SpongeBob SquarePants Delights Critics in Broadway Debut

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following an audience-wowing run in Chicago, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical officially landed in New York City last week, greeted by captivated fans and an ocean’s worth of critical praise.

“Skeptics better tie themselves to the mast if they want to survive this tempest of effervescent candy-for-the-spirit,” writes Vulture’s Sara Holdren. “Even if you venture into the Palace feeling Squidward  -ish, it’s a truly gloomy soul who’ll be able to leave without mirroring the dopey grin with which the show’s absorbent yellow hero responds to his buddy’s existential angst…”

The Tina Landau-directed story, in brief: while the ever-more-fiercely trembling Mount Humungous threatens to bury Bikini Bottom beneath a tsunami of lava and ash, a number of subplots playfully expose the absurdity of contemporary real-world issues in the non-animated realm in which we all dwell. Sandy the squirrel faces land-animal xenophobia from her sea fellows. Plankton’s attempts to win business through hypnosis has echoes of an online fake-news sales job. “Tidal warming” threatens to upend daily life.

With music from an all-star jukebox’s worth of musicians, a riotous set and costumes perfectly channeling the cartoon’s manic aesthetic, and a cast preternaturally suited to their undersea identities, the show is a complete work, tuned both to its obvious target audience of children and to theatergoers entranced by the spectacle of big-time Broadway productions.

Critics, many of whom expressed only a vague familiarity with the show prior to stepping into the Palace theater, were delighted. Here’s a sampling of what they liked:

The set design

Twenty years in, SpongeBob fans are well acquainted with the whimsical animated set pieces that constitute Bikini Bottom. But even long-time observers will be delighted by the maritime decor, a boldly colored and meticulously curated bazaar of pool noodles, floaty-devices, and the discarded effluvia of the consumerist human world above – shopping carts, umbrellas, surfboards and more.

“[Set designer]  David Zinn, a master designer, seems to have been fed an herb meal before devising the set and costumes that transform the noble old Palace into a trippy mindf!ck that’s equal parts Rube Goldberg and Electric Circus,” writes Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard. “I doubt there are any colors on view that exist in nature, or that you or I have seen since black light met ingested pholiotina cyanopus.”

Sesley Taylor as Sheldon Plankton (center) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017.

The costumes

Bikini Bottom is crowded with characters of odd shape and dimension, and Zinn, who in addition to set designer is also the show’s costume designer, does not try to interpret this cartoon fantasyland literally. Instead, the actors’ decidedly human-proportioned outfits match their character’s familiar color palette, evoking their essence while individual performances complete the profile.

“The production smartly shuns prosthetics to match the characters’ looks from the animated series. Instead, undersea denizens are given human form but retain telltale traits,” writes Joe Dziemianowicz in The New York Daily News. “It’s a smart decision that broadens accessibility — fans and non-fans, adults and kids.”

Pictured: The company of SpongeBob SquarePants. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017

The music

SpongeBob’s Broadway debut packs an outsized catalogue of that key element to so many big-time stage productions: music. The play brims with songs – many of them originals created for this production – by a deep well of musicians: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, T.I., David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley.

Read More

Viacom Global Insights, December Edition: TV’s Continued Importance, Kids’ Passion Points and More

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world include TV’s continued importance, kids’ passion points, how the internet fosters unity, Filipino kids’ purchase influence, and happiness in Asia-Pacific countries. As always, you can read these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

Our latest study on global TV habits finds that in viewers’ lives, TV is as essential as ever.
A recent project looks at today’s top passion points among kids in 30 countries.
A new infographic reveals stats on how the internet is opening people’s minds and inspiring them to make the world a better place.
Filipino kids are more likely to live with grandparents and help out other relatives, broadening their influence over family decisions.
People are happier and less focused on material success in Asia-Pacific countries than 5 years ago, according to a recent study.

BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1 Are Viacom’s NAACP Image Award Nominees

Tanya Davis contributed reporting.

We’re thrilled to report that Viacom’s brands have just been nominated for a total of 16 NAACP Image Awards across BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1. The awards honor outstanding achievements of people of color and those who promote social justice in the arts, and we couldn’t be more proud of our nominees — see the list below. Winners will be announced at a live ceremony on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 15).

Congratulations to everyone involved for their fantastic work on these programs. Check out our nominated shows and specials and the respective award categories below.

Read More

2017 Nickelodeon HALO Awards: Doing Good Never Sounded So Great

Ten-year-old Zoe Terry is the Miami-based CEO of Zoe’s Dolls, a nonprofit organization that collects and donates dolls with darker skin tones to girls of African, Hispanic, Caribbean and African-American descent. Terry founded her company in 2012 at age 5 to give these girls an opportunity to play with dolls that looked like them—something she felt was lacking in her community.

Since then, nearly $20,000 in dolls have been donated to more than 4,000 young girls in the U.S., Haiti and Africa. On Nov. 26, the Nickelodeon HALO Awards honored Terry and three others for their philanthropic efforts.

Nick Cannon and our 2017 HALO Honorees Raegan Junge, Caleb White, Zoe Terry, Andrew Dunn. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

The HALO Awards celebrates young leaders who are changing their communities and the world by “Helping and Leading Others.” Rapper Nick Cannon created the awards show in 2011, and returned this year to host the ceremony.

Nick Cannon and Raegan Junge on stage at the 2017 Nickelodeon HALO Awards (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

Read More

Nickelodeon Helps Break Bread and Boundaries for Child Refugees

Children mingle with SpongeBob at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during a UNICEF Refugee Welcome Dinner in partnership with Purpose and Playworks. Photo by Tatiana Cadet.

Twenty people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution. This adds up to 65.6 million people around the world, 22.5 million of whom are refugees – a person forced from their country to escape war, persecution, or a natural disaster. Unfortunately, these stateless wanderers are not always met with open arms. Many are denied a nationality and access to basic rights when the countries they flee to struggle to cope with the influx.

Companies across the U.S. have stepped up for refugees who struggle to find a community and a place to call home. Here at Viacom, Nickelodeon’s pro-social team recently participated in UNICEF’s Refugee Welcome Dinners, along with the organization’s local partner agency, Purpose, and Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play partner Playworks, which uses play to improve children’s physical health and social and emotional learning. UNICEF brought kids and families from Guatemala, Mexico, Guinea, Venezuela, Botswana, and the Central African Republic to the Lodge cafeteria at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to join the Playworks kids for a Nickelodeon-style pizza party.

The gathering was complete with a Paw Patrol AR pictures booth, a four-square recess game, and a dancing SpongeBob SquarePants. Kid-friendly Top 40 music filled the air, and the kids showed off their best Backpack Kid dances. Tables topped with orange table cloths and piles of candy adorned the space and a Nickelodeon promo video took over the Lodge television screens.

Children mingle with SpongeBob at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during a UNICEF Refugee Welcome Dinner in partnership with Purpose and Playworks. Photo by Tatiana Cadet.

Regardless of race or creed, each guest came together and broke bread and boundaries, in the true spirit of Viacommunity. The event in its entirety made a powerful statement about the importance of tolerance, positivity and acceptance. Above all, it showcased the true impact that joining together in play has on the wellness of children’s souls.

Nick Follows MTV OTT Success in Return to Japan

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Nickelodeon legends SpongeBob, Dora and Leonardo and his shell-clad gang are packing their passports. Their destination? Japan.

But they won’t be rolling up in the turtle’s party wagon or following Dora’s Map to get there – this crew and more Nickelodeon favorites will arrive in the Land of the Rising Sun via an over-the-top (OTT) and mobile channel on Japanese subscription service dTV-Channel.

via GIPHY

“Over-the-top and mobile offer an important growth path for Nickelodeon and our other flagship brands in mature subscription TV markets like Japan,” said Mark Whitehead, president and managing director of VIMN’s Asia Pacific region. “This is another strong example of Viacom forging deep and innovative partnerships with OTT and mobile distributors, like NTT DOCOMO’s dTV-Channel™ in Japan, to make our ‘must-see’ content available when, where and how consumers want to view it.”

When the new channel launches in the first quarter of 2018, it will bring Nick content back to the nation of 127 million for the first time since 2009. With its re-entrance into Japan, Nick will have a home in every major international market that it is able to enter, with the exception of China.

The launch of the Nick channel follows a strong run for MTV’s OTT product in Japan, where online viewership (on AbemaTV and MTV MIX on Hulu Japan), now surpasses that on linear versions of the channel.

Kid Power, Staying Grounded, India’s Pragmatic Youth: Viacom Global Insights Digest, November Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world include global kids’ influence on household decisions, how people remain grounded in stressful times, and the pragmatism of Indian youth.  As always, you can read these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.

Read More

Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie Is No Ordinary Field Trip

This Thanksgiving, Nickelodeon is serving up a feast of nostalgia with a feature-length TV movie revival of its iconic 90s cartoon, Hey Arnold! 

Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie will finally answer some unresolved questions about our football-headed hero and his missing parents. If you need a brief refresher, the show left off with a cliffhanger. Arnold discovered a clue regarding the whereabouts of his long-lost parents, leading the 9-year-old to believe they had disappeared into the Central American jungle.

And that’s where the two-hour TV movie special will take us.

Any 90s kid who grew up watching Nick’s idiosyncratic animated series will recall Arnold’s unconventional upbringing. He was raised in a fictional metropolis, evoking gnarly vibes of midtown Manhattan circa 1970.

Arnold lived with his eccentric grandparents in a dilapidated boarding house. But he slept on a retro Queen Murphy bed and gazed at the sky through his bedroom’s glass roof. Growing up in the suburbs, I always thought this looked like the ultimate crib. It seems other young fans felt the same way:

Read More

2017 Nickterns Spruce Up California Boys & Girls Club

The summer 2017 Nicktern class united to create a mural at the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley. The mural, which is one of their largest to date, covers more than 300 square feet and employs a number of Boys & Girls Club themes. The mural was designed by Colton Davis, Gabrielle Dolbey, Tom Fields, Courtney Lovett and Alyson Wong.