The Orange YearsMovies Reviews 

Review – The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story

Review - Orange Years Nickelodeon

Review – The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story

Directed by: Scott Barber & Adam Sweeney

Produced by: Scott Barber

Written by: Scott Barber & Adam Sweeney

Starring: Drake Bell, Kel Mitchell & Coolio

Release Date: November 19th 2020

The Orange Years is a documentary telling the story of how one of the biggest kid’s channels in television came to be, how they made their mark as an escape for the everyday life of children and became the universal success that they are remembered as today.

As an animator myself and as someone who was brought up on shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Rugrats and Kenan and Kel, I was excited to dive into this film and soak up the nostalgia, but unfortunately I was slightly let down in that regard. The doc goes into some detail on a couple of shows that were a part of my childhood, but unfortunately never quite delves deep enough and ends up feeling more like a checklist of shows produced during that era than anything else.

I enjoyed how the film began with a short 2D animation sequence reminiscent of the classic animation style that we all know from various Nickelodeon shows. Sadly, from this point on, too much time is spent on the really amateur, now-dated shows that Nick produced shortly after being established. For some reason, even though there isn’t really all that much to talk about, almost the entire first hour revolves around shows like these. Eventually when we get to Rugrats, Doug and Ren & Stimpy, the doc picks up a bit more and some momentum is brought back, but it feels like too little too late.

Review - Orange Years Nickelodeon
What an odd show this was.

Something else that bothered me was how some of the talking heads were people like Drake Bell and Tom Kenny, yet the documentary ends before it covers the era of shows like Drake & Josh and Spongebob. Why have these actors featured and tease the audience with something that is never actually going to be included? This left me feeling pretty duped as a viewer because to me, the real golden era of Nickelodeon was the early 2000s. One wonders if they chose to cut the doc before covering that era so as to avoid all of the recent controversy surrounding Dan Schneider’s allegedly inappropriate behaviour during that time.

Technically, the documentary is functional if unremarkable. The editing techniques, use of music and structural choices are all satisfactory, but none of it is going to blow anyone’s mind. I guess that the film does what it sets out to do, in the sense that it gives viewers an informed history of the formative years of the network and how Geraldine Laybourne helped to nourish it into the major cable channel/film studio/theme park spanning franchise that we know it as today; it’s just a shame that it does so in such a generic bland way. Outside of the story that it is covering, the film has no real personality or style of its own, which is a shame and is a wasted opportunity to put out something with more of a voice behind it.

The film also finished without ever really delving into the production side of things in any real depth. I was hoping to see more storyboards or maybe some alternative character designs, but unfortunately the pieces of the doc that do cover the production aspects of the shows are shallow and brief.

Overall, if all that you are looking for is some dumbed down nostalgia and aren’t looking for something too in depth, then this may be for you. When I went in to review The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story, I was expecting a somewhat deeper dive and came away slightly disappointed at how much this project merely skimmed the surface of the subject matter and wasted a large portion of its runtime focusing on aspects that weren’t very pertinent to me.

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Daniel Boyd

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Daniel is a 26-year-old writer from Glasgow. He loves sci-fi and hates fantasy. He also hates referring to himself in the third person and thinks that bios are dumb.

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