Russell Hicks, a 14-year Nickelodeon veteran and its chief creative officer since 2008, has been named to the new position of president of content development and production for the Nickelodeon Group.
Hicks will be based at Nickelodeon’s Burbank and Santa Monica, California offices, where he will lead the company’s animation and live-action development and production teams for all of Nickelodeon’s content platforms.
The announcement was made Wednesday by Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami, to whom Hicks will continue to report.
Prior to working at Nickelodeon, Hicks was vice-president of marketing of Cartoon Network/Turner brands for Warner Brothers, where he was responsible for the marketing and creative that turned Scooby Doo and the Power Puff Girls into cultural icons. Hicks started his career as an animator that led him to work on Teddy Ruxpin, the first talking teddy bear, for Worlds of Wonder toys. It is this combination of both animation and consumer products that has given Hicks his extensive knowledge of the children’s entertainment world.
The newly created position establishes centralized, West Coast leadership of all Nickelodeon’s content teams, and provides direct, on-the-ground oversight of the largest and most diverse development slate in the network’s history. Reporting to Hicks will be Rich Magallanes, senior vice-president of animation for current series; Margie Cohn, who will serve in the new role of president of content development, working across animation, live-action and digital; Paula Kaplan, who will now serve as executive vice-president of current series; Teri Weiss, executive vice-president of Nickelodeon preschool development and production; Alison Dexter, executive vice-president of Nickelodeon Productions; and Keith Dawkins, senior vice-president and general manager for Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick channels.
“Russell has been one of the driving forces behind the Nickelodeon brand,” said Zarghami. “As we continue our ambitious evolution of Nickelodeon, Russell will ensure that our rich and diversified development slate, as well as our new and established producing partners, will all serve our creative vision for the network and deliver for our audiences. As the new development season begins, this is the perfect moment for Russell to take the helm.”
Nickelodeon’s recently announced development slate includes more than a dozen new animation, live-action and TV-movie projects as part of the network’s deep commitment to new content. The slate features top creative talent in front of and behind the camera and iconic characters from the network’s most popular series that will begin rolling out this fall and into 2013.
These projects include the CG-animated series Monsters vs. Aliens and the 2D Sanjay & Craig, as well as the highly anticipated return of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in September. For preschool, the network is adding the curriculum-based animated series Monty and Norville, and a pilot for Blaze and the Monster Machines.
Brown Johnson, who has served as the president of animation since 2008, will be leaving her role to pursue her own creative endeavors. Johnson oversaw the network’s successful partnerships with DreamWorks Animation SKG, as well as the brand-new, CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She also was responsible for leading Nickelodeon’s groundbreaking preschool programming, including Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, for more than two decades.
“Brown’s contributions to Nickelodeon are many, including being the key architect behind our preschool leadership,” added Zarghami. “She leaves an indelible impact on generations of kids for which we will always be incredibly grateful.”
Hicks, as Nickelodeon’s chief creative officer, oversaw all of Nickelodeon creative, on-air promotions, consumer products, brand and advertising divisions, and led the product development and creative positioning of Nickelodeon’s brands and properties and ensured that it represented Nickelodeon’s “Kids’ First” philosophy and supported the company mission to provide surprising and playful experiences for its audiences. In 2009, he led an unprecedented creative review of the Nickelodeon brand and reimagined its logo to represent the growth the company had attained after 30 years, while also maintaining and reflecting the company’s core attributes.
Hicks attended California State University Fullerton, where he studied illustration and design.