Niki López

Animation Magazine - - RIS­ING STARS -

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.”

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