This whole documentary has been a blessing in disguise. Bob Brandenburg was one of the first people who saw the creation of the Nick Studios from ground up. In fact he was even responsible for the development of the studio tour and Game Lab. I got a chance to do an interview with Bob and he was more than happy to reveal all the gloriness of Nickelodeon in Orlando.
How eventually did you get started in showbiz and then Nickelodeon?
I started performing professional from the age of 17 and moved to LA in 1988 to persue a career as an actor. I secured a job in LA as a Tour Guide at Universal Studios Hollywood. It was that job that got me a job as the new assistant manager of shows and tours for the opening of Universal in Orlando opening in 1990. My main priority was to cast and install the tour of Universals sound stages that ended up touring the brand new Nick Studios. Universal opened on June 7th of 1990 and as part of my connection with Nickelodeon I spent much of that day in sound Stage 19 where the live Broadcast was being shot. As of August of 1990, I resigned my position with Universal and started working full time at Nickelodeon Studios to produce the Tour from a Nickelodeon point of view. That led to me do warm-up on almost all of the shows for about 6 – 8 years. I loved it.
What was your first impression of the Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
I first saw the studios in December of 1989. it was still under construction. In fact the steps that we walked up were just metal frames… the cement filling had yet to be poured. The grounds around the studios was nothing but mud.
It was such an exciting time. I was there when Nick had a press event “discovering” the slime fisher in the front of the studios. Gerry Laybourne, Geoffrey Darby, Scott Webb and Scott Davis were present for the event.
What was a typical day like being there?
There was NO typical day. LOL there was always something different happening. When big game shows like Double Dare or GUTS were in production there was always a great sense of excitement. Seeing contestants getting prepped for the shows, mess being made, sets being built and the people. The People were the best part. SO many young people who were very excited and very passionate. We were all in it together, learning, producing, laughing.
Any celeb sightings you remember seeing as part of the grand opening? I remember the sliming of Stephen Spielburg. After being slimed he was asked what it felt like. He responded that it was like having one of his kids throw up on him. warm and gooey LOL
How eventually was Game Lab developed?
Game Lab began as a filler show put on Sound stage 19 during the christmas holidays in 1990 or 1991. Greg Lee and myself shared the hosting duties. Robin Marrella was also a co-host. The show was the idea of Andy Bamberger, the VP of Production. He thought it would be fun to have a live show where audience’s could watch us test games for future game shows. Not only could people be invited in as part of the audience it also gave the tour guests something to look at in the tour viewing tubes. The show was SO popular it was decided to create it as an ongoing show that would be featured at the end of the Tour. That show became my responsibility along with the tour. I helped create and install the show that Universal then continued to operate. It was great fun and allowed all the guests at Nick to see what they really wanted to see… someone getting slimed.
Back then Orlando was known as Hollywood East though it eventually went nowhere. Can you explain how great it was to have all the film production in the area and why it has decreased?
It was SO exciting.. not only Universal but also Disney MGM (I also got to do warm-up for Star Search with Ed McMahon) So many cable shows, network shows and films were being produced. It really felt that the momentum would continue. However, most executives of shows came from New York or LA. They didn’t like having to travel to produce their shows and of course the talent pool of actors and technicians were not as plentiful as in LA. So eventually things slowed and productions returned to being produced on the west coast.
As an audience warm up person it must’ve been a blast to see so many guests coming to see a live taping. What is the best part about having a live studio audience?
I loved making them laugh and answering all of their questions. They loved seeing our hosts and stars. Hi Honey I’m Home was particularly fun with so many great Iconic TV stars appearing weekly, from Al Lewis Grandpa in The Munsters, Barbara Billingsley, the mother in Leave It To Beaver (she actually was willing to repeat her famous Jive Talk from the movie Airplane) others included Gale Gordon from The Lucy Show, Eva Gabor from Green Acres, Rose Marie from Dick Van Dyke show and many more. So of my favorite moments were having kids in the audience tell their favorite jokes. Occasionally they were a bit “blue” for our audience which brought even more laughter from the adults.
Was there a particular show there that you loved visiting the set of?
I was always taken aback when walking on any set. Nothing beat walking onto the stage when Double Dare was in production. The Clarissa set was fun to visit. I loved showing people the Mini ladder that the character same used to climb into Clarissa’s bedroom. he would lay on a pillow until his cue came and then he’d flip the ladder and act like he was climbing up when in fact he was just three feet below.
Nickelodeon certainly was on a roll with so many live events across the country in the 90s. Describe how different and fun Mega Mess-A Mania was.
Mega Mess-A-Mania was a result of the success of arena tours like Double Dare Live, and Nick Live with Phil Moore and Mike O’Malley. This show featured two new characters, the Slimeologist and the gakmiester. The idea was that we have a huge tanker truck filled with slime. This tanker (an inflatable) hung above the stage threatening to explode slime all over. The show featured hosts Mike Omalley Phil Moore and eventually Donnie Jeffcoat from Wild and Crazy kids. It was VERY messy and toured the US for a year. I loved this opportunity and had so much fun bringing this to places like Madison Square Gardens which played in front of a packed ten thousand seat crowd.
10. Have you ever been slimed?
Slimed, Pied, thrown in all of the obstacles during double Dare. The crew enjoyed torturing me on the set when I was doing warm -up. As fun as it was I hope never to get the goop on me ever again LOL it’s kinda icky.
11. Favorite ride at Universal Orlando. Past and present.
Back To the Future was always my favorite. Now I’d say the Harry Potter ride is my fav at Islands of adventure
12. What would you say caused the downfall to Nick Studios?
It was just too expensive and Nickelodeon had to find ways to reduce costs. The Studios was a heavy expense for the network. That was the main reason.
13. Do you see a relatively difference in Nickelodeon (the network) then and now?
I still love this brand and continue to work closely with Nick. This August will be my 24th year. Every generation has it’s own relationship with Nickelodeon. The network evolves as kids evolve. Back when the studios opened, there was no internet, no smart phones. Technology has changed Nick. I think it is just as wonderful now as it was back in the nineties.
14. How great were all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.
That was the BEST part of Nickelodeon Studios. Young energetic passionate people. We were a family. We had HUGE thanksgiving feasts on the sound stage every year and spent both work and free time together. I still keep in touch with almost everyone via facebook. It was something special.
15. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
I was a product of classic Television. My favorite moments were meeting the stars of sitcoms on Hi Honey I’m home. I got to meet and interview each of the stars prior to the audience coming in for a taping. I remember telling Al Lewis (Grandpa on the Munsters) that I grew up watching him. He looked at me with those creepy eyes and said “I hope you don’t hold me accountable for the way you turned out” HYSTERICAL
Another great moment was when Vice President Al Gore came to the studios for the first Kids World Council. We did a taping of Nick News with Linda Ellerbee.
16. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special
It was a moment in time. It can’t be recreated. It was unique and it was the advent of Nickelodeon becoming the behemoth entertainment brand that it now has become. We knew we were a part of something special and that stays with all of the alumni.
17. Would you like to see it be reopened?
No… it was a moment in time that can’t be recreated.