Nickelodeon has always been special to me, and continues to become even more so.  I grew up with it (and never grew out of it) like a lot of us did in the glory days of the network.  It is completely responsible for my career into television.  It even provided the means of meeting my girlfriend while working on one of their shows.  But, other than the aforementioned personal and professional experiences, hands-down, the most important part of Nickelodeon's history to me is a little fortress of happiness in Orlando, Florida called Nickelodeon Studios.


Opening day; June 7, 1990.
 

This place means the world to me.  For the most part, I've been at least in Nickelodeon Studios (or the building formerly known as) once a year for the past 8 years, more or less, and at least once before that.  I live no where near Orlando (or the state of Florida), but I keep ending up there for various reasons.  Whether working, visiting friends or just visiting for sentimental purposes, I've made a point to always stop by.  More recently, while working on the new revival of GUTS titled My Family's Got GUTS, I spent quite a bit of time in the building.  We didn't shoot in Nickelodeon Studios, as it's been closed since 2005, but we did take back over one of the stages for game testing and the main part of the building as well.  More on that later.  For now, a brief disclaimer and some history.

The photos on this page from here-on out are all my personal photos that I took myself, unless otherwise noted.  They do have watermarks on them and I apologize for that.  It's necessary since they're photos of things that for the most part, were never available to be seen by the general public.  A lot of people are interested in Nickelodeon Studios and while the enthusiasm is great, I would appreciate out of respect for me sharing my personal property that they not be posted on other sites, or be put into a video on YouTube.  I'm trusting the entire internet here! :)

When Nickelodeon first broke into original, live action production in the early to mid 80s, they used rented studio facilities, namely WHYY studios (a local PBS affiliate) in Philadelphia and Unitel studios in New York City.  As popularity grew with hits that utilized live audiences such as Double Dare, a facility strictly dedicated to Nickelodeon programming made sense.  Television genius and then-president of Nickelodeon, Geraldine Laybourne (currently president of Oxygen) oversaw the creation of the facility, stationed in the backlot of Universal Studios Orlando, with a facade that was accessible to the theme park.  The studios officially opened with a huge celebration on June 7, 1990. 


Nickelodeon Studios.  Photo courtesy Byron Taylor.

The building was designed by Byron Taylor, the same genius who designed the look of every single live-action show starting with Double Dare in 1986.  One of the biggest draws to the facility was the huge slime geyser out front.  As folklore goes, it was the source of all the slime used on Nickelodeon shows.  The huge, clunky device erupted with slime in time intervals and was a fantastic photo spot.


Nickelodeon Studios' famous Slime Geyser.

During the early days of Nickelodeon Studios, they held group auditions of tourist kids to be extras on Nickelodeon shows that taped there.  Kids would file in 8 or so at a time and play games of Simon Says to get a feel for their energy and their comfort level in front of people. 


Nickelodeon Studios auditions, 1990.

Having the studios in a theme park also was perfect for finding contestants for the many game shows Nickelodeon Studios was putting out at the time.  Auditions were constantly held for kids and families for their various shows.  Other than the occasional, rare audition tour, all of the casting for the game shows came straight out of the park.  The first major show to boast casting straight of the park, and by far the most successful (both before and after Nick Studios) was Family Double Dare.


Family Double Dare, 1990.  Families were cast straight out of Universal Studios, Florida.

Visitors to Nickelodeon Studios were also given the free chance to be part of the live taping of its shows.  Everything from Clarissa Explains it All, to Welcome Freshman to Legends of the Hidden Temple to GUTS and everything in between was taped here, and most used studio audiences.  Signs were posted at the gates, and all throughout the theme park, displaying what shows would be in production that day.  Lines would form outside of the studio door and when the time came, the lucky patrons were filed in and packed like sardines in the icy cold studio to watch a piece of now-Nickelodeon history made. 


The Nickelodeon queue lines for live tapings and tours.

In the early days, Nickelodeon Studios was also utilized for daily broadcasts with kids in the park introducing themselves outside of the building and stating where they were from, followed by the Nickelodeon announcer plugging what was happening that day on the network.  "The Place Where Nick is Made" was the studios' slogan, and they took advantage of that in every way possible to put kids first. 

A more well-known attraction to kids in the park, however, was that people who came to Universal Studios, Florida could go on a tour of the facility in which patrons were taken above the soundstages to look down on the shows in production. 


The Soundstage 18 "fishbowl" that allowed tourists to look down on shows in production.  Taken in 1990
looking over the set of "Outta Here!"


The Soundstage 18 "fishbowl" in 2008, still completely preserved.

They were also taken by the control room (which had glass on the back passerbys could look into) and eventually taken down to the holy grail of the tour, GAME LAB. 

Game Lab changed over the years quite a bit.  Its gimmick was that you were testing games that would appear on Nickelodeon game shows in the future.  But truthfully, there are all kinds of waivers and legalities involved to actually test games for shows and Game Lab's games were well pre-tested.  The "set" for Game Lab was originally a white room with orange decor and was very brightly lit.  Eventually, it became a darker room with scenery pieces and relics from Nickelodeon shows gone by, which is how it stood for most of its existence. 


Game Lab, 2000.


Anyone who went to Game Lab knew though, that the climax of the whole experience was that one lucky kid was going to be slimed.  This wasn't the cheap stuff either, this was the REAL Nickelodeon slime.  The kid was selected at the beginning of Game Lab and taken backstage to change into a Double Dare-esque outfit while the show went on.  When it came time, the kid entered like a rock star and sat in a little pool where he/she was given his/her crowning glory.  The crowd counted down, the lights went crazy and the slime came down. 


Game Lab, 2000.

Upon exiting game lab, everyone was ushered out of the door beneath the big, yellow staircase outside and back into the park. 


Nickelodeon Studios with its original paint scheme, 2000.

At this point, Nickelodeon Studios was on a "dead-end" sort of part of the park, in which there was only one way to get to it and that same way had to be taken to get out.  There was no Hard Rock Cafe or Citywalk entrance to get to the building like there is today.  So, appropriately enough, the street used to walk to Nickelodeon Studios was called "Nickelodeon Way."  When you got there, you KNEW what was ahead.


The beginning of Nickelodeon Way.  The left side of this logo extended all down the
street to Nickelodeon Studios, as seen below.  Classic Nickelodeon fans will remember the
jump rope promos that were shot here.


Nickelodeon Way leading to Nickelodeon Studios.

Things started winding down for Nickelodeon Studios in the late 1990s as game shows and sitcoms started being replaced by reality shows and dramas in the mainstream marketplace of television.  For obvious reasons, reality shows and dramas would have a difficult time on a children's network, so Nickelodeon relied more on its animation projects during this time, and the studios began to see less use.  The year 2000 saw the resurgence of two Nickelodeon game shows, Double Dare 2000, a revival of the original Double Dare and Slimetime Live, a revival of Slimetime U Match U Win


Double Dare 2000 set, from the top of the studio, 2000.

A few other shows came out of Nickelodeon Studios in 2000 also, but it was primarily Slimetime Live that caught on.  It was essentially Nickelodeon's version of Total Request Live, in that it aired between shows.  It ran for a good 8 seasons in 4 years and was finally canceled in 2003.  In 2001, despite Slimetime's success, Nickelodeon Studios began its decline to its demise.  A great number of the studios' employees were laid off indefinitely.  Nickelodeon Studios also began having open-house auctions and sales in which old set pieces and props were sold to the general public. 

Slimetime Live's success, did however, spawn several other shows of its kind: U-Pick Live, which broadcasted out of New York City and Splat!, which was the last production ever to come out of Nickelodeon Studios. 


Splat! set, 2004.

Splat! lasted 3 months during the summer of 2004.  Despite the fact that it had such a short run, it was one of the first shows to have a "classic" Nick Studios quality to it in years.  Often times, intros and outros were shot in and around the studios, away from the set.  The hosts were all local and had never hosted a series before, giving them a terrific organic quality. 

In the middle of the run of Splat!, Nickelodeon Studios received a face-lift.  For the first time, the building was repainted in totally different colors.  Gone were the 90s loud colors and patterns, and so entered the current color scheme of the network.  Lime green, teal blue, white and orange were the only colors that clad the building.


Nickelodeon Studios with its new color scheme, 2004.

By this point, Nickelodeon Studios was down to a single digit number of employees.  The tour was nothing more than a walk through a hallway and into Game Lab (now renamed "Nick Live" since there were no other game shows to "test" for).  Production in general simply was not happening in Orlando as frequently as it once had.  A good percentage of Orlando's talent and crews had moved out west to further their careers.  It wasn't cost-effective to fly talent in from LA, game shows and sitcoms were out, and Nickelodeon Studios was hurting as a result of all of the above. 

April 30, 2005 was the day the decision was made for Nickelodeon Studios to officially close its doors.  The following month, the Slime Geyser was removed.  By the first of the next year, the wonderfully famous big Nickelodeon sign was removed from the front of the building, as were all other logos. 


Now-closed Nickelodeon Studios with its new color scheme, but all logos removed, 2006.

It was announced in late 2006 that Blue Man Group would be taking over half of the lower level of the main building, as well as stage 18, for a 1000-seat theater for a permanent staging of their show.  While no cosmetic changes, other than a box office and signage, were made to the building, it's currently almost unrecognizable as Nickelodeon Studios.  The Sharp Aquos Theater, home to Blue Man Group, formally opened on June 7, 2007.  This was seventeen years to the day that Nickelodeon Studios had opened.


Former Nickelodeon Studios, current Sharp Aquos Theater, 2007.

The only return Nickelodeon has made to Universal Studios since closing Nickelodeon Studios was in 2008 for the revival of GUTS, entitled My Family's Got GUTS. 


My Family's Got GUTS set, 2008

This is one show I've had the privilege of working on and the experience was nothing short of magical.  The production used Universal Studios soundstages 23 and 24 for shooting, but utilized Nickelodeon soundstage 19 for game testing/training as well as two floors of the main building.  Much of the original crew returned to work on My Family's Got GUTS, and it was very much like stepping back in time.  I'm very proud to now be a part of the family history.

There are many areas of Nickelodeon Studios that the general public never got to see when it was open.  And today, there are areas that, like the front of the building, are radically different or non-existent.  But for every one of those, there are areas of Nickelodeon Studios that today, are virtually unchanged.  All still unavailable to the general public.  Many people want to see and I'm more than happy to oblige.