Exec named president of animation

Brown Johnson, the architect of Nickelodeon’s hugely successful preschool division, has been tapped to tackle the company’s animation business.

As part of an executive realignment at Nick, Johnson has been named president of animation for Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group. She’ll be charged with overseeing development and production for all animated programming across Nickelodeon, known for hits including “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

At the same time, Johnson will continue to handle preschool programming — which includes Nick Jr. and the recently expanded 24-hour cabler Noggin.

Johnson will commute between New York and Los Angeles, with an emphasis on getting to know Nickelodeon Animation’s large West Coast studio in Burbank.

Until now, Nickelodeon development exec VP Marjorie Cohn oversaw both animated and live-action programming. But with the channel continuing to add more live-action product to the mix, Cohn will now focus on that world. That allowed Nick to create an animation presidency for Johnson.

Johnson will continue to report to Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group.

“I feel that animation is still the core of our business, and it does deserve somebody at its helm,” Zarghami said. “We’ve got a fantastic studio in Burbank, and it’s been bugging me that we don’t have anyone who hangs their name on the door as the one responsible for it. That studio will become Brown’s studio.”

Johnson said she’ll spend much of the coming weeks getting to know animators and producers handling work for Nickelodeon.

DreamWorks, for example, is behind the upcoming “The Penguins of Madagascar.”

Johnson also takes over the animation side just as the division expands its output and starts focusing on other platforms, such as mobile and VOD.

Nickelodeon airs about 90 hours of animated programming per week. The network’s animation studio will increase its output by 50% this year — with 225 half-hours delivered. Studio will also produce 29 hours of CG animation this year.

Johnson first joined Nick in 1988 as exec in charge of production, before turning her attention to the preschool world in the early 1990s.

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