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Andre Lake Mayer and Jared Wolfson are among the first of about 150 people that the French company Zag Studios expects to hire in Southern California as part of a major expansion in animation and family programming with the opening of a 40,000-square-foot facility in Glendale, or as they like to say, strategically located between Disney and DreamWorks.
Zag already had a deal with Disney as partners in an ambitious new animated TV series, Lady Bugs, aimed at female tweens, which has already been sold all over the world for a fall 2015 launch. There are 39 episodes currently in production.
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It is also developing half a dozen feature animation projects with projected budgets of $50 million to $150 million, according to Mayer, that will be animated or a hybrid mix of animation and live action.
Beginning Tuesday, Zag will be pitching Lady Bug to potential partners, retailers and the media at the Licensing Expo inside the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
“We’re really introducing the company,” says Mayer, president of global brand strategy and consumer products. “Our goal is to create a buzz to get people excited about Zag. The way you do that in the licensing industry is you have cool projects that have great partners. Lady Bug will be the emphasis of what we’re talking to people about.”
Mayer has worked on Star Trek for Paramount and Star Wars for Lucasfilm during a 25-year career. Wolfson, who has worked on Pokémon, Marvel Universe, SpongeBob Squarepants and Club Penguin, among others, is Zag’s L.A. head of production.
The L.A. facility will not have any soundstages but is expected to have a sound studio for recording music and dubbing voice-overs on animated shows. The rest of the space will be taken for creative development and pre-production, character artists, graphic designers, writers, producers and other collaborators.
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ZAG also has a partnership with Man of Action Entertainment (Ben 10, Generator Rex for Cartoon Network) to develop original properties. The series they are doing together include Ghost Force and 7 C.
Disney has the option to Lady Bug for domestic rights (it’s expected to air on Disney Channel or Disney XD). Disney also has pay TV rights in Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, and free-to-air rights in Spain, Germany, Russia and Turkey.
In Brazil, Globosat’s channel Gloob has rights to Lady Bug, which has also been sold to Tele-Quebec in Canada and ABC in Australia.
Lady Bug, billed as the first super heroine for girls, is the story of two Parisian schoolgirls with superpowers who transform into Ladybug and Cat Noir. It’s created by European producers Zagtoon (forerunner to Zag Entertainment, both created by Jeremy Zag) and Method Animation, with Japanese giant Toei Animation (Dragon Ball Z) partnering for the first time to create a series based on French pop culture. Zag’s partner since founding the company in 2009 is Jacqueline Tordjman, who spent years with Haim Saban (Power Rangers).
Other international partners on Lady Bug include SAMG Animation and SK Broadband in Korea, AB International as French co-producer and co-distributor, and TF1 in France.
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International sales for Zag are being handled by PGS Entertainment, which was founded in 2008 by Philippe and Guillaume Soutter, which has the Alvin and the Chipmunks series.
Working with other partners, Zagtoon has already produced two seasons of the TV series Rosie and Kobushi, both of which have played outside North America. Zag says a lot more is coming. It has produced and sold more than 100 CGI animated half-hours for the 2- to 14-year-old demo in more than 150 markets and has offices, besides the Paris HQ, in Brussels, Seoul, Tokyo and now Los Angeles.
It is a truly global operation. The creative on Lady Bug, for instance is done in Paris but it is actually animated at a studio in Korea. Some development on another CGI series is being done in Hong Kong.
Earlier this year, Bandai America took the master toy license for Lady Bug worldwide. It’s a division of the Bandai Toy Company in Japan, which is the third largest in the world after Mattel and Hasbro, and has done the Power Rangers for Saban, among others.
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