Nickelodeon eyes Singapore talent

Nickelodeon's pre-school series Paw Patrol will hold its first live-action stage show at Resorts World Sentosa in September.
Nickelodeon's pre-school series Paw Patrol will hold its first live-action stage show at Resorts World Sentosa in September.PHOTO: NICKELODEON
Mr Jules Borkent.
Mr Jules Borkent.

American children's TV network is looking to have its next animated show created in the Republic

The next major animated series from Nickelodeon - the American children's television network behind hugely popular cartoons such as underwater adventure comedy SpongeBob SquarePants (1999 to present) and rescue dogs-themed Paw Patrol (2013 to present) - could come from Singapore.

So says Mr Jules Borkent, Nickelodeon's executive vice-president of global acquisitions and international programming, who believes that there is "great talent" in the animation industry here.

"Singapore's animation scene is very strong, so we are looking at how we can have an animation hit come out from this part of the world.

"I have tasked my team in the United States - the development group - to talk to producers and creative people here to see how we can create a great show here," the New York-based executive tells The Straits Times during a recent trip to Singapore.

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He points out that Nickelodeon had already kick-started the collaborative process with Singapore in content production last year, when it produced the animated short film Sharkdog with home-grown animation studio Chip And Toons.

The 41/2-minute short, created by Jacinth Tan and Raihan Harun, is about a kid called Max, whose half-shark, half-dog pet has a ravenous appetite for his homework.

The partnership was borne out of Nickelodeon's coveted Animated Shorts Program, an annual contest which aims to discover and develop animation talent from around the world.

Sharkdog was one of 22 finalists in the 2015 edition, a shortlist whittled down from almost 950 pitches from across the globe. It is also the first and only Asian finalist that the programme has seen since its launch in 2012.

The network is conducting research to see whether Sharkdog has the potential to be further developed.

Previously, animated shorts such as Breadwinners (2014 to present), about a pair of ducks who deliver bread; as well as The Loud House (2016 to present), centred on the Loud family, were picked up to become full-fledged series.

Until then, the company engages Singaporean viewers through on-the-ground activities such as the annual Nickelodeon Slime Cup, which organises various sport- related activities incorporating the network's signature green slime, as well as the Nickelodeon Fiesta, a games festival where families can interact with characters from the network.

These characters also make regular mall appearances, which draw hundreds of excited children at a time. In September, one of the channel's most successful pre-school series, Paw Patrol, will hold its first live-action stage show at Resorts World Sentosa.

Mr Borkent says: "Audiences are watching our shows on TV, but we have to be there for them beyond the screen. They recognise the brand and they follow our stars."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Nickelodeon eyes Singapore talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe