There will be a new big player in America’s animation business soon, if the folks at Zag Studios have anything to say about it.
Founded by Jeremy Zag and Saban Entertainment co-founder Jacqueline Tordjman, Zag is an entertainment firm based in France that has expanded into a global enterprise with offices in Paris, Brussels, Seoul, Tokyo and Beverly Hills since its establishment in 2009. Its TV animation division Zagtoon specializes in CGI animated television programming for kids that has already reached over 150 markets around the world, while Zag Animation Studios is developing feature film projects both animated and a mixture of animation with live action. Now with a brand new studio opening in Glendale, California this summer and a presence at the 2014 Licensing Expo in Las Vegas this past week, Zag has set its sights on North America.
Zag Studio’s new 40,000 square foot location is expected to host around 150 employees that will be involved in the company’s television and feature film divisions, from writers and producers to graphic designers and character artists and more. The facility will also host a sound studio for the recording of music and English dubbing.
Spearheading Zag’s American division are Andre Lake Mayer and Jared Wolfson, industry veterans that have been involved in many major properties. Ms. Mayer, whose 25-year career includes a stint as vice president of licensing for Bandai America and involvement in the Star Trek and Star Wars brands for Paramount and Lucasfilm, is the company’s president of global brand strategy and consumer products. For his part, Mr. Wolfson is charged with heading up production, acquisitions and development for Zag’s TV programming and has experience that includes co-creating Nickelodeon’s Monsuno property and work with the Pokemon, SpongeBob SquarePants and Star Wars brands. One significant development initiative is the company’s partnership with Man of Action (Ben 10, Generator Rex), which is currently working on action cartoons Ghostforce and The 7Cs with Zag’s European creative team.
Zag is touting its ongoing development and production of twelve different original properties. Four in particular made their North American debut at the 2014 Licensing Expo: LadyBug, Ghostforce, Superstar and Powearth. Curiously public information about Powearth seems entirely elusive, but information and assets exist for the other three.
LadyBug (AKA Miraculous LadyBug)
Described by Mayer as “the emphasis of what we’re talking to people about”, LadyBug is unmistakably Zagtoon’s leading property. A subtitled promotional trailer exists and was included as part of Zag’s Licensing Expo publicity, a toy deal was struck with Bandai America earlier this year, and TV deals have been struck on six continents thanks to Zag’s brand management partner PGS Entertainment and an agreement with the Disney channel. TV deals were most recently struck for Brazil, Australia and Canada. The Walt Disney company has pay TV rights for LadyBug in Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia and free-to-air rights in Spain, Germany, Russia and Turkey, and an account at the Hollywood Reporter says Disney also has domestic television rights for the U.S.
LadyBug is an action cartoon set in Paris that stars a masked female superhero named Marinette, who is blessed with exceptional good luck. She is being billed as “the first female superhero for and dedicated to girls” in animation and a superhero with both an “American look” and “Japanese powers”. LadyBug is a coproduction between Zagtoon, Method Animation and the Japanese studio Toei Animation and based on concepts from French animator and storyboard artist Thomas Astruc. In January 2012 animationmagazine.net reported that Mr. Astruc was a co-director on the TV series, and also identified the LadyBug property as the subject of one of Zag’s film projects. In its press release announcing the Bandai toy deal, Zag offers this summarization of LadyBug:
Ladybug follows the story of Marinette and Adrien, Parisian junior high school students with a big secret – they’re superheroes! Using magical powers, they transform into the bickering duo Ladybug and Cat Noir. But neither knows the other’s true identity, so Marinette has no idea that her school crush, Adrien, is Cat Noir. And Cat Noir has no idea that his crush, Ladybug, is really Marinette! They have been chosen to save Paris from the mysterious evil villain Hawk Moth who wants their magical powers for himself. Marinette has to juggle her two identities: saving Paris as Ladybug and winning Adrien’s heart as Marinette.
Zag’s other partners for LadyBug include SAMG Animation and SK Broadband in Korea and TF1 and AB International in France. The show is expected to debut in the “second quarter” of 2015 and to be televised in most territories by the fall of that year.
A creation of Zagtoon CEO Jeremy Zag, Ghostforce features the adventures of three children recruited by a brilliant scientist to combat supernatural threats to their city. Think The Real Ghostbusters with children taking center stage, and you’ve pretty much got it. PGS Entertainment offers this synopsis:
As a boy, Professor Richenbach was haunted by many evil ghosts. He swore to one day find a way to defeat them. Many years later, he is a science teacher at Central High School. He has finally developed a technology that enables humans to fight and capture ghosts! He secretly recruits three students Andy, Sam, and Nathalie. They form a team tasked with hunting down and capturing the ghosts that terrorize the city. Operating from the secret underground laboratory built by the Professor, they are the city’s only line of paranormal defense. They are GHOSTFORCE!
Superstar looks to be a music-oriented children’s series in the vein of Josie and the Pussycats and Jem and the Holograms, or perhaps an analogue to Japan’s Love Live! School Idol Project. According to its page on Zagtoon’s official website Superstar takes place at the “Hollywood School of the Arts”, where young people gather from all over to study music, singing, dancing and acting. They aren’t just there to further their craft though, they’re also competing for “a spot in a worldwide concert to achieve ultimate fame”. Zagtoon identifies Superstar as having one “season” of 104 7-minute episodes, as well as 10 “webisodes” and a single “Japanese anime OVA.”
Other animated works from Zagtoon are as follows:
The 7Cs: “The 7Cs tells of the adventures of Will Gamble, a headstrong and adventrous kid swept into the Bermuda Triangle while trying to win a surfing competition. Once inside, Will partners up with a magical sword that allows him to transform into a swashbuckling, renegade hero to face the numerous perils of the unique and diverse Seven Seas of the Triangle.”
Legendary Books: “Four Heroic Kids with the powers of legends in their hands battle history’s greatest myths for the fate of the modern world! In modern day Alexandria, a group of energetic kids are about to discover that the fantasy books they’ve been reading and loving aren’t fantasies at all. Powered by mysterious devices called “occulos” these four heroes in the making are about to take their place alongside the most legendary stories ever told.”
Sammy: Born on the same day and on the same beach, Ricky and Ella promised each other they would always stay together, like their grandparents before them. They know that they can rely on each other and that Anabel and Pipo, their friends, will always be there to help them. Throughout these adventures, you will discover that underwater life is quite similar to life on earth, full of the unexpected!
Rosie: “Rosie is a brat, pure and simple. But it doesn’t mean she can’t smile! Rosie has an imaginary friend she calls blackie, And, as the name doesn’t suggest, blackie is a green sheep. Rosie loathes her neighbour, but she spends all of her time with him. Rosie mocks you, laughs at you or doesn’t care about you, simply because she doesn’t care about anything.”
Kobushi: “Fancy Sushis ? After watching an episode of Ko-Bushi, you won’t ever see them in the same light again. After closing hours at Ko-Bushi, the Japanese restaurant, the Sushis come to life and spend the night trying to avoid falling into the traps set by the famous white porcelain cat « maneki-neko » ! He too comes alive and when he does, he’s starving hungry! Unfortunately for him, our Sushis are martial arts experts. So sit back, have another cup of Cherry Flower tea and enjoy the fabulous tales of the crazy, funny, BanzaÏ !!!”