The End of an Era, Nickelodeon Digital Animation Studio Closes Shop

Posted by on Dec 5, 2008 in Industry Events | 22 Comments

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  1. Elliot Cowan
    December 5, 2008

    You have written something very uncommon here.
    A passionate, yet sensible and articulate commentary about an animation related issue.
    Further to this, it’s really, really well written.

  2. Tim Rauch
    December 5, 2008

    Elliot took the words right out of my mouth.

    What NY animation artists need to do, to protect their “jobs”, or more accurately their livelihoods, from being outsourced, is to make themselves indispensable. Make work that is strong and unique and no one can replace you.

  3. Chris
    December 5, 2008

    Thanks for breaking it down, Linda.

  4. Katie Cropper
    December 5, 2008

    This was a very well written and depressing article Linda, but it needed to be written. I can’t be feel just a little anxious about the whole thing. Tim is right to say we should all strive to make ourselves in the NY animation community to be irreplaceable but I have to say how high will the bar have to be for business to come our way? We have some of the most talented animators in these 5 boroughs than most places in this world and still very few bones are thrown our way in terms of big network business. I think when it gets down to it, what is truely irreplaceable is a low bottom line and a high stock price. -sorry to be so cynical this morning. I’m trying to be pollyana over here but the sun just isn’t shining over the 212 this week.

  5. Matt Sincell
    December 5, 2008

    Nice article, Linda!

  6. Elliot Cowan
    December 5, 2008

    Katie – I disagree with you here.
    There is sadness certainly in this situation, but I think this article is championing a positive outlook, which is really the more useful reaction.

  7. Emmett Goodman
    December 5, 2008

    I’m with Elliot, there has to be a more positive outlook here. Yes, it is sad and hard to comprehend the loss of someone so major in the New York community. But the challenges are greater now. Its not the end of New York animation, its just a blow that we should allow to strengthen us. All we can do now is look forward to what is used to lift everything up a bit.

  8. Katie Cropper
    December 5, 2008

    I realize crying over spilt milk doesn’t do much good but I felt I needed to voice my own frustration that I’m more than sure I’m not alone with. The sun will come out tomorrow I’m sure- that is presuming it doesn’t implode.

  9. Elliot Cowan
    December 5, 2008

    Katie – you are completely and utterly entitled to be frustrated and in fact crying about this is both healthy and understandable.

    The sun probably won’t come out tomorrow, but fortunately we’re in an industry that spends most of its time inside so the sun isn’t always necessary.

    The only way anything will implode is if you let it.
    Although I’ve only met you once, you don’t seem the type to do so.

  10. David Levy
    December 5, 2008

    The thing that makes this seem so scary is that it reminds us that we are responsible for our own lives and careers. There is no continuity in this industry beyond the kind that we provide ourselves. We can’t expect such continuity of employment from Nick or from anyone else. If we did, we chose the wrong industry.

    A story I like to tell is that while indie animator Pat Smith was working at MTV animation, he would go home each night and stay up until 3 AM to animate his first film, “Drink.” That couldn’t have been the easy thing to do. Most of us would rather sleep, play video games, or drink at the bar. For his labor, Pat finished a film that launched his indie career as a director of commercials. When MTV animation went defunct in 2001, he landed promptly on his feet and started his own successful studio. All of it begun by his investment in himself.

    A job at Nick animation represented the comfortable life: stable jobs at fair to high salaries on highly visible productions. Yet, comfortable is what kills art and personal ambition. Each artist had (and still HAS!) the opportunity to turn the mirror on themselves and figure out a way to make their own continuity.

    The good news is; I couldn’t think of a better city to be living in to inspire one on their way.

  11. Josh Weisbrod
    December 5, 2008

    Every business, neighborhood, and group of friends has a natural lifespan. When one is gone and there is a void, naturally something will come to fill that void. We’re animators, so to us this should really be like a very large piece of blank paper. It’s scary because you feel a need to create a masterpiece– but you still can’t resist doodling on it, y’know?

    I’m depressed that everything has changed so suddenly and that things will certainly be harder for everyone involved in the midst of the the collapse of a major organization, but on the other hand I’m aware that it was people who made up that organization, and I have my every faith in them to be able to continue to produce great work, whether independently or with one another.

    Also, there is no shortage of talented people, and many of them, I’m sure, want to do something about this– they’ll want to draw on that sheet of paper themselves.

  12. davep
    December 5, 2008

    Well said, Linda.

    I remember the anticipation and excitement we felt when the studio was being built–wow, a home just for us!–and I have so many great and awful memories of the studio since that time.

    Its a special place, and I’ll miss it. Not the space itself, so much. And the shows themselves…they live on in DVD form, or on Noggin, or the web, so not much to miss there. The people, on the other hand…man, will I miss them. Working with, near, and around lovely, and talented people every day is the thing I’ll miss most. When we’re all scattered around the city working at home or at small independent studios, where is the water cooler or the elevator bank where we’ll bump into each other to say “hi” and chat about work or world events or whatever?

    Also, on the topic of indispensible: Until the networks figure out how to get people to watch a channel that airs 24 hours of commercials and nothing else, (and believe me, they’re working on it), then they NEED content. Content is the only leverage that networks can use to suck money out of advertisers.

    And we make that content. We write it. We perform it. We design it and animate it and edit it and package it into little bites that fit perfectly between the commercials. Networks are good at a lot of things, but they can’t create content. Not without us.

    So they may downsize us, they may take our benefits, they may ask us to do too much *with* too little and *for* too little, but the networks need us–believe it. (As well as the websites, and the magazines, and the books, and the whatever.)

    So anyway…best of luck to those looking for work–that you find it fast, and to those who have work–that you hold on to it as long as you’d like.

    I for one am can’t wait to see what you all come up with next.


  13. Alison Wilgus
    December 5, 2008

    Thanks for writing this up, Linda — hopefully it’ll keep folks from panicking unduly. Better to panic ACCURATELY, yes?

    But seriously — I hope all those shows find new, cozy little indy homes, and that the impact of the shutdown is minimal. The positive and hopeful tone of this post was very soothing, and much appreciated.

  14. Adam Ansorge
    December 5, 2008

    The animation industry has ever since I can remember been in flux. The economy effects us, but it won’t stop us from creation. New stuff is good, but stuff that gets the world (not just artists) interested is what’s going to bring back the business. Creation is messy. It’s supposed to be:)

    Please keep creating!
    I know I will.

  15. Myung Lee
    December 5, 2008

    I never thought that these days would come so fast.
    Someone has told me that entertainment and bars will still be in business even in the roughest times. Because people will still need to escape their reality by entertainment and drinking. So, I think we’re better off than most businesses.

    Linda’s comment about us being creative to go through this sparks something I’ve thought about before.

    When I go back to my home country and meet elders and hear how they lived their lives, they tell me that they didn’t have a choice in how they made money to pay bills and eat.
    They just had to do what they had access to.

    Hearing this, I began to notice how the people around me are all specialized with their careers and jobs.
    Will I have to go home and practice other areas in art to survive? I don’t know. What I know is that I can’t be playing video games all night. 😛

  16. Rob Kohr
    December 5, 2008

    Linda, your article perfectly captured the moment, very bitter yet somewhat sweet. As sad as this event is for New York animation I was really impressed when I heard that some respect was given to those who have toiled so hard. Its rare that a company like Viacom would do something good rather than for the benefit of the bottom line. In a way its to be applauded, and I hope that that respect translates into a vibrant independent studio industry. That industry is one of the reasons why I bother staying here and why LA is not something I consider. New York animation can’t die.

    That said, it always shocks me how few independent films are done by both people I went to school with and people who I know work in animation. David is spot on in that you always have the be defensive, make films, keep your portfolio updated, update your resume and do all this at least once a year. These are trying times, when you have it good prepare for the bad, no company is safe whether you are freelance animation or a staffer, a layoff can happen. Squirrel away some money, pay off credit cards and live below your means if you can. When the axe falls you will be prepared.

    Work hard, then work harder.

  17. Danielle
    December 5, 2008

    Thanks for the post, Linda, and the thoughtful comments, all. I don’t really have much to add. Haven’t worked there for years, but it is a special place, like Palmer said, and I’ll miss it as well.

    Good luck to everyone affected. Things are tough, but as a community we’ll all get through this.

  18. Jade
    December 5, 2008

    That is rough news… thank you for posting this.

  19. Christine Chong
    December 5, 2008

    it’s a tough time for everyone, however, in both the article and the commentaries on this current event, I feel the bond of the NY animators I have come to love.

    I am an emerging indy animator, that’s what I have decided that I want to do. My love for this medium is just growing with every film I make on my own.

    And I hope to meet all the wonderful people who decided to stay around in the industry unwavering even when time is hard. It’s an industry I can be proud of.

  20. asifaeast
    December 6, 2008

    You are all awesome. What a testament to the strong, vibrant community we have in NYC, that even in tough times, we are a source of hope and inspiration to one another. Through thick and thin, NYC animation has endured and prospered. I’ve spent most of the last ten years at Nick Digital, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Remember, it may be the end of an era, but it’s not the end of who you are as an artist, nor who we are as an amazing animation community. The world is your oyster, now get out there and forge your path.

    All the best, Dayna Gonzalez

  21. Jon
    December 6, 2008

    Why is this article no longer available?

  22. Joseph Urban
    December 8, 2008

    Come to Pittsburgh! It’s cheaper and starving for some indie studios.