Arts & Culture
1:44 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Nickelodeon's Creators, Actors 'Explain It All' In New Oral History

One of the many iterations of the Nickelodeon channel's logo donned the doors to Nickelodeon studios in California.
One of the many iterations of the Nickelodeon channel's logo donned the doors to Nickelodeon studios in California.
Credit Gareth Simpson/Flickr

From the Sprout Network to Nick Jr., there are a lot of options out there in kids' television programming.

But it wasn't that long ago when the idea of a TV channel just for children was novel.

Unlike generations before them, kids in the 1980s and 1990s were catered to by a brand new television experience by way of Nickelodeon.

The channel created a common bond between kids around the country. Ranging from shows like Double Dare to Clarissa Explains It All (check out the video below) to All That, kids who grew up then still reminisce about those nuggets of entertainment.

Mathew Kickstein loved Nickelodeon shows as a kid, so he's created an oral history of the beloved TV channel.
Mathew Kickstein loved Nickelodeon shows as a kid, so he's created an oral history of the beloved TV channel.

Mathew Klickstein was one of those kids, Salute Your Shorts and You Can’t Do That on Television being a couple of his favorite shows. He chose to interview people who created Nickelodeon and who starred in the shows he grew up with and compiled the book Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age.

Slime

Did you know that the actors got paid extra to get slime dumped on them?

In order for the best slime shot to be created, the actors could not wear green and they had to look up, getting slime all over their heads.

Slime came about one day when actor Tim Douglas had a prank pulled on him: a bucket of week-old leftover food was dumped on his head.  From then on, it became a Nickelodeon staple. It went from being something gross to being a badge of honor.

“The slime was a really great semiotic for Nickelodeon itself,” Klickstein says. “This symbol represented Nick starting in these humble beginnings with actual grime and grit.”

Slime debuted first on Nickelodeon during You Can’t Do That on Television. From the beginning, the creators knew they could not keep dumping rotten food on kids. They concocted new recipes, including ingredients like Vaseline and Jell-O. Currently, the slime is pretty and clean, and is made out of vanilla pudding, water, and green dye.

Branding

Nickelodeon stood out with its morphing orange splats with white lettering.  Creators Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert also worked with MTV to create their logo, which kept the same outline, but changed the coloring and added animation to it. However, that was about as much visual branding as Nickelodeon got.

The creators wanted their branding to be more about making Nickelodeon a destination point.

“Nickelodeon was kind of a club,” Klickstein says. “It was a clubhouse to go to after school, where you were understood, where you could rest and have fun...They didn’t want it to be educational.  It was just for fun.”

Today, their branding is through television shows, such as Dora the Explorer, where her image is on backpacks and clothes in many stores.

Nickelodeon vs. the Disney Channel

Klickstein identifies two major differences between Nickelodeon and Disney. First, Nickelodeon actually started a few years before the Disney Channel, so they created their own, fresh vision instead of basing it off of Disney.

The second and most important difference, according to Klickstein, is that Nickelodeon was created for kids and cast average kids in their shows, which were created established by adults who themselves had been average kids.

“It was kind of DIY, get what you can get together, do what you can, make it work, be innovative, push it, risk it, and go for it. And let’s just all go in on this,” Klickstein says.

Mathew Klickstein has written for online and print publications and has authored four other books. He currently lives and writes in New York City. Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age is now available for purchase.