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Nickelodeon Green Lights a Novela, a Stop-Motion Spongebob Special and Whole Lotta Rabbits

Kid network upfront features multiple musical performances

Nickelodeon's latest bid for the kid's adventure market, 'The Legend of Korra' Image by Nickelodeon

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Breaking at the Nickelodeon upfront: James Franco will have a multi-episode part on Hollywood Heights, a new novela from Univision stakeholder and long-time first-look partner Televisa.

Nick pulled out all the stops at a svelte hour-long show at Lincoln Center Wednesday afternoon, where talent from network band Big Time Rush (who take part in the show of the same name) to Transformers franchise director Michael Bay held court in front of a crowd of ad buyers and media.

Of note on Nick this coming year: The Legend of Korra, a new series set in the same fictional universe as Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was significantly better-received than its movie adaptation. There's also Raving Rabbids, based on the spinoff games from Ubisoft's Rayman franchise, a slapstick CGI comedy; a stop-motion Spongebob Squarepants holiday special; 26 episodes of Monsters vs. Aliens, in keeping with the network's partnership with Dreamworks Animation; and a 26-episode pickup of Marvin, Marvin, starring web celeb Lucas Cruikshank. Bay will produce a new Ninja Turtles film for Nickelodeon and corporate sibling Paramount.

The new shows represent a few milestones for Nick: the Spongebob special will be the cable network's first stop-motion effort, while Raving Rabbids is one of the very few contemporary video-game-to-small-screen transitions made in recent years.

It's clearly a moment for Nickelodeon to try some innovation: the kids' network made headlines with a 19 percent year-over-year slip in November, which Philippe Dauman (head of parent company Viacom) blamed for the company's low earnings in his Q4 earnings call. "Nickelodeon has no intention of letting the recent ratings slip slow down our creative momentum," said net president Cyma Zarghami in a rare off-script moment during the presentation.

The show went well and kept the tempo up, with plenty of musical performances, including a minor microphone snafu during the How to Rock performance, after which Cymphonique Miller, the pint-sized star of that show, pulled away the dangling mike pack and tried to toss it offstage, managing instead to wing the hardware into the audience and just barely avoided beaning a fan in the front row, who caught the projectile.

After the presentation, the party in the lobby of host venue Jazz at Lincoln Center (which is actually in Time Warner Center, presumably to confuse the riff-raff) had quite a bit to recommend it—creamsicle-flavored cocktails, two different buffets, orbiting waiters toting color-coordinated canapes... it was easy to believe that the cable upfront season had started in earnest.