Creator/Producer, Santiago of the Seas, Nickelodeon
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Niki López put a lot of her own cultural heritage and background into the world of Nickelodeon’s upcoming series Santiago of the Seas. The colorful toon, which is infused with a Spanish-language and Latino-Caribbean culture curriculum, centers on the adventures of a brave and kind-hearted pirate who searches for treasures and keeps the high seas safe from villains.
López, who grew up watching Disney movies such as Beauty and the
Beast and The Little Mermaid, says she was also deeply influenced by the 1992 feature FernGully: The Last
Rainforest. “I guess that inspired the little environmentalist in me as a kid,” she says. “I studied illustration and computer animation at Ringling, and I really wanted to further develop my skills and dig deeper into doing creative work, but I was open to anything.”
After a brief stint in advertising, López decided to really start exploring her options in animation. A meeting with a Nickelodeon recruiter at an animation event led to her landing an internship at the studio in 2009. “I grew up a Nickelodeon kid and the energy and personality of the studio really resonated with me, so I really wanted to be part of it,” she recalls. The internship led to gigs on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, The Fairly OddParents and Harvey Beaks. “I was really inspired by what edgy and fun shows the preschool team was working on. Because the studio has an open-door pitching policy from the staff, I decided to pitch them some ideas, too. After all, what was the worst that could happen? I even took a month’s sabbatical and traveled to Puerto Rico and New Orleans to get the right inspirations for the pitch.”
The development execs at Nick really liked her pitch, and Lopez’s show is set to debut on the cabler later this year. “I am really proud of how cinematic the series looks,” she admits. “I love the rich greens and blues, and how the colors are so vibrant and dynamic.” She also says that she has learned a lot of great lessons along the way. “As a firsttime showrunner, you discover that there are lots of challenges, but they can be huge lessons to help you in the future,” says the wise and brilliant 35-year-old artist. “The most important thing is to trust your gut. It’s easy to get off track and forget the reason you decided to do something in the first place. Animation is a team effort, but you have to make sure that your voice doesn’t get lost. Always be open to collaboration, but don’t lose sight of the real core of your vision.”