Totally Spies, totally new

A re-invented storyline and updated digital components bring the hit series out of hiatus.
October 1, 2012

A new sixth season of Totally Spies is set to bow on Nickelodeon in 2013, sporting an updated storyline, new picture quality and an ambitious promotional collaboration with the palace of Versailles in France. Produced by Paris-based Marathon Media, the show originally aired in 2001 and was the highest-rated and longest-running French-produced animated series until production went into indefinite hiatus after its fifth season in 2008. Marathon Media, a part of the Zodiak Media Group as of 2007, is now in production on season six.

This summer, Zodiak Media inked a broadcast deal with Nickelodeon for the new sixth season, as well as the first five (156 episodes total), for pay-TV broadcast in German-speaking Europe, Benelux, Nordic, Central Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, CIS and Africa, and free-to-air in Germany and Benelux. In France, Zodiak has partnered with TF1, the show’s original broadcaster, and Disney France.

Marathon GM and Totally Spies co-creator David Michel says the original seasons had a strong pop-culture element and played off the girl-power movement of the late-1990s epitomized by the Spice Girls. Marathon updated the new eps with modern storylines based on social media and current pop-culture events. In one ep, for example, a dress designer wreaks havoc on the Royal Wedding and the plans of a beloved British TV dance competition host.

“In this new season of Totally Spies, everything happens around social networks and everything in their lives is connected through that,” says Michel. Marathon has also upped the picture quality and is producing the new season using a compositing technique it developed for the Totally Spies movie in 2009, in which additional layers create a glow around the characters that make them stand out.

Marathon’s promotional collaboration with Versailles will include a one-hour special, comprised of two episodes set in the palace itself. Additionally, between March and August next year, the palace will host a Totally Spies-themed treasure hunt based on the episodes. It will also be tied to an interactive augmented-reality app in which Versailles’ kid visitors will learn its history while they use the app to find clues through animated clips.

“It’s a way for them to draw a mainstream younger audience to the castle and make the historical facts more relatable to the public,” says Michel. He adds that parentco Zodiak has helped the prodco up its promotional and marketing efforts through its access to a larger marketing team and more resources.

Zodiak Kids’ SVP of global sales and co-production, Karen Vermeulen, says the new plot line involves the characters going off to fashion school, which will lend itself well to consumer products extensions, particularly apparel, accessories, dolls and a plush line. She says Zodiak is also looking at developing digital games and gadgets that also speak to a girls audience. She adds that the action and spy aspects of the series have also drawn in boys.

Zodiak will be shopping series six at MIPCOM and is already in advanced discussions to license it, and series one through five, to broadcasters in Italy and Canada.

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