In 1990, there was one thing Universal Studios Florida had that Disney’s MGM Studios could never have- Nickelodeon Studios. Maybe worse than not having it is, try as they might, Disney could never replicate Nickelodeon. Michael Eisner was many things, but a Gakmaster he was not.
When Universal opened on June 7, 1990, Nickelodeon Studios opened alongside it. Not only was Universal a place where you could “ride the movies,” but Nickelodeon was the only chance a kid in the 90’s had at getting up close and personal with some of their favorite shows. Sure, watching the Indiana Jones Stunt Show was cool and all, but have you ever seen a geyser erupt actual slime, shooting it miles high into the sky? Ok, maybe not miles into the sky, but I was 6 years old so cut me some slack. I can still remember the noise it would make as it was about to erupt, and if I close my eyes, I still see my siblings and I standing around it with this look of awe on our face. Of course, my mom was always there telling us not to get too close because it would get in our hair. Naturally, we ignored her warnings and always inched closer.
In 1992, Nickelodeon Studios announced plans for a time capsule. The most exciting part was that kids were given a major role in how this whole time capsule thing was going to happen. We were also going to have complete control of what went into the actual capsule, and they would be voted in by the “Kids World Council.” I know what you’re thinking and yes, it was a very prestigious council that every kid in America, including myself, wanted to be on. These are the items that would be placed into the capsule:
- Home Alone on VHS
- Back to the Future on VHS
- Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em by MC Hammer
- Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Album
- Roller Blades
- Reebok Pump Sneakers
- A jar of Gak
- An official Joey Lawrence “Whoa! 92” hat
- News Reports that featured coverage of the AIDS crisis, Desert Storm, and the End of the Soviet Union (Thanks to Linda Ellerbee, we 90’s kids were “woke” when it came to the real issues happening in the world.)
- Books- A world atlas, history book, comic book, phone book, the Orlando TV Guide for the week of April 30, 1992, and a copy of the Book of Endangered Species
- An issue of Nickelodeon Magazine (Because again, we 90’s kids were informed on world news and enjoyed our periodical literature)
- A Ren and Stimpy t-shirt
- A piece of the Berlin Wall
- A Barbie Doll
- Nintendo Game Boy
- A Skateboard
- A stick of gum, brand unknown
- Photos of things that were either too big or alive that wouldn’t fit in the capsule- Including bicycles, planes, trains, cars, politicians, and celebrities.
- A VHS tape of the opening ceremony that was recorded live via the “Kid Cam”
- The actual Kid Cam- Was this even voted on or was it a last-minute add-in courtesy of Mike O’Malley? Either way, no one was going to question Mike O’Malley. The guy was basically CEO of the Aggro Crag, and no doubt about it, he had GUTS.
Once all the items were gathered and placed into the giant orange time capsule, it was buried directly in front of Nickelodeon Studios. The best part was, you didn’t have to be there to see it. Nickelodeon broadcasted the star-studded ceremony live on Nickelodeon. Did I watch it? You bet I did, and so did all the kids in the neighborhood because that’s what we did back then. We drank our Hi-C ecto cooler and watched Nickelodeon. That’s why it was absolutely jarring to me when I realized today marked 30 whole years since the capsule was buried, it seems like only yesterday! And being a kid at the time, I remember hearing 50 years and thinking it was so far away. I’ll tell you this much, Father time has a wicked sense of humor.
All good things must come to an end, and Nickelodeon Studios was no exception. Their studios at Universal eventually closed and the time capsule was moved to the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando. When the resort was being rebranded, the time capsule was moved once again. It’s now buried at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California, and we can assume this will be its final resting place. The official opening date of the capsule is April 30, 2042.
Thinking about the time capsule today, brought me back to a time when every kid felt like Nickelodeon got them. Being a kid in the ’90s, and during the golden era of Nickelodeon, our idea of entertainment was watching other kids crawl through a giant ear full of ear wax gak, or sticking their finger up a giant nose full of booger gak. And all of it was for the sake and glory of capturing a flag.
The network and its shows had this way of connecting with kids on a level that no other network could even come close to doing. While most shows at the time talked “at” kids, rather than “to” them. Nickelodeon made shows kids actually wanted to watch, that we could relate to, and more importantly, made us feel like we were part of the conversation. I’m not even joking when I say this, Nickelodeon actually had America’s youth thinking that other kids were over there running the studio, rather than a bunch of adults in a board room. Hats off to those adults, by the way. The ones who were, in fact, running the studio. They had their finger precisely on the pulse of what kids’ wanted.
As I was writing this article, my 6-year-old came over to me and asked what I was writing about. I began telling him all about the time capsule, with the same excitement my 6-year-old self had when discussing it with my friends at school. A few seconds into my story and it was abundantly clear that he just wasn’t impressed. Then I showed him a picture of Nickelodeon Studios (thinking he’d be blown away by a slime geyser) and told him where it was. To which he responded, “Ok, show me pictures of that dragon in Diagon Alley. That’s at Universal too.” Begrudgingly, I showed him Diagon Alley pictures, but not without feeling a little sad.
Kids today have it all, and good for them. Think about it, they literally have an opportunity to walk into the same wand shop as Harry Potter, have a wand chosen for them, and then use that wand in certain “secret” locations to create “magic” right before their very eyes. All in a land (I should say, alley) that’s so immersive, you could potentially walk right past the entrance to it in the park, and not even know! But there’s this whole other era of theme parks they’ll never even know existed, and that’s disheartening.
As great as kids today have it, there’s something to be said about those of us who grew up in the ’90s. Sure, our theme parks weren’t as immersive, but Nickelodeon was immersive television. We felt connected to its shows, and there was nothing cooler than touring the actual studios of those shows on our vacation. If you don’t already feel old, after realizing there’s only 20 years left until we open the time capsule, you can re-live your youth through this clip of the ceremony on Youtube.