Nickelodeon Launches Global Shorts Program (EXCLUSIVE)

New shorts program to tap worldwide toon talent

ANNECY — Nickelodeon is launching its first ever global animation shorts program, aimed at identifying and developing creative talent from around the world.

To be unveiled at France’s Annecy Animation Film Festival Wednesday, the biggest toon confab in the world, the global push builds on Nickelodeon’s inaugural 2012 Animated Shorts Program in the U.S., which received over 600 submissions.

“We received so many great and inspired submissions for our U.S. shorts program last year that we wanted to expand it so creators from around the world could participate,” Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon Group president of content development and production, told Variety.

The global program also forms part of Nickelodeon’s drive under Hicks, promoted late last August to his current position, to create new ways to attract top-creative talent to Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon will field shorts pitches at Annecy. It has already received 100 shorts submissions from artists, designers, writers, directors and comedians from 20 countries and six continents, plus over 900 submissions for the U.S. Animated Shorts Program, whose 12 finalists were announced in May.

For its global animated shorts program, 15 pitch ideas — all for fully animated, character-driven, humor based shorts — will be developed into shorts. As with its U.S. animation shorts program, concepts are being accepted across a broad range of animation styles, from 2D, digital 2D and stop-motion to CG and mixed media.

Winning shorts will air on Nickelodeon’s channels and websites around the world, plus the Nick App.

“We know that great creative talent and ideas come from everywhere around the world, and we are committed to finding and cultivating the next generation of creative voices and giving them an opportunity,” Hicks said.

“Opening submissions on a global level brings us more fresh ideas, new characters, concepts and amazingly funny stories to our audiences everywhere.”

Nickelodeon announced at its Feb. 26 upfront presentation in New York that it had placed a 20 full-length episode order for “Breadwinners,” to be developed from a short by Gary “Noodles” DiRaffaele and Steve Borst discovered in the 2012 Animated Shorts Program, which has seen six shorts go into series development. Two will get pilot orders.

The global animated shorts program is just one way that Nickelodeon is overhauling its international business.

In April, it launched its first mobile app released worldwide in 150 countries and eight languages: “Teenage Mutant Turtles: Rooftop Run.”

Another reason for coming to Annecy, Hicks told Variety, was to explain to international companies what Nickelodeon is looking for over the next couple of years. “It’s about information sharing and being open and transparent so companies can develop projects with us in mind,” Hicks said.

Nickelodeon still acquires most international programming. But it has co-developed with France’s Marathon Media animated TV series “Blake and the Aliens,” presented as a master-class case study Tuesday at Annecy.

Hicks said: “Animation’s almost a universal language for kids. There are great companies coming out every day. We want them to know we’re a place they can come to.”

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