Nickelodeon Studios was a television taping studio as well as an original family attraction at Universal Studios Florida, which opened on June 7, 1990. The studio closed permanently on April 30, 2005.
In November 1988, Nickelodeon joined the Universal Studios Florida team to make its first production studio. In spring 1989, they filmed its first show there, Super Sloppy Double Dare. On June 7, 1990, the studio (along with the park) officially opened. There was a 3 hour opening day ceremony party broadcast live on Nickelodeon, with Marc Summers as the master of ceremonies for the event that day. Other hosts included Greg Lee and Skip Lackey. The ceremony also included performances by The Perfect Gentlemen, Kid ‘n Play, and The Cover Girls, a behind the scenes look at the studio, an inside look at the Universal Studios theme park, and a short round of a physical challenge from Double Dare. The same year Nickelodeon unveiled its Slime Geyser on October 27, 1990. On April 30, 1992, a time capsule was buried to commemorate the studio’s opening. A special capsule burial ceremony was broadcast live on Nickelodeon and was hosted by Mike O’Malley and Joey Lawrence. The facility was a working studio where many Nickelodeon and Nickelodeon GAS shows were produced, the first being Double Dare. It consisted of soundstages 18 and 19, along with a central building between them that housed both Nickelodeon production offices, dressing rooms, makeup rooms, the Gak Kitchen, and the Game Lab live show located on Stage 17 for guests of Universal Studios Florida. Soundstage 21, located directly behind Stages 17 and 18, was also part of the production facility in the early 1990s when a larger soundstage was needed for the taping of Nickelodeon/Global Guts. Stage 21 was not part of the studio contract Nickelodeon had with Universal, but was leased separately for the time of their productions on it.
While Nickelodeon Studios was in production, there were many orange benches scattered around the facility, incorporating shapes like a footprint, carrot, finger, cruise ship, wave, cloud, etc., reflecting the network’s station IDs. Some of these benches were moved to the “Control Room” at Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast, which closed in 2011. A gift shop was also located near the Slime Geyser, featuring Nickelodeon characters on the front of the building.
Decline and closure
In 1997 and 1998, Nickelodeon opened two new studios in California, the live action studio Nickelodeon on Sunset, and the Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Nickelodeon shifted away from live-action shows towards focusing on animation reducing the need for a television studio. In 1999, besides Figure It Out’s final season and other shows that aired, no new shows were made and filmed at the Orlando location. By the summer of 2001, Nickelodeon Studios had fewer than 100 employees, and began to see a steady decline in visitors as Nickelodeon’s live-action productions began to transition from game and stunt shows with audience participation to traditional sitcoms, many of which required closed-set production. The majority of Nickelodeon production had moved to the closed-set Nickelodeon on Sunset facility in Hollywood, California. In late 2004, the studio got its new paint job. The final program taped was Nickelodeon Splat!, which ran live from March 7, 2004 to August 17, 2004. The studio closed its doors on April 30, 2005. This was a result of Nickelodeon gradually moving its administration to the MTV Networks headquarters in Santa Monica, California and One Astor Plaza in New York City and its live-action production arm to the Nickelodeon on Sunset.
A time capsule buried by the network in 1992 in front of Soundstage 18 was removed in August 2007 and later paved over. It contains items deemed important to the children of 1992 as voted upon by Nickelodeon viewers, including bubble gum, a skateboard, a comic book, a phone book, VHS copies of Back to the Future and Home Alone, assorted photographs of bicycles, trains, cars, politicians, and celebrities, a piece of the Berlin Wall, the Orlando, Florida TV Guide from the week of April 30, 1992, a baseball, a Barbie Doll, a Nintendo Game Boy, a Nicktoons T-shirt, Michael Jackson CDs, Twinkies, an issue of Nickelodeon Magazine, Rollerblades, a can of Nickelodeon Gak, Reebok Pump sneakers, and a copy of the Book of Endangered species.
The time capsule resided at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort (now the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites – Waterpark) after the studio closed; upon the hotel’s closure and rebrand in 2016, it moved west to its current location in the new five-story glass building at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California, where it is set to be opened on April 30, 2042 (exactly 50 years after being buried at Nickelodeon Studios).
At this time, Stage 19, as well as the second floor control room in the center building between it and 18, is home to Fox Sports Florida and its sister network, Fox Sports Sun. It is also being used as a storage area for Universal Orlando parade floats, and to train sporting events for My Family’s Got Guts, which was a short-lived revival of the classic Nickelodeon game show Guts. The green room had been used as a one for the show, and has remained exactly the same as it did when earlier Nickelodeon productions used it, albeit with new furniture. Much of the Nickelodeon signage was still visible in the second floor hallways including multiple murals of the Ren and Stimpy episode: Space Madness (now removed). Currently, the tube that runs above Soundstage 19 that was part of the tour, is now used for storage of several old props and A/V equipment, along with storage for the Blue Man Group. Additionally, the Gak Kitchen is used as the break room for the front of their house staff and the space that formerly housed the Game Lab is now a special event room for them and the park itself.
On November 9, 2006, Universal Orlando announced that Soundstage 18 would be redesigned to become a 1,000-seat permanent venue for the Blue Man Group. The new venue opened on June 1, 2007. During the construction phase of the new theater, no cosmetic changes were made, with the exception of the addition of the new box office in the pavilion. The sound stage was painted black with three giant blue heads, the main building was painted white with black and blue trim, and the side of Stage 18 was painted black with blue, yellow, and red paint splats. The facility was renamed the Sharp Aquos Theatre.
In 2008, Nickelodeon returned for the only time to Universal Studios with My Family’s Got Guts. Training was in Soundstage 19, and breaks were in the Green Room, while actual production was in Soundstage 23 with the Aggro Crag in Soundstage 24.
In 2012, YouTube personality adamthewoo gained access into Soundstage 19 and the upper floors of the main building; he documented vastly untouched murals and decor from the heyday of the studios.
In April 2013, leftover orange railing on the main building was repainted blue after six years since the opening of the studios as the Sharp Aquos Theater.
In March 2014, the “Production Crew Only” orange Nickelodeon splat-shaped sticker was removed from the exterior door (formerly the exit from the Game Lab) and replaced by a Blue Man Group-themed “Team Members Only” sticker.
As of 2021, no vestiges of the studio remain. The first floor of the main building has been completely changed with the escalators and The Wild Thornberrys murals completely removed. Additionally, the second floor walls (which contained various spaceship-themed murals from The Ren & Stimpy Show) were completely repainted, and leftover green paint on the left exterior wall backstage was repainted yellow to match the colors of the soundstage. The only remaining signs of Nickelodeon’s former presence include the bathrooms underneath the staircase which contain the green slime-themed flooring pattern, two slime spills by the exterior staircase and bathrooms (albeit painted blue), and the elevator door by the former Game Lab exit.