Q & A: PBS’ Director of Children’s Programming, Linda Simensky, talks Amination
April 17, 2010, 11:47 pm
Filed under: History, Interviews, TV | Tags: , , , ,

Simensky making a cameo on the PBS show, WordGirl. Courtesy of

Last week I posted a list of Linda Simensky’s favorite indie animated shorts. Because I miss old school Nickelodeon so much, here’s a little bit more detail on her time at Nick, her love of Bugs Bunny and some of her future plans. (See the post below for more background on Simensky).

How did you first get interested in animation?

My interest in animation started when I was little. I was a big fan of Bugs Bunny cartoons. Not so much of Disney, but I really loved Bugs Bunny, and I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to how the cartoons where made, or even that they were cartoons, I just knew they were really funny and I thought that was great.

What was the animation industry like when you were growing up?

It was always sort of a throw-away kind of business and nobody ever took it seriously and if you look at the entire history of animation, probably up until the 90’s it was not big business. Even the Disney films, as beautiful as they were and as much as people loved them, they were still seen as being for kids and people were not necessarily willing to give them importance.

What changed from then to now?

The 70’s happened and animation just basically became to sell toys, and the 80’s was more of the same. But then, Roger Rabbit came along, and then the Simpsons came along—and those were probably two of the biggest things that happened. The other thing that was important was the emergence of cable television. And not just that cable existed, but it existed and was doing pretty well. By the late 80’s, places like Nickelodeon had made enough money to afford making animation. And animation used to be more expensive than it is now.

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PBS Executive, Linda Simensky’s Favorite Indie Animated Shorts

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the key women responsible for shaping my childhood, and in effect instigating my long and unwavering love affair with television. Of course, I didn’t tell her all this over the phone. Instead, I opted to give her a meek thank you for her years of work in children’s animation, in efforts to preserve some semblance of professionalism–I don’t think it worked.

Linda Simensky has held distinguished executive positions in the children’s television industry for more than 20 years. First, she worked her way up at Nickelodeon during the 80’s and 90’s, starting in the programming department and eventually moving into animation. During her nine-year tenure at Nick, she was responsible for overseeing the production of shows like ‘Doug‘ (the good, pre-Disney version) ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ and ‘Hey Arnold.’

Around the time of ‘Hey Arnold,’ Simensky left Nick after being appointed Director of Programming of Cartoon Network. At Cartoon Network she worked on other memorable shows including ‘Dexter’s Laboratory‘ and ‘Powerpuff Girls.‘ Talk about 90’s cartoon royalty.

Since 2003, Simensky has been overseeing popular preschool and elementary, curriculum-based programming like ‘Sid the Science Kid‘ and ‘WordGirl’ as the Senior Director of Children’s Programming at PBS.

During our chat, Simenski highlighted three independent animated short films from the National Film Board of Canada that had a signficant impact on her view of animation:

1. The Cat Came Back (1988)

This hilarious Oscar®-nominated animation is based on the century-old folk song of the same name. Old Mr. Johnson makes increasingly manic attempts to rid himself of a little yellow cat that just won’t stay away… Also won the 1989 Genie Award for best animated short film.

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