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Nickelodeon Studios: Universal's Lost "Slime" Machine Back to '90s Nostalgia

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Image: Universal

Welcome to the new Universal Studios Florida! 

This brand new theme park located just a few miles north of Walt Disney World is no International Drive tourist trap, nor a simple roadside attraction. Taking all that designers had learned from Universal's slow development of its movie studio property in Hollywood, this new Orlando park is Universal's first attempt at creating a true theme park, from scratch. The result is six themed lots, most of which are camera-ready recreations of world locales, like Hollywood, New York, and San Franscisco. 

An exception is the "land" that lies just beyond its studio gate. Production Central isn't disguised behind film facades; it's an avenue of towering, numbered, beige soundstages just like you might find in a real studio backlot. And that makes sense given that Universal Studios Florida does have real production happening on the soundstages adjacent to the park. It's difficult to see where the theme park ends and the studio begins... and that's the point.

But if you're a kid visiting Universal and you don't care to be terrorized by sharks, earthquakes, apes, or dinosaurs, there's one place you're likely to search out on the map and make a bee-line for. The dull beige soundstages of Production Central eventually give way to something a little more... messy.

Nickelodeon Studios

Image: Universal / Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon Studios is the place to be.

On most studio backlots, soundstages are bland by design. They're functional; tan; industrial; boring. Of course, you wouldn't expect Nickelodeon shows to be produced in such a place. That's why the Nickelodeon Studios soundstages look just a little different. Painted discordant shades of neon red, blue, and toxic green, paneled with zebra newsprint patterns and bolt '90s stripes and zig-zags. Nickelodeon Studios looks like the folders you wanted for grade school.

Image: Universal / Nickelodeon, via Retrojunk.com

And of course, the iconic Slime Geyser resides out front. Even 15 minutes, a claxon horn sounds as the Geyer's dials begin to move, accordian tubes swaying as pressure builds... then, it erupts, launching green-tinted goo into the sky and sending it splattering down into a pool beneath with just enough ricochet to stain your elastic waistband shorts. What a souvenir!

Like at those studios out in Hollywood, you might even be called upon to join a live studio audience for one of Nickelodeon's game shows or laugh-out-loud sitcoms...

Image: Nickelodeon / Universal via nickalive.blogspot.com

But naturally, Nickelodeon Studios isn't just a monolithic soundstage for you to look at and wish to be invited in. It's an attraction. Yes, those illustrious, sought-after showbuildings are waiting for you in the form of a 40-minute guided tour of Nick's real productions, with actual chances to see and be seen by Nick stars; to slime and be slimed; to touch, smell, and taste new creations for Nick. 

Your tour through the facility begins with an escalator ride to the upper levels of Soundstage 18. Nickelodeon Studios offers one of the only opportunity at Universal Studios Florida to really see behind-the-scenes of how movies and television are made, so your ride to the top immediately brings you to a pretty momentous first stop: a glassed-in hallway overlooking a real studio set.

Image: Nickelodeon / Universal

It could be that you're looking down on the Rockmore's living room from Kenan and Kel, with Good Burger sharing a wall; maybe it's Clarissa Darling's bedroom from Clarissa Explains It All. But this much is certain: this isn't a recreation. It's the actual place where those shows you've seen on Nick are filmed. If you've timed your visit right (helped by calling the official Nick Studios hotline to ask for a production schedule), you might even see actors on set rehearsing or recording. If not, television monitors and your Nick tour guide will point out everything you need to know.

The tour presses on overlooking another set, then entering into the facility's post-production work space: the place where shows are edited and where special effects are added. Unlike Disney's studio up the road where these rooms are mostly empty or repurposed, you can bet that real work is going on here to get Nick's shows ready for broadcast. 

The Nick at Nite museum is next, with artifacts and interacts from Nickelodeon and its late-night, classic TV programming block.  Then, it's on to the real fun.

Image: Nickelodeon / Universal

Back down the escalator, guests are herded into the Gak Kitchen. After a hilarious interactive display of Nickelodeon costuming and props, the attention would turn to Nickelodeon's famous slime. With an inside peek at how exactly the concoctions were made, select guests would be invited to test new "recipes" for Nick's slime and gak, including tasting them!

Then, it's on to the grand finale... the fabled Game Lab. This show-within-a-show is your chance to participate in real Double Dare-style challenges being prototyped for use on the show. The Game Lab is where families could indeed find themselves at the wrong end of a bucket of slime.

If you'd rather stay clean, this laugh-out-loud portion of the tour is your chance to really feel like a part of a Nickelodeon game show.

And of course, that's just the beginning of what Nickelodeon Studios has to offer. Sign up to sit in the audience of a live taping of Figure It Out, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Slime Time Live, or Nickelodeon All-Star Challenge

As a real working television studio, Nickelodeon Studios might be your best chance at getting a real taste of Hollywood action right in Orlando. And among the millions of guests who toured through its hallways, who knows how many were inspired to see entertainment differently by getting that glimpse behind-the-scenes?

Image: Nickelodeon

So what would kill this sought-after headquarters for fun? On the last page, we'll take a look at the four reasons that Nickelodeon's Orlando campus was doomed and see what stands in its place today...

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