Pierre Sissmann, Cyber Group Studios’ chairman and CEO, talks to TV Kids about the success of Gigantosaurus, an animated preschool series created in collaboration with children’s novelist Jonny Duddle.
Rocky, Bill, Tiny and Mazu are four young dinosaurs growing up in the Cretaceous period who are always ready for their next adventure. And Gigantosaurus, the biggest and fiercest dinosaur, reigns over it all.
The concept for the Gigantosaurus series came to Cyber Group Studios through its existing relationship with the multi-awarded children’s novelist Jonny Duddle. After their successful collaboration on The Pirates Next Door, Duddle was meeting with Sissmann and the sparks of the idea flew from there.
“Jonny was coming to Paris to work with us, and we had lunch,” Sissmann recalls. “He showed me a notebook with concepts in black and white for a dinosaur project he wanted to do. I loved the characters! He was just starting the designs for a book and had a deal with a publisher. There were only a few sketches, but I was very impressed. I liked the storyline because it was about these four little dinos going out into the big jungle on their own, and that’s typical of preschool kids growing up, going to school and meeting new friends away from the comfort of their homes. I felt it was a great subject, and I liked Jonny’s talent.”
Sissmann reached out to the publisher, optioned the IP and the series started to be developed from there. Cyber Group brought Gigantosaurus to Cartoon Forum in 2015, and it was met with a positive response straightaway. “I had people come up to me immediately and say it was great and wanted to talk about it,” says Sissmann. “The following week, I went to speak with Disney in London and simultaneously met with France Télévisions—and that’s how it all started.” The show was in development for about a year, and production began in 2017. It was released in the U.S. in 2019.
The first season of Gigantosaurus landed with Disney worldwide, including on the Disney+ platform, along with France TV and Netflix. Cyber Group has since sold the series to broadcasters such as Super RTL in Germany, RAI Yoyo in Italy, Tiny Pop for the U.K. and many others. CCTV acquired the show for China, and it did so well that since December of last year, the broadcaster had aired it three times—so it’s been seen by millions of Chinese children. It was even part of the Chinese New Year celebration of CCTV, as the only foreign IP featured.
The stellar ratings prompted Disney to order seasons two and three at the same time. Seasons two and three are with Disney and Disney+ and have also been commissioned by France Télévisions, while Super RTL (Germany) has acquired season two. Seasons two and three are being written, with season two already in preproduction.
Extending the brand, there are Giganto digital shorts. “One of the things that moms, families and kids love is the characters, and they want to know more about dinos,” says Sissmann. “We did a series of 13 shorts, 2 minutes each, called Who Knows Their Dinos, describing dinos and mixing that with Gigantosaurus clips. We’ve just completed a second series of shorts, Dino News, which is slightly different. This is mainly for social networks. Disney has been using it on their YouTube channels, and we have some free-TV broadcasters that also want to use them.”
A new spin-off, Giganto Club, is in the works for up to 52 episodes. The new content is being produced in Cyber Group Studios’ brand-new real-time animation studio, working with Epic Games and their Unreal Engine technology, which has been used in big productions like The Mandalorian. “We’re setting up a huge real-time animation studio in the north of France,” Sissmann explains. “We’re starting to shoot next month. Giganto Club has hosts and different sets; it’s a dinosaur-hosted show for kids. It’s totally different from the series. It’s going to be available starting at the end of this year.”
He likens it to a Johnny Carson-style talk show, but with five dino hosts. The show can link to Instagram or WhatsApp to talk to kids, celebrate birthdays, have cooking lessons and more. “There’s a segment in the show about geography and dinosaurs. It’s 52×11-minutes. It’s hysterical! It’s very fast-paced and is something kids will enjoy; it’s full of jokes.”
In yet another brand extension, there are 12 original songs with music videos. These songs will also be released on the Giganto album.
The global L&M plan includes of a roster of 30-plus key deals, among them JAKKS Pacific (master toys), Templar (books), Clementoni (puzzles), Ravensburger (puzzles and games), Panini (magazine), Play Press (activity books), Character World, Herding and various regional and local licensees covering apparel, arts and craft and stationery categories.
In the gaming world, there’s Gigantosaurus: The Game. Designed by Outright Games in collaboration with Cyber Group Studios and developed by WildSphere. The game is available to play on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Steam.
Buoyed by the series’ ratings success worldwide and following the successful launch of the video game on the market, Cyber Group is considering the development of additional interactive experiences (video games and app games) inspired by the series. In addition, the company is about to release mobile games and new console games on Taffy, Sadie Sparks and The Pirates Next Door, to name a few.
Cyber Group Studios’ interactive division launched two and a half years ago, and now has 17 video games in production. “We are not producing them ourselves, but we write and we produce the assets,” Sissmann explains. “We work with Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and various games publishers such as Outright Games, a big publisher in Europe, and BTC Studios, a major publisher in Eastern Europe.”
Sissmann is also involved in creating the upcoming Gigantosaurus movie, which is being done with the help of Michael J. Wilson, creator of the animated movie Ice Age. Olivier Lelardoux will be the director of the Giganto movie.
Looking ahead, plans are on the horizon for a live worldwide musical tour to accompany the brand. A deal has been signed with Mills Entertainment in the U.S. and discussions are ongoing about what the live stage show is going to be. Cyber Group, of course, wants to take this around the world, likely between 2022 and 2023.
“It’s about creating a whole world around this IP,” says Sissmann. “It is about creating original content, whether it’s music, shorts, three seasons of the series, a feature film of a companion show like Giganto Club, which is going to be very, very funny.”