Paramount’s Ramsey Naito Talks Franchise Management at MIPJunior

In conversation with TV Kids’ Anna Carugati at MIPJunior, Ramsey Naito, the president of Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Animation, weighed in on franchise management, the crucial role of theatrical releases and reinventing classic properties like Dora the Explorer.

Naito took part in her keynote conversation with Carugati, the editor-at-large at World Screen and TV Kids, as MIPJunior officially kicked off in Cannes this morning.

Paramount Global’s prolific animated slate runs “across theatrical, linear TV and digital,” Naito said, “powered by the most loved and biggest kids’ brand in the world, Nickelodeon. Our company’s commitment to kids’ and family content is firm and unwavering. We are working hard at growing our footprint, expanding our influence and filling our pipeline of movies, series and specials that, on the one hand, feature some of the most beloved characters ever and, on the other, produce original ideas that captivate today’s audiences everywhere. And though the content we create is largely for our own platforms first, we’re open to partnering with local third parties and platforms to distribute our shows and characters to even wider audiences around the world. As we already do, with TF1, Televisa and Super RTL, among many others.”

The Paramount Animation lineup “combines the fabled movie studio’s legacy of visionary filmmaking with the playful sensibility and cool factor of Nickelodeon,” she said. “We’re unleashing our biggest and best characters through the strategy that leads with theatricals. There’s still nothing bigger than a global release and marketing campaign that cuts through all the content choices out there and drives so many other key businesses, from linear TV and digital projects to consumer products, games, music and more.”

This has played out in the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which was a global theatrical hit, with a successful L&M campaign, and has now logged almost 6 million streams on Paramount+. “Now we’re teeing up an original streaming series and a theatrical sequel that will propel the franchise even further.”

It’s a similar story for PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, which hit theaters two weeks ago. “It’s the biggest preschool property in the world through linear TV, consumer products and two theatricals, with a third in production right now. On Paramount+, the first movie has been streamed more than 130 million times.”

That theatrical release was paired with an animated short for the brand-new Dora the Explorer series. Coming up on the theatrical front are Transformers One, the first animated Transformers film since 1986, produced in partnership with Hasbro Entertainment, which hits theaters in 2024; and a new animated The Smurfs movie featuring Rihanna as Smurfette. There’s also a new film on tap for SpongeBob SquarePants, “which has evolved from a linear-first property to a universe of spin-offs, SVOD content, theatrical releases and a Broadway musical.” The beloved brand marks its 25th anniversary in 2024, culminating in July 2025 with The SpongeBob Movie: Search for SquarePants. That year will also see a new theatrical release for The Last Airbender. “We are so excited about this movie because it will usher in a new generation of fans into this incredibly rich universe filled with amazing storytelling and mythology.”

Naito continued: “All of these theatrical titles illustrate the power of our library IP, but we are equally invested in originals that are potential future franchises in the making, such as Superworld,” a book-based property.

At Nickelodeon Animation, meanwhile, there are almost 60 series in production across series and theatricals, “with franchise plans in place for our biggest properties.”

SpongeBob, for example, has a season 15 in the works, plus two spin-offs, Kamp Koral and The Patrick Star Show. There’s a PAW Patrol spin-off in Rubble & Crew, Transformers: EarthSpark with Hasbro Entertainment and a holiday movie for BabyShark. A highlight for MIPJunior is the brand-new series for Dora, “which exemplifies our method of how and when we bring back beloved characters. It’s the carefully considered balance of audience feedback and creativity. An unofficial maxim at Nickelodeon is to always let the kids lead, in both our creative and business decisions. Our audience led us back to Dora, who changed the method of preschool television and continues to lead generations of kids deeper into diversity and the love for other cultures.”

The team at Nickelodeon saw how much traction Dora clips were gaining on YouTube. “Our research showed that the series may have been out of production, but this character never really left the lives of kids and families around the world. So, we began to consider how to bring her back in a way faithful to the fans who continue to love her while modernizing the show for brand-new fans.”

The new series is animated in CG and has retained Dora’s “aspirational and multicultural qualities,” Naito said. “She still cares about animals and the environment and her culture, and she will still help kids learn Spanish in the United States and English in other countries. The online love for Boots has moved him from a sidekick to a co-star. The adventures are on a bigger scale.”

Nick followed the global theatrical short with exclusive online content leading up to spring’s global launch. “When Dora originally debuted, the marketing was mainly on-air promos. Those days, for all of us, are long gone. Now, it’s all about surround sound plans designed to break through and reach audiences everywhere they are, on all platforms. Everything, everywhere and all at once.”

Naito also highlighted Rock, Paper, Scissors, a new original IP that emerged from the company’s Intergalactic Shorts Program “designed to find and elevate new voices and new creators.”

In conversation with Carugati, Naito talked about the challenges of reaching kids given the abundance of options they have for how to spend their free time. “The power we have is our brand. People see a show with our brand on it, they know that it will be funny, it will be character-driven, it will have stories with meaning. It is a refuge for kids to have fun and relax. The power of our brand means something in a world where there are so many choices.”

Naito also talked about the thought process that goes into reinventing a classic property, discussing how Paramount worked with Seth Rogen on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. “He loved the show and knew all the characters. He’d grown up with it. That love was poured into this reimagining. It embraced the core fundamentals, the core idea of the show, but infused it with a new voice that related to today’s audience. In short, the way to go about reimagining great IP is to find a superfan who knows how to reimagine, embrace the core values and bring something new.

The combination of Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Animation under Naito’s remit “has allowed us to embrace theatricals and series and franchise planning in a way that is smart. It allows us to launch a movie and think about how we are launching a series thereafter and how we may want to plan for character-driven movies that will continue to expand the universe and connect to an audience.”

Naito also weighed in on the “character-driven DNA” at the heart of Nickelodeon and its approach to taking risks with talent “and allowing for their vision and their voice to shine. That delivers great characters that feel whole and authentic, that you can relate to and that you love.”

On the keys to maintaining the success of a franchise like Dora, Naito said: “Make sure that you have a filmmaker or showrunner in the middle of the show with a vision that is inspired and fresh and connected.”

Naito also emphasized the breadth of Paramount’s footprint, allowing it to reach kids wherever they are. “We have a theatrical platform, linear television, YouTube, Paramount+; all of those things allow us to connect with kids everywhere and anywhere.”