To strengthen its slate for US broadcasters, Cyber Group’s burgeoning LA studio has inked a deal with Scholastic to adapt the popular book brand Press Start! into an animated series of the same name.
The 52 x 11-minute animated series will revolve around an eight-year-old boy who has the ability to enter the world of video games and have adventures with game character Super Rabbit Boy as they save the world one eight-bit villain at a time. The book series is written by Thomas Flintham and debuted in 2017. It has sold more than two million copies in the US.
Picking up the rights to adapt the series is one of the nascent studio’s first steps toward crafting a slate that meets local broadcasters’ needs, says Richard Goldsmith, CEO of Cyber Group Studios USA.
“For many years, we’ve heard from major broadcasters and streamers in the US who say they will commission shows if they’re based on well-known IPs, and if there’s a US showrunner involved to make sure a local voice is at the table,” says Goldsmith. “We’re doing both with the new series, which is also backed by the popularity of the book series and video games in general, giving it a lot of CP potential.”
Cyber Group USA has tapped producer Scott Kraft (PAW Patrol, Top Wing) to be the showrunner. He will wear many hats on the production as exec producer, head writer and story editor.
Cyber Group heard from Scholastic that the books gained an audience because they make reading fun for kids, adds Goldsmith. The IP’s focus on adventure and video games means that the books for five- to seven-year-olds could easily be adapted into a show that also appeals to older kids, he says.
The US studio’s approach is a bit different from the Paris-based studio, which leans on a European team of writers to give its shows an international flavor, says Goldsmith. Market demands also differ, with Press Start! fitting into Cyber Group’s efforts to fill the gaps unique to US content market, such as a need for shows that focus on empathy and kindness. Beyond values, Cyber Group also sees opportunities for primetime series for kids 13 and up, as well as serialized co-viewing programs. It plans to produce content that meet both needs in the future, says Goldsmith.
To diversify its pipeline and make global series that also appeal to American platforms, Cyber Group launched its US studio in 2017 and hired Goldsmith, a former Jim Henson Company distribution exec, to oversee development and production of its slate. Press Start! is one of the first projects coming out of the studio, which is currently hunting for broadcast and financing partners to work with on the show. It’s in early development now, with delivery estimated for Q4 2022.
Beyond Press Start!, Cyber Group USA is developing the CG/anime-style series James & the Everafters, which is an original IP; as well as Monster in my Pocket, based on a toy line from Morrison Entertainment. It’s early days for both of these projects, but writer Mike Yank (Star vs. The Forces of Evil, Dawn of the Croods) is lined up as showrunner for Monster in my Pocket, Goldsmith says.
As part of its growth plans, Cyber Group is considering office openings in Russia and China, most recently partnering with Russian studio Soyuzmultfilm to launch a joint production partnership focused on making new preschool series to be distributed worldwide.
“We pride ourselves on our close relationships with media partners,” says Goldsmith. “Opening local offices allows us to grow these relationships, build a client base and form greater connections to the market.”