Latifa Ouaou has been named executive vice president of movies and global franchises for Paramount Animation and the Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Ouaou will oversee theatricals and streaming film content across both Paramount and Nickelodeon.
On the series side, Eryk Casemiro has been promoted to executive vice president global series content for Nickelodeon Animation. Casemiro will oversee animation series content for preschool and kids ages 6-11 across all formats and platforms for Nickelodeon Animation Studio.
“Latifa has an incredible resume and an incredible reputation,” Naito says. “The community knows her and loves her. She’s a talent magnet. She has great taste in material. And she really has worked in so many aspects of animation that she can really see a movie through from development through production. She’s just really topnotch.”
Ouaou was most recently with Illumination, where she executive produced such films as “The Grinch” and the upcoming “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” Before that, she worked for DreamWorks Animation as a producer, working on the “Shrek” franchise and “Puss in Boots,” and she co-produced “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
Casemiro was previously senior vice president of preschool at Nickelodeon and most recently was an executive producer on the studio’s “Rugrats” reboot. He worked on the original “Rugrats” when he was senior VP of creative affairs at Klasky-Csupo Productions. While at Klasky-Csupo, Casemiro was responsible for the development and production of such Nickelodeon shows as “The Wild Thornberrys,” “Rocket Power,” “As Told by Ginger” and “All Grown Up.” He also led development and production of feature films for Paramount Pictures, including “Rugrats Go Wild,” “The Wild Thornberrys Movie,” “Rugrats in Paris: The Movie” and “The Rugrats Movie.”
“Over the past three years, we’ve scaled to such a degree that it really has allowed us an opportunity to pull back and reorganize and put in place two really fantastic lieutenants, helping to drive and continue to build movies and series,” Naito says. “Latifa and Eryk each have outstanding track records for developing and producing some of the most beloved and recognizable animated content for kids and families, and I am excited to have them take on these new key roles. Under their leadership, Paramount and Nickelodeon are building the next chapter of groundbreaking storytelling.”
Ouaou and Casemiro will report to Naito.
Claudia Spinelli, who was previously senior VP, Animation Department, will be senior VP, Series Animation for Big Kids. Spinelli will oversee 6-11 animation development and current series for Nickelodeon Animation, and she will continue to report to Casemiro.
The past three years have been a whirlwind for Nickelodeon, culminating in an explosion on projects. “About three years ago, when we started this new chapter of Nickelodeon, there were maybe nine things in production. And now, cut to today, having lived through the challenges of a pandemic, we’re now at nearly 60 productions across series and shorts and movies, comprised of theatricals as well. And last year, we had historical news with Nickelodeon and Paramount Animation combining forces under one roof. I think it continues to illustrate our growth,” Naito explains. “It supports and aligns our content plans for everything. It fortifies us as an animation powerhouse.”
Among the projects in the pipeline for Nickelodeon and Paramount Animation are the launch of “Big Nate” as well as production on another Lincoln Peirce book adaptation, “Max and the Midknights”; more from popular franchises, including a “PAW Patrol Movie” sequel and new seasons of the “PAW Patrol” series, “Star Trek: Prodigy,” “Baby Shark,” Blue’s Clues & You” and “Santiago of the Seas,” as well as “Monster High,” “Transformers” and “Tiny Chef,” which are currently in production.
“We’re planning to launch a whole new slew of shows, which I’m really thrilled about. And ‘Big Nate’ is a big one. ‘Big Nate’ is launching in on Paramount Plus Feb. 17,” Naito says. “’Big Nate’ is … based on a book that’s sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Translated in 30 countries. So I feel like there’s not a fourth grader across the globe who doesn’t know who Big Nate is and isn’t excited about this show. The leadership on the show and the look, the stories, it’s just so fun. It’s going to be a phenomenal show.”
Another show Naito is excited about is “Tiny Chef.” “That’s with our partners Imagine. And ‘Tiny Chef’ is somewhat of a phenomenon YouTube. Kristen Bell is also working with us on that. And then we have ‘Monster High’ with Mattel and ‘Transformers’ with Hasbro. So we’re super excited about all the new shows coming in.”
Other new series include “Hamsterdale,” “Zokie Sparkleby” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” which came out of the Intergalactic Shorts Program. Naito says shorts from the program will premiere this year, but “Rock, Paper, Scissors” was greenlit as a series. It’s created by Kyle Stegina and Josh Lehrman. “It’s really just a hilarious show about Rock, Paper and Scissors, who are characters that everyone’s going to fall in love with,” Naito says.
“On the movie side, last year we had four big successful premieres with ‘Sponge on the Run,’ ‘Rumble,’ ‘The PAW Patrol Movie’ and ‘The Loud House’ movie that we premiered on Netflix,” Naito says. “Under Latifa’s leadership, we have a strong slate of movies coming. She will oversee our development slate and new content coming in.”
One of the movies is “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” slated for February 2023. It stars Henry Golding and is directed by Raman Hui and co-directed by Paul Watling and YongDuk Jhun. Bob Persichetti, who was one of the directors of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” is a producer on the project.
Other movies include “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Chapter,” produced in partnership with Point Grey Pictures’ Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver and directed by Jeff Rowe, slated for August 2023; and “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” produced in partnership with Spin Master and directed by Cal Brunker. Also under Ouaou’s purview will be the movie strategy for Avatar Studios.
For Nickelodeon and Paramount Animation, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s all happening while they are still 100% remote, due to the ongoing pandemic.
“I think the reason why we’re thriving is because our teams are so dedicated to their work,” Naito explains. “They love what they do and the artists are not only so incredibly talented at what they do, but they’re just great managers and figured out how to pivot from being able to work and do what they do in person to over Zoom. Which is totally different, a whole other set of challenges, but they figured it out. We all figured it out together.”