Albie Hecht Taking Digital Route to Launch New Character

Instead of going straight for a TV show, his studio Worldwide Biggies has teamed with Addicting Games on a Bigby game for the iPhone and iTouch.

Kids entertainment veteran Albie Hecht is looking to finally launch his new original animated character Bigby, and he is doing so in a way that is tailored to the digital age.

Instead of going straight for a TV show, his digital studio Worldwide Biggies teamed with online games site Addicting Games to make available a Bigby game for the iPhone and iTouch, dubbed "Bigby: L.A.P.D.," starting Thursday. The game will help the firm gauge interest in and business potential of the character.

Despite some delays, Hecht, who while at Nickelodeon oversaw development of such hit characters as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Jimmy Neutron, who was introduced via interstitials and online games, has high hopes for Bigby, a 9-year-old crime-fighting genius.

"We see Bigby as an innovative new character franchise with crossover appeal," said Hecht, who founded and serves as CEO of Worldwide Biggies. "Kids, tweens and young adults are consuming content and interacting with characters in a whole new way and we felt the best approach to initially engage this audience is through a platform like the iPhone which has become an intrinsic part of their daily lives."

If the next month or so shows consumer interest in Bigby, a Web series with a connected toy or a TV project may be in the cards.

Metrics of success that Hecht will keep an eye on include the number of 99 cents game purchases, consumer engagement and buzz.

While the big money still lies elsewhere in the media and entertainment industry, the iPhone and iTouch are affordable ways to incubate, he said, pointing to a launch cost of less than $100,000 along with the chance to make some dollars on the way.

"Using the new methods of digital distribution, you can be more economical in how you develop characters," Hecht said. "In the old world, if you took an animated pilot, you would spent $500,000-$600,000 and then you would probably spend another $5 million-$10 million on a series to find out whether you had a hit."

Bigby was a design tested as a USB drive character that sold out more than 400 collectibles at Comic-Con San Diego in 2006, encouraging Hecht and his team to develop the character further.

An iPhone game launch was originally planned for earlier this year before a delay. A spokeswoman said Apple changed the necessary code, and the digital studio decided to be up to date with that code and to also further improve the game.

As far as Bigby, the young crime-fighter believes that "96% of all bad things in the world are caused by pirates and dragons, and it's his job to stop them," according to the company. "Wearing his signature bear suit pajamas and mighty jet pack, game players can help this crime-fighting genius save the world as part of the L.A.P.D., aka League Against Pirates and Dragons."

Hecht said he expects Bigby to connect with a broad segment of young audiences thanks to the fun and action he provides along with details of his character development. For example, his favorite food is chicken parmigiana.

In the game, Bigby must fight pirates and dragons in various levels. In a bonus video, he tries to save music star Shakira from a fire-breathing dragon.

Hecht previously launched The Naked Brothers Band on Nickelodeon. Worldwide Biggies is also developing feature film "Swift" with Sony Pictures. Hecht was earlier this year named one of The Hollywood Reporter's 50 digital power players.

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