Nickelodeon Tour's Popularity Grows
Travel Weekly Sept 6, 1990 v49 n72 p33
ORLANDO -- Two months after Universal Studios opened this past June, the taping for the Nickelodeon Channel has become one of its most popular attractions.
Considering that the Nickelodeon Channel, launched in 1979, has now attracted 52 million subscribers, it is not surprising.
The programs, for viewers ages five to 15, are designed, according to parent-company MTV, "to make kids feel good about being kids."
Family clients taking in the operation are likely to be impressed.
Following is a sample of what visitors can expect from the Nickelodeon tour.
Two of the six sound stages on the Universal front lot are dedicated to the Nickelodeon Channel, which tapes here 330 days a year.
More than one dozen programs will be taped before live audiences, including "Total Panic," "Kids' Court," "Make the Grade," "Outta Here," "You Can't Do That on Television" and "Don't Just Sit There."
Because of the expense of putting together the sets for each show and assembling the crews, the programs are taped in a concentrated fashion, with two or more episodes shot each day.
Each half-hour of air time requires about two hours of real-time taping.
The same concentrated process will be repeated for other Nickelodeon productions throughout the year.
Besides watching the tapings of the shows, an attraction for the kids (and their parents) is the audition for contestants, which, of course, offers a bigger dose of TV fame than the audience rates. (The prizes are also enviable.)
Auditions they take between 15 and 20 minutes.
They are done in a small area, where children and their families sit on bleachers, with around 50 would-be contestants lining up on a stage.
The casting director makes her selection by playing "Simon Says" with the children, a process that allows her to size up a child's alertness and concentration powers.
According to one of the casting directors, about 350 contestants were "cast" during the first two months' taping.
However, not all actually appeared on TV because a show's producer makes the final selection.
Besides viewing and auditioning for the shows, another favorite activity is taking the studio tour.
The highlight here is seeing how the "slime" and "gack" that contestants are sprayed with is actually manufactured.
These studios are impressive.
Each is 16,500 square feet and has equipment so advanced that the air conditioning is silent.
But the technical feature that most impressed the 9-year-old boy in this reporter's family was that each studio is equipped with a sewer to help clean up the "gack."
On a scale from one to 10, he gave the rest of the technical tour -- mixing rooms, overhead computerized lighting grids, five-ton soundproof doors and the executive producer in action -- a total score of "six."
The 7-year-old daughter gave the tour a "zero;" the spouse gave it an "eight," but this reporter rated it a "10."
However, the real reason to visit Nickelodeon is the taping sessions.
Those rated "1,000" with the children.