Welcome to Extinct Attractions. This week we’ll be stepping just a few feet away from Universal Studios Florida for a look at a fruitful early partnership that soured over time.
Via The Playlist
Just this past month, Viacom and CBS completed a rather unconventional merger when they combined their companies for the second time. Viacom originally emerged as a part of CBS before being spun off because of a rule that didn’t let television networks own syndication companies, a rule that has clearly been lifted because almost every network is involved in syndication and/or streaming today. In 2000, Viacom and CBS merged their companies before splitting up again in 2006. However, they’ve now decided to go for Round 3 together, so we’ll see if this one can stick longer than before. But basically what this all means is that Nickelodeon has joined the joint company again, so we’ll see if CBS can do anything to help revive the network.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nickelodeon was on top of the world, serving as the premier channel for children’s television. In fact, starting in 1995 it went on a 20 year streak as the top-rated children’s network, with it claiming the top spot nearly every year before that. Children loved it, so with Universal Studios Florida opening in 1990 and the park skewing older because of its thrilling attractions, it was a shrewd move for them to pair with Nickelodeon to create Nickelodeon Studios as an experience in the park.
Nickelodeon Studios was actually one of the first attractions ever to open before the park it was in, well in a way at least. Super Sloppy Double Dare was the first show to film at Nickelodeon Studios, a grouping of two soundstages and production offices on the Florida backlot, when it began filming during spring 1989, a full year before the park opened.
Nickelodeon Studios officially opened along with the park on June 7, 1990, and it was much more than a simple taping area for Nickelodeon game shows and sitcoms. There was a 45 minute studio tour where guests could see the inner workings of the studio as well as get the opportunity to try out certain activities that were proposed for future game shows.
When the park first opened, Nickelodeon Studios was pretty popular because so many of the attractions in the park were breaking down. Guests were having trouble finding a full day of activities to do, so many guests went over to this lengthy experience that the whole family could enjoy together.
In fact, things were going so well that they placed a time capsule full of Nickelodeon goodies at the studios on April 30, 1992. There was a big ceremony to celebrate the event and how exciting it was to have this super successful studio where countless people over the years got the chance to watch live tapings of the shows.
Over the years, dozens of different shows filmed at Nickelodeon Studios, with it serving as Nickelodeon’s primary filming location. The clip above shows the ending of nearly every single show that filmed there, so if you are really curious, you can take a look to see if some of your favorites were made there.
So if everything was so grand and well-functioning, what could have possibly killed this studio that was on top of the world?
Cartoons! Nickelodeon began focusing on cartoons for more and more of its programming, most which were being created out of its animation studio in Burbank, California. As that studio grew, live action shows began filming there as well, so production in Florida was cut drastically. By 1999, there was no active production on the Nickelodeon Studios lot in Orlando.
The next year, they tried to revive productions there with a handful of new shows, but every one of them was cancelled before they could be renewed for a second season.
The following year, the studio was decreased to 10 minutes in length from 45 minutes, and the time capsule was moved across the country to the Burbank studio, so times were dire for Nickelodeon Studios.
Filming officially stopped in 2004, with the tour finally closing its doors for good on April 30, 2005.
After the tour closed, the production offices sat abandoned for years, but from what I’ve heard they’ve finally cleared them out, though there is still not a lot of activity in the area. In terms of the soundstages, the Blue Man Group has taken over one of them, where its show has played for over a decade now. I’ve never seen the Blue Man Group myself, but based on how Nickelodeon Studios was falling apart, it seems like a worthy successor given the show is still successful.
I have a lot of respect for the Nickelodeon Studios for trying someone new by incorporating a walking studio tour into a theme park. It added a nice new layer to Universal Studios Florida, but it was definitely time to move on.
Before I make the same mistake of trying to hold on for too long, here’s your hints for next week’s article.
- This attraction also gave guests and in-depth look at filmmaking.
- This attraction had two incarnations, one domestically and one internationally, with their parks sharing similarities as well.
- The international version of the attraction closed earlier this month.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.