Nancy Covarrubias attended Woodbury University in Burbank, CA, eventually earning a Animation/Fine Arts degree. Shortly after graduating, Nancy made her animation debut working on one of the toughest shows in children’s television, Dora And Friends: Into The City!. However, her journey was no walk in the park. Like many other students trying to break into the animation industry, she had to overcome the challenges and competitiveness that comes from the industry.
" In college, there were days where I just felt like giving up because I thought my art wasn’t good enough...A lot of [my peers] were landing really cool internships and I wasn’t."
She did not let this get her down. Instead, she used this as motivation and a helpful resource to figure out what these animation internship programs were looking for. With the help of her peers, Nancy reworked her cover letter and resume and was offered an incredible internship opportunity with Nickelodeon Animation Studios to work on both of Butch Hartman's shows, The Fairly Odd Parents and T.U.F.F Puppy.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm a Production Assistant on a Preschool show that airs on Nick Jr. The show I work on is called "Dora and Friends: Into The City!" The show is a spin-off of “Dora The Explorer” and it involves some of Dora’s new and old friends going on adventures in the City. On the show I oversee the storyboard department of the show, so I do a lot of note taking for the artists during meetings and making sure all the board artists are on track and have the most up to date materials to work on a particular sequence on an episode.
When did you know you wanted to be in the animation/entertainment industry and what events led you to choose it?
Growing up I always loved drawing and anything to do with art. It was my favorite subject! I knew since a very young age that I wanted to become an artist or do something that involved art.
Has anyone/anything inspired you to follow your passion for animation/entertainment? What/who?
In college there were days where I just felt like giving up because I thought my art wasn’t good enough. My professors were always motivating students but sometimes that wasn’t enough. I think what really helped me were my peers. A lot of them were landing really cool internships and I wasn’t. Instead of feeling bad about that, I had my college friends look at my resume and cover letter for feedback and tips. My friends in college were good source of motivation. They told me to just keep applying and have patience. It did take me a few tries in till I was able to land the Nick internship.
You started off as a Production Intern at Nickelodeon Animation Studios for a show we all know very well, the Fairly Odd Parents. What did this role consist of and what were your responsibilities?
Well, I actually first interned on Tuff Puppy and soon found myself assisting the Fairly Odd Parents production crew too. I really wanted to learn as much as I could about production so I asked the coordinators on Fairly Odd Parents if they needed an extra hand and they were very cool about it. So I was lucky to have helped both Tuff Puppy and Fairly Odd Parents productions crews.
You also interned on TUFF Puppy? How was that?
I felt lucky to have interned on such and awesome crew. Everyone on TUFF Puppy was very friendly and so down to earth. I was kind of quiet and shy when I first interned but the crew always invited me out to lunch with them and made me feel like I was really part of the crew. The show Creator, Butch Hartman, would have what he called a “Tuff Puppy pitch” or a “Fairly Odd Pitch,” where his production crews would sit and hear him pitch an episode that his team of writers created. He assembled a quick animatic and read the script in the character’s voices. It was my favorite experience of my internship.
How was the application and interview process like when applying to the internship program?
During the time that I applied I don’t remember there being an application. I do remember going online to the Nickelodeon career page and they had an email where people can submit their resume and cover letter. When I was in college I submitted my resume and cover letter probably 4-5 times. I remember feeling discouraged because I wasn’t getting any calls or emails. Manny Grijalva, who was my college peer, had recently gotten hired at Nick. So he actually helped me out a lot through the submission process. He told me if I had any questions to ask him. After sending him my resume and cover letter for feedback, I resent my stuff to Nickelodeon and not too long after that I landed my first interview with Tuff Puppy!
What do you think set your application/interview apart from others?
I was very honest and enthusiastic for my interview, and I think they picked up on that. They really liked that I had a background in animation and was looking forward to learning about production. Dasha Khailova, who was production manager on TUFF Puppy at the time, asked me about my past experiences so I told her about my part time job working as an art instructor at a recreational area. I told her I was working with kids ages 4-15yrs old and teaching them about animation and what a character expression sheet was, and what a Character Line-up was. Dasha was sort of surprised that I was teaching young kids about Animation. She liked that I was excited to teach these kids about Art. So I believe that made me stand out among other candidates they were interviewing.
How was the internship overall?
I loved my internship experience at Nick. I especially liked that I was apart of 2 separate production crews and I got to learn so much about the Animation pipeline.
Best part about being a Nicktern?
Best part of the internship was that the studio organized fun activities for the interns like “Game Night” and every Friday we had what they called “Nicktern Screenings”. The screenings were awesome because on Fridays the interns would spend an hour of their time to enjoy watching cartoon classics, while eating popcorn, candy and soda! Not many people at other companies or internships can say they did that at work. I had a blast.
Any advice to students applying to the Nickelodeon internship program?
The advice I’d give to anyone trying out for the Nick internship is to work hard, stay on top of your tasks, take lots of notes, but don’t forget to have fun. It goes by so fast so make sure you make time to meet up with your internship peers and plan one-on-one meetings with artists or production people at the studio. If you’re an aspiring Artist, don’t be afraid to show your work. Most artists at the Studio are more than happy to critique and give feedback. It’s a great opportunity to have a professional look at your work, so don’t let that go to waste while interning. I also recommend shadowing people (if they are okay with it). I shadowed my TUFF Puppy PA for a while and took notes as I watched her do Breakdowns. I wanted to just absorb everything like a sponge so that I’d be prepared for a PA position if a job opened up.
Butch Hartman has an amazing animation background to his name. How was working with him on the Fairly Odd Parents?
Butch Hartman is a really cool. I kind of wish I got to interact with him a lot more during my internship. I only got to talk to him briefly a couple of times. But I like that he’s the type of show Creator that really knows what he wants. He’s been working at Nickelodeon for many years so his shows are like a well oiled machine. Although, I wish I could have gotten more interaction with him, but he’s a pretty busy guy.
After your internship with Nickelodeon, you scored a Production Assistant position on the show Dora & Friends. What does your day-to-day look like?
My day-to-day on Dora is pretty busy most days. I got hired on to Dora not knowing much about a Preschool show’s pipeline, but I quickly learned that it was very different than working on The Fairly Odd Parents and TUFF Puppy. One major comparison between Butch Hartman’s shows and working on a Preschool show like Dora, is that Butch skips the Animatic part of the pipeline. And on Dora, the Animatic is really important because our NY crew has researchers that use the Animatic for testing and see how children respond to the show. But on a day-to-day I’ll sit in Script meetings, Thumbnail Board meetings, etc. I’ll even sit with the Producer and Animatic Editor as they review the Animatic. Every time the Producer calls out a revision note, I’ll make sure to pass that information to the Revisionists. I’ll also keep track of the Board Artists and make sure they have work, and are referencing the most updated materials for that given episode. And I help keep track of deadlines and make sure the Board Artist and Directors know about upcoming meetings. On our show we have tons of meetings! Each meeting sometimes run to about 2-3 hours. Half of our Dora & Friends crew is on the east coast, so we’ll do video conference calls with the show creators and team in NY.
How did you make the transition from an intern, to a full-time employee at Nickelodeon?
The transition from intern to full time Production Assistant was exciting for me. It had been a dream of mine to work for Nickelodeon. It wasn’t a big adjustment other than the working hours. I found myself working many late nights on Dora due to it being a brand new show, and production still trying to figure out the pipeline in Season One. But it was really interesting being there at the start of the show and seeing how production built it’s pipeline and how much it’s changed since Season One.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
In 5 years I’d still like to be working in the Animation industry. I really have a passion for cartoons, so I think Animation is the career for me. In 5 years I’d hope to have transitioned on to an Artist’s position, like Revisionist or Color Stylist.
What is your dream project?
My dream project would be to work on a pitch with a close friend, and actually have it green lighted for a series. That’s probably my ultimate dream.
What has been your proudest moment thus far?
My proudest moment would have to be getting hired at Nick. I’m grateful I was given this opportunity and have been able to work with such a talented team on Dora.
Best advice you can give your past self knowing what you know now?
If I were to go back in time and give myself advice, I’d probably tell myself to do more internships in College. I had so much fun during my Nick Internship that I wished I could have applied to more internships. I would have gained more experience and knowledge if I would have made time in my schedule back then. The best thing you can do while in college is apply for internship because often times your internship experience can open doors for job opportunities and networking. So the more work experience you have, the better opportunities you get.
Favorite animated film and/or TV show?
My favorite animated TV show has to be a Nick classic of course. I love “Hey Arnold!” I own the complete series! And I got the chance to meet Hey Arnold’s show Creator, Craig Bartlett, while in College. He’s really nice and even signed my DVD box set!