As Marathon Media’s Totally Spies! heroines get ready to take over the palace of Versailles, the French studio prepares a new storyboard-driven series with Nickelodeon in Hollywood.
Marathon Media CEO Vincent Chalvon-Demersay and general manager David Michel are having a busy year. Not only is their Paris-based studio launching the sixth season of its flagship show Totally Spies series in 2013, there’s also a big new storyboard-driven toon in the works, co-produced with Nickelodeon and French kids’ terrestrial channel Gulli.
“We are coming full circle,” says Michel, during a phone interview from his office in Paris. “Totally Spies first began airing on ABC Family about 11 years ago. It was a show made in Europe with a special North American flavor. Now we are becoming more U.S. centric again with our new show, which is very cartoony and is created by two very talented storyboard artists who have worked on shows such as Disney’s Phineas and Ferb and Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo.”
The comedy series is called Blake and the Aliens and the creators are Antoine Guilbaut and Kaz. Taking its cue from the classic squash-and-stretch toons of the past, it centers on the crazy adventures of a 13-year-old boy who gets jumped by three evil, alien squirrels who have been sent to earth from the future to destroy his self-esteem. Why, you might ask? Their goal is to stop him from growing up to be the famous Captain Blake, Defender of the Universe—and sworn enemy of their squirrel planet. As Michel aptly describes it, “It’s Terminator with squirrels!”
To help with the development and production of the new toon, Marathon Media (which is part of the big Zodiak Kids Group) has opened an office in Los Angeles, where the Blake team is hard at work to prep the 52 x 13 show for its projected fall 2013 delivery.
“This is a big change for us,” says Michel. “We usually did the writing for our shows in L.A. and created the visuals in Paris, but this time we have the main designs done in Paris, and all the storyboarding will be done in L.A.”
Michel says the show has an old 1950s comic-book style.
“The show isn’t rooted in the French design culture, like some of our other projects,” he adds. “I see this as a new direction and something that we wouldn’t have been able to do before.”
Meanwhile, the sixth season of Totally Spies! has been picked up by TF1 and Disney in France, and Nickelodeon in German-speaking Europe, Benelux, CE Europe, Nordic territories, CIS, SE Asia and Africa. The show will also incorporate a four-month promotional event at the Palace of Versailles in 2013 (with a new Versailles-themed movie, interactive app, treasure hunt, etc.); a successful RPG and a growing fan base on Facebook. Storylines based on modern social and current worldwide events (think Royal Wedding, popular TV dance competitions, social network schemes) will also contribute to the show’s updated appeal.
Totally Spies! has been TF1’s top performing kids show since its launch in 2001 and is also the longest-running French animated series, and the first to beat both American and Japanese series to the no.1 ratings spot in France. After spending three years on hiatus and a theatrical feature, the show will be back with a vengeance next year.
“In the new season, we are dealing with modern trends and social media and tried to collaborate with as many people possible to make it very current,” says Michel. “The Versailles event is going to be very exiting as we plan to produce two episodes that are set in the castle, a special movie, and a live treasure hunt set in the garden. There will be a dedicated Versailles app, through which kids can get clues and show clips which will direct them to certain parts of the castle. The event will also include big promotional activities and sweepstakes around the world. I guess you can say that Marathon’s priority right now is doing things a bit differently than before. It’s not about just producing cartoons anymore!”
Alien squirrels would certainly agree.
For more info, visit www.marathon-media.fr