“Welcome to the Wayne” was Nick’s first web-only short-form series, with six four to five-minute episodes telling the tale of 10-year-olds Ansi Molina and Olly Timbers, and Olly’s little sister Saraline, as they try to unlock the secrets of the mysterious New York building they live in, the Wayne.
The series was created by Emmy winner Billy Lopez (“Peg+Cat,” “Wonder Pets!”), who doubles as the voice of Olly, and is inspired by his childhood in New York’s Greenwich Village. “I especially remember Halloween, when my neighborhood friends and I would go through the buildings we’d lived in. We would just start from the penthouse and tear down the stairs and bang on everyone’s door. It was sort of like ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ We basically had control of the whole building for that one night,” he recalls. “I think a lot of ‘Welcome to the Wayne’ comes from those memories.”
Lopez says he was approached by colleagues on Nickelodeon’s digital team who were looking for short-form content to feature on Nick.com. He brought 15-20 short ideas to a blind pitch meeting, “and one of them was the germ of ‘Welcome to the Wayne,'” he explains.
Moving from short-form to full-length has been both exciting and challenging, says Lopez. “It’s sort of been a leveling up of every aspect,” he explains. “Not only the storytelling and the ambition for what we hope to make as a show, but also much harder things like production. We have a much larger team working on the animation side of things and on the writing side, so there’s been a lot of learning on the fly.”
But one important thing that Lopez wanted to make sure stayed the same was the feel of the quirky series. “One of the nice things that have stayed intact between the digital and the full-length series is the sort of scrappiness of the animation, the characters and the dialogue.”
Executive producer Michael Pecoriello agrees: “That was one of the things that was important. How do we turn this into a big machine that’s going to produce 20 episodes on budget, on schedule, but still maintain the sort of quirky, hand-drawn, homemade — for lack of a better word — feel of the digital series.”
Another challenge was, of course, the length. “What’s a 22-minute story in ‘Welcome to the Wayne?’ And how do we service all the things we want to be in there: comedy, mystery, serialization, and also standalones?” says Pecoriello.
Because of its short-form entree on Nick.com, the series has a built-in audience that already has in idea what’s going on, so how do you draw in new viewers without repeating yourself to your die-hard fans?
“We decided that we’re going to keep [the digital series episodes] as a sort of official origin story of these characters and start the pilot episode [of the full-length series] some vague time after that,” explains Lopez. “So we ended up with a soft reintroduction of the premise and the themes.”
“It’s basically designed so that you don’t need to have seen the web series to enjoy the show,” agrees Pecoriello. “Episode one feels like a beginning and definitely introduces the characters and the world, but it does work consistently with the digital, so if you watch them both, you’ll see how this sort of follows the events of the digital series.”
In addition to Lopez, the voice cast includes Alanna Ubach (“Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce”) as Ansi and Dana Steingold as Saraline.
The series will air at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT through Friday with encore episodes airing on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. ET/PT.