Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Have You Seen My Childhood?

My digital cable provider includes a channel called Nick GAS, an acronym for "Games and Sports." Essentially, the channel plays the Nickelodeon live action stunt and game shows of my youth: GUTS, Nick Arcade, Get the Picture and others.

Most of these shows were recorded (in front of a live studio audience, we were always told) at a place called Nickelodeon Studios, what was essentially a grandiose theme park attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando. Every show ended with a spot telling the viewer that the show was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios, and included this iconic image.

Nickelodeon (channel 14 back in the day, if memory serves) played a crucial role in the development of my consciousness and my sensibilities: long before I fell in love with Mel Brooks or Jerry Seinfeld I found my first true comedic obsession in the form of a Canadian sketch comedy show for children called You Can't Do That on Television. It was the first television show I truly loved.

I was already starting to grow out of Nickelodeon worship by the time the company opened Nickelodeon Studios, but that doesn't mean I wasn't beyond excited to visit there: the way every single show ended with that shot of the Slime Geyser and the Nickelodeon Studios promo built it into a place of near mythic stature in my young psyche. I visited it a few times on my family's occassional trips to Orlando, Florida (and once with camp); on one such trip, I sat in the studio audience of a taping of Legends of the Hidden Temple. It was, unquestionably, one of the most exciting moments of my life up to that point, even though I was confused (and slightly disgusted) by my first taste of "Hollywood magic": for reasons beyond my comprehension, the audience was only brought in to watch the taping of a single ten minute segment of one episode, before we were shuffled out to make way for the next batch of tourists. (Me and my DVR, coincidentally, are on a quest to find that ten minute segment and catch a glimpse of audience member self via the wayback machine)

I don't watch Nickelodeon anymore, haven't for years, but flipping to Nick GAS gave me a twinge of nostalgia, and I grew curious about the state of Nickelodeon Studios. I had a feeling that in the age of Spongebob Squarepants there was little need for a fully functioning live action recording center in the middle of or central Florida, and I was right. Nickelodeon Studios closed in April of last year. The final show at the studio was recorded in the spring of 2004 and everything else slowly faded away. Even that stupid, glorious geyser is gone.

Coincidentally, the green splotch in the right foreground of that image was a timecapsule, buried in 1992, that was supposed to be opened in 2042 — since that picture was taken, it, too, has been removed. Gifts to the future, it seems, mean very little in the grand scheme of things to corporate theme parks.

It's strange what will make a person sad; I feel far too young to get nostalgic for my youth to the point of remorse, particularly for a place I visited a handful of times more than a decade ago. Yet here I am, looking at pictures, and writing of things. The children of 2042 face sad times indeed.

(Researching this post I found I'm not alone in my Nick Studios nostalgia. Here's a video that takes it to an almost unhealthy extreme:)


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