EXCLUSIVE: Following the signing of a strategic partnership with a European company, a production label established in Paris and New York has unveiled its first film project.
Zeitoun is collaborating on with Nick Luddington, who recently created two episodes of Arcane, in an animated series titled Operation Rebirth. The story was inspired by Jonathan Keasey's suggestion.
Operation Rebirth is the first stage of a planned Wings of Freedom universe, which will include a graphic novel that will be released next year, with the film set to premiere in 2025.
The development of planets is at the core of the Good Hero process, according to the two founding partners in their first interview.
Instead of establishing individual pieces of content, the company focuses on developing whole universes, which, once fully realized, may be home to a wide spectrum of media, including films, series, comics, podcasts, and more.
Wings of Freedom, for example, is a futuristic world where humanity has become nearly extinct due to an A.I. revolt. Here's the whole logic: When humans turn to A.I. to combat their global warming problem, the plan backfires. By 2340 an army of drones has taken over the planet, and humans are now nearing extinct. A new strain rises, and courageous birds and animals around the world gather to form humanity's last hope for survival: The Animal Air Force.
Thousands of experts consult on every aspect of the universe as it is built in order to create these worlds, including Zeitoun, Ouanhon, and the rest of the Good Hero team. For Wings of Freedom, the team consulted famous US air force pilot Andrea Themely.
Deadline gets to grips with Zeitoun and Ouanhon's unique IP design process, and discuss with the pair how they intend to bring their universes to the screen.
DEADLINE: Tell me about establishing your company during these strange previous two years.
ZEITOUN: It was a continuity of what we have done for 25-30 years. It was a natural next step for us [to set up Good Hero] during the pandemic, recruited all of our creatives through Zoom, which was a challenge. I finished my movie Fireheart [the animated feature released earlier this year], so I was familiar with doing sessions with 40 editors remotely.
DEADLINE: Why did you decide to establish a business between Paris and New York?
ZEITOUN: London plays a big role. There is a solid culture there.
OUANHON: All of the worlds we are developing, all of the creative work, is in English. We are not developing in France. But as such, we wanted to benefit from what France is good at. When you produce a movie out of France, you automatically get a lot of financing [from public sources].
DEADLINE: It says on your website that you are producing "premium content for children aged 7 to77" what do you have against 78-year-olds?
[Laughs] 78 is a young adult. It's a code that is simple to remember.
DEADLINE: If your first project is an animation, then what's the focus?
No, we were not able to become producers in one genre. So far, I have developed live action, animation, and series. Stories, in particular, can be used on many platforms, in many forms. Not only in film and television, but also in podcasts, comic books and novels.
DEADLINE: Tell us about your passion for constructing these "worlds."
ZEITOUN: First, it is an imaginary world, one element that is not reality; second, it is an inspiring heroes, an hero that learns and goes through a journey, and you learn with them; third, an epic journey, high emotions, high stakes, and finally positive stories, which at the end give hope. This is what defines our original premium content. We dont drama, where it might have no hope, for instance. We are reducing down the concepts/universes we can develop.
DEADLINE: I suspect your concept struck a chord with Mediawan, but please tell me about your deal with them.
OUANHON: It's a quite straightforward process. We sit down together with Mediawan to discuss whether or not we want to finance the film or TV series. So far they have always said yes or no. It's not a financing agreement, but we continue to finance our project the same way we have always done it.
DEADLINE: Is it a matter of time that you are focused on traditional financing structures, or on long-term studio/streamer agreements?
Everything, everyone. For example, we don't know yet the funding structure for Wings Of Freedom, but we strongly believe it's a theatrical event.
DEADLINE: Animation is a notoriously tedious and costly medium to work in.
Yes, it's time-consuming, money-consuming, and you lose your hair. You can't just compose a script, you need a storyboard, and you need to get it.
DEADLINE: Tell us a bit more about Wings Of Freedom, and why were you so keen for this to be the first project you ever come to market?
So far we have developed 12 worlds. Half of them are story-ready. We are developing five-to-six more per year. Wings Of Freedom was a longer, deeper, and more elaborate world. Both Kiel Murray and Nick Luddington were accelerated, and we had the experience we could start it now, and this was the moment.
OUANHON: It's one of the first universes we explored, so naturally it's the first.
DEADLINE: Operation Rebirth will be a film in the Wings of Freedom universe, and you're also producing a comic book from this world?
Yes, we are launching a comic book of that story in the world. One set in Mexico, where the comic will be set, one in India, and one that explaines how everything goes, like a prequel.
OUANHON: The comic book is now being written and will be released next year. The animation film we are planning for 2025 - 2026
ZEITOUN: Before we enter a live-action film, we will do it in another universe.
DEADLINE: While the film industry is traditional IP, it's also the hardest thing to get right, and this is why many movies are remakes or adaptations. What gives you the confidence that you can continue to write new stories?
ZEITOUN: When it comes to IP development, you can't decide what is an IP until the release. Ballerina [also called Leap!] for instance became a potential IP. At first you just tell a story. We have tried to get back to basics and create a creative bubble that explores the world first. It's a hybrid from live-action, animation, and video game development.
If you try to develop a narrative from a world you don't have, or if you want to make a story and the world together, you get lost. We are attempting to simplify our lives by building the world first.
OUANHON: These worlds will not be built between four or five people. For every universe we design, it's probably 40 or 50 people, from many backgrounds.
ZEITOUN: If we developed a world around entertainment journalism, you would be a consultant, and you would tell us about your day. That's how we collect information.
DEADLINE: Who were you considering acquiring Wings of Freedom?
Andrea Themely, one of the most famous women pilots in the United States air force, has been spoken to on YouTube and is hypnotized by her. She is our instructor for the Animal Air Force. We breakdown the life of a pilot, the missions you go on, and the planes you use. We have a large group for that.
We have spoken to ornithology specialists, we know everything about all kinds of birds from all over the world. We have spoken to A.I. specialists in Italy, and we have spoken to scientists and philosophers in order to define how A.I. will evolve. It's also related to climate change, so we have spoken to specialists in ecology. It's 40 people, we can ring them anytime if we have a doubt.
OUANHON: Everybody will be on board for the next few years, if we need them to tell you something.
ZEITOUN: All of this information is combined in the 'guidebook' that we call "guidebook." It is a short summary of all of our interviews and brainstorms. It's 40-50 pages long. We uncover the boundaries of characters and then we discover the best story that will exist in that world.
DEADLINE: What other ideas can you do about them?
ZEITOUN: At the moment, we are attempting to explain the method. We collect sociological long-term patterns, which become habits in the future. We collect behavior that changes. All stories are anchored in very specific situations.
OUANHON: We are attempting to create the playgrounds that will resonate five years in length. It's then about imagining the stories in these playgrounds.