Putting A New Spin on Zorro

Cy­ber Group Stu­dios plans a mod­ern up­date called that also sticks to the beloved char­ac­ters’ roots. By Tom McLean.

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

Get ready to get Z’d. The pro­to­typ­i­cal masked ad­ven­turer is get­ting a new lease on an­i­mated life thanks to Cy­ber Group Stu­dios’ new in­pro­duc­tion se­ries Zorro: The Chron­i­cles, due for de­liv­ery in 2015.

The Paris-based stu­dio is giv­ing the well­known masked avenger — best known for his call­ing card of slash­ing his ini­tial into what­ever is around — a thor­oughly mod­ern re­vamp that also pays trib­ute to his roots.

Cy­ber Group Stu­dios pres­i­dent Pierre Siss­mann says the stu­dio went back to Zorro’s roots as a pulp fic­tion hero cre­ated by John­ston McCul­ley and first pub­lished in 1919 in the pages of All- Story Weekly #2.

“The se­ries is re­ally a new way of look­ing at Zorro,” says Siss­mann. “It’s a pure ac­tion com­edy, but we wanted to tell a story that goes back to the rea­sons why Zorro is fight­ing for jus­tice.”

A lot of ef­fort was put into re­search­ing the char­ac­ter’s his­tor­i­cal set­ting, and the se­ries is set in Cal­i­for­nia in 1820 — one year be­fore Mex­ico took con­trol of the ter­ri­tory from Spain.

The premise sets up a sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing the Span­ish soldiers, who are try­ing to max­i­mize their prof­its from Cal­i­for­nia be­fore they lose con­trol, and the Chu­mash tribe and ran- cheros who suf­fer un­der Span­ish rule.

Into this comes the well-known al­ter-ego of Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega. In this in­car­na­tion, he is a 19-year-old of mixed race — his fa­ther is a ranchero; his mother Chu­mash — sum­moned home from univer­sity in Spain by his twin sis­ter, Ines, to try and im­prove the sit­u­a­tion. Com­ing along with him is his best friend, Bernardo, who com­pletes the triad of lead char­ac­ters in the show.

Ines is a new ad­di­tion to the Zorro mythol­ogy. “She chal­lenges her brother all the time,” says Siss­mann. “And it cre­ates a lot of op­por­tu­nity for ac­tion in the scripts, and also a lot of com­edy.”

The world of Zorro: The Chron­i­cles is fur­ther fleshed out by a ro­bust sup­port­ing cast of char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Viceroy Don Esta­ban Para­sol, who rules for the Span­ish; Cap­tain Monas­te­rio, a sol­dier who hope to marry be­fore re­turn­ing to Spain; and some comic re­lief in the form of Sgt. Gar­cia and Cpl. Gon­za­lez; and Don Diego’s fi­ancée, Car­men de Vil­la­longa.

The show is nom­i­nally aimed at ages 6-10 but Siss­mann says the hope is the many dif­fer­ent el­e­ments they have de­vel­oped will broaden its ap­peal.

Now in full pro­duc­tion in France on the first of three planned sea­sons of 26 episodes, Siss­mann says the ap­proach to the se­ries is very cin­e­matic. The com­pany has in­vested in de­vel­op­ing tools that will help it deliver fea­ture-qual­ity vi­su­als on a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion budget and sched­ule.

“I want to do 26 mini-fea­ture films for tele­vi­sion, as op­posed to do­ing 26 tele­vi­sion episodes,” he says.

Those tools in­clude tech­nol­ogy that in­creases the num­ber of char­ac­ters that can be an­i­mated and the se­ries will have be­tween 100 and 120 dis­tinct char­ac­ters. “We had to de­velop the char­ac­ters for about two years to be able to pro­duce char­ac­ters that would fit in the budget.” A new light­ing tool also was de­vel­oped.

Siss­mann says broad­cast­ers are in place in Europe, and once a full episode is com­plete the com­pany will take it out to show to broad­cast­ers they are in talks with in the United States, Asia and Latin Amer­ica.

Zorro: The Chron­i­cles is one of four shows Cy­ber Group Stu­dios has in pro­duc­tion right now. The oth­ers are the sec­ond sea­son of Zou, its hit preschool se­ries; a sec­ond preschool show called Mia that is a co-pro­duc­tion with Canada’s Sar­dine Pro­duc­tions; and Mini Nin­jas, a co-pro­duc­tion with TF1 based on the pop­u­lar Square Enix game.

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