In the new post, Naito will oversee the network’s animation content across all formats and platforms: linear, digital, TV movies, theatrical motion pictures and SVOD. She continues to report to Brian Robbins, president of ViacomCBS Kids & Family.
Since Naito joined Nick in 2018 as executive VP, she has helped bring new projects, talent and key partnerships to the studio to build its pipeline of content, including overseeing Nickelodeon’s multi-year output deal with Netflix for original animated features and TV series based on Nick’s considerable library of characters as well as new IP for a global audience.
“Ramsey has led the transformation of our animation studio through the combination of impeccable creative vision and on-point business instincts, and her appointment to president reflects the scope of talent and soul she brings to our organization,” Robbins said. “In very short order, she has re-energized and rebuilt our animation teams while bringing in a string of new talent, storytellers, artists, production teams and voice actors to elevate Nick’s overall animation output and leadership position even further.”
Naito has spearheaded such new projects as “Star Trek: Prodigy” from Nickelodeon and CBS Television Studios; the adaptations of best-selling books “Real Pigeons Fight Crime” (produced by James Corden and Ben Winston) and “Big Nate”; the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theatrical feature in partnership with Point Grey Pictures’ Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver; “PAW Patrol: The Movie”; “SpongeBob SquarePants” spinoff “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years”; and a new “Smurfs” animated series.
She also has re-emphasized Nick’s creator-driven culture with an eye toward building more inclusive and diverse teams. Toward that goal, she’s brought in more than 500 new employees across several of Nick’s animated productions, with more than 150 of those hired since the studio began having staff work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Putting the right people together is especially important,” she said. “I see teams as families and, given that animation takes so long to make, whether you’re working on a series or a movie, you’re often with your teams for at least a year, if not three years. So building teams that are harmonious, that click, it’s so important. And it’s really important that people can communicate well together and be productive.”
Nickelodeon is certainly productive, even with everyone working from home. In fact, work at Nick hasn’t slowed at all since lockdown, with 46 projects currently in production remotely and more projects ramping up. Besides the nuts-and-bolts of remote production, the key to making it all work, she says, is empathy and communication.
“I think that the challenge is staying connected, “ she said. “Leading with empathy, being able to understand the conditions of people working remotely, helping everyone get through the work and being flexible is really, really important.”
With all the hiring and new projects in the works, it seems that one of the biggest problems Nick may face when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted is fitting everyone into the studio complex. And that’s a problem Naito is happy to have.
“When I started at the studio, it was a homecoming for me in many ways, but what was shocking was that we had this great studio [space], but it wasn’t full,” she said. “So now we’ve not only filled the studio, but so much so that now if we were going to move back to the studio next week, I don’t think we would fit.”
Going forward, Naito wants to build on the creator-driven culture she’s nurtured with an emphasis on inclusion and diversity. “When I started with the company, we focused on building content and we reinvigorated the culture to be creator-driven and creator-friendly and a place where artists could come and feel nurtured, where they could grow and that was inclusive and diverse across the board,” she said.
“It is a passion of mine to continue building that culture and making sure that the culture is inclusive and diverse. In terms of the people, we have hired and will continue to hire great talent that’s going to add to the fabric and the future of Nick with new great shows. And in terms of our content, I feel like expansion into studio business, it can really open the gateway for us to be able to build robust slates with the idea of making more,” she added.
“I think Nickelodeon being a world-class animation studio that has the flexibility for artists to move from preschool to movies, to shorts, and to really follow their creative interests, being able to build the studio to support that, that’s what I’m really excited about.”