A little boy is driving his racecar in the park, when all of a sudden there’s Blaze from Nick Jr.’s animated series Blaze and the Monster Machines, rushing right alongside him.
In another scene, a young girl is eating spaghetti at the kitchen table … while sitting beside heroic pup Rubble from PAW Patrol. In another, a boy with a jetpack blasts off from the Rusty Rivets universe.
Nick Jr.’s new on-air brand refresh for it’s preschool programming block features real kids romping around with animated characters, as the two worlds collide. The redesign follows Nickelodeon’s previous refresh from March 2017, and ties into the network’s mission to “make the world a more playful place.”
“Our little ones really regard our characters as superstars, and see them as real,” said Anne Mullen, EVP, Nickelodeon preschool brand creative and marketing. “It’s what every kid imagines in their own hearts and minds.”
With bold, exciting colors and fun portals between real life and make believe, the new look and feel gets inside the heads of two-to-five-year-olds during the programming block that airs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nick and Nick Jr. channels.
The refresh launched May 21 across all U.S. on-air, social and digital platforms and will roll out internationally in the coming weeks. It consists of more than 400 assets, including bumpers, IDs, lower thirds, and parent-directed curriculum messages that highlight each show’s educational component—such as PAW Patrol’s focus on teamwork, or Blaze and the Monster Machines’ STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) development through concepts such as force and trajectory.
The activities featured are designed to reflect the spirit of the characters, but are also focused on what kids do in their daily lives, such as eating, going to the playground, or building a fort.
“We really wanted to show our audience at play with our characters,” Mullen said. “Nick Jr. has always been about the power of play, and little kids learn through play.”
While Nick Jr. has turned to real kids for previous messaging, this marks the first time they’ve been positioned front and center for the programming block’s on-air branding.
“It felt like the timing was right,” Mullen said. The visual narrative also aligns with Nickelodeon as a larger brand through components such as the music. For instance, in Nick Jr.’s sizzle reel for the refresh, a girl plays air guitar in her garage to the tune of Nickelodeon’s theme song, connecting the brands.
“It distinguishes a little more clearly that Nick Jr. is a block on Nickelodeon,” said Mullen, and the assets are designed as such, always moving its viewers between the two platforms. She and her team honed in on small details to make this happen. For instance, they developed specific graphic icons for each show—such as a dog bone that becomes the period in ‘Jr.’—as a way to reinforce the visual language for each of its preschool properties. These elements come together to create a collective package that’s more than the sum of its parts, Mullen said.
The whole process took about a year. Creative development began last summer, and shooting took place in Los Angeles over the winter with kids from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.
“They inspire us every single day,” Mullen said. And Nick Jr. aimed to do the same for kids by creating something “beautiful and fun, exciting and fresh, that makes you want to jump into our world.”
EVP, Nickelodeon Preschool Brand Creative and Marketing: Anne Mullen
SVP Nickelodeon Preschool Brand Creative: Matthew Perreault
SVP Brand Design: Sergio Cuan
VP Brand Design: Joelle Lau
VP Animation/VFX: Christopher Papa
VP Project Management: Cheryl Konieczko
Senior Director Project Management: Cassandra Lipin
Executive Producer: Sarah Jackson
Design Director: Kristen R. Williams
Animation Director: Scott Kennell
Art Director: Emilie Liu
Writer/Producer: Michelle Esbin Glenn
Animators/VFX: Jason Willmann, Katie Wynkoop, Edgar Vega, Amanda Clark, Frank Patterson, Rachel Pace, Cesar Delarosa, Daniel Augsburger, Christian Gallo
Motion Designers: Barbara Astrini, Jimin Lee, Young Woo
Designers: Thanh Nguyen, Ben Yonda, Courtney Hufhand
Senior Editor: Tim Mcgonagle
Associate Producer: JP Meier
Production Assistant: Shannon Crawford
Production Manager: Raebekah Cox
Project Manager: Justin Mushnick
Graphics Manager: Dana Burkart
Creative Concepting & Direction: Brand New School
Live Action Production: Ringer
Director: Rob Meltzer
Animation Production: Blur
Executive Producer: Norn Jordan
Music Composer: Brian Aumueller
Audio Engineers: Brian Rund, Jay Pellizzi