shape of the kidvid industry, and is launching an animation lab to prove it.

At its gaudy upfront breakfast in Gotham’s Nokia Theatre on Thursday morning (which featured a musical performance by Alicia Keys), Nick prexy Cyma Zarghami unveiled plans for Inkubators, an animation site set to be based out of the cabler’s current studios in Burbank. Lab is designed to develop properties for emerging platforms, including broadband, wireless, portable video devices, online and gaming.

“The first Nickelodeon generation of kids grew up in a video democracy; this next generation is platform agnostic,” Zarghami said.

Net’s broadcasts to kids go out over 15 different platforms, but much of that content is currently taken from their TV programming.

Instead, Nick wants to build a multimillion-dollar slate of original content specifically designed for what it calls “multi-splatforms.”

Examples include “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!”, a video podcast of preschooler programming. Podcast features a series of musical animation shorts about a character called Wubbzy and his two friends Widget and Walden that will be distributed on portable video devices such as iPods, cell phones and Playstation Portables.

Net will produce more than 100 games for Nick.com. Games provide boffo traffic for the site, with 152 million game plays so far this year.

Zarghami also disclosed that 254 episodes will preem on TV during the 2006-07 season, some of which have been previously developed on alternative platforms.

New series on the slate include “Mr. Meaty,” an animated comedy about two teenage slackers that originally appeared as a series of shorts on the cabler’s broadband platform TurboNick; “Barnyard,” a CGI skein created by Steve Oedekerk and developed from the upcoming feature film of the same title; and “Downward Doghouse,” an animated show co-produced with Wang Films that promises to introduce preschoolers to aspects of Chinese culture through the lens of five-year-old Kai-lan.

Teen skein “The Lil’ JJ Show,” featuring kid thesp Lil’ JJ, is also in development and will join live actioners “Zoey 101” and “Unfabulous,” both of which have been greenlit for second series.

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