Cottonwood, Hulu, ZDF, ZDF Studios, France Televisions: ‘Spellbound’

Paris-based Cottonwood Media and the Paris National Opera are re-teaming with U.S. streamer Hulu, Germany’s ZDF and  ZDF Studios and France Televisions, all partners on “Find Me in Paris,” for another premium live action tween series, “Spellbound.”

Scheduled to commence production this summer in Paris, moving later to Brussels, “Spellbound” is created by Jill Girling and Lori Mather (“Ride”), the same original executive produces and showrunners of “Find Me in Paris.”

Renaud Mathieu serves as line producer, a position he also held on “Emily in Paris.”Series lead director is Alexander Jacob (“Theodosia,” “4 O’clock Club,” “Hollyoaks”). Directors include Annie Bradley (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Expanse”), as well as Robert Burke (“Find Me in Paris,” “Free Rein”).

Federation Kids & Family, a sales arm of Cottonwood Media parent Federation Entertainment, will partner with ZDF Studios, the commercial subsidiary of German public broadcaster ZDF, to handle worldwide sales.

Running to three seasons from its bow in 2018, “Find Me in Paris” has been broadcast in 130 territories with the soundtracks registering 18 million streams for 2020/2021 and its YouTube channel recording 46.1 million views through February 2022..

“Spellbound” is once more set at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Its protagonist is several years younger, however: the feisty 15-year-old Cece Parker Jones, played by newcomer Hailey Melody Romain, and while retaining a mix of fantasy and the theme of finding one’s place in the world, it substitutes the time travel of “Find Me in Paris” with magic.

In Paris, Cece discovers a book of family spells in Aunt Ginger’s apothecary and inadvertently cancels a protection spell hiding her identity.

Henceforth she has to juggle the pressures of one of the best elite ballet schools the world, academic studies, new friendships and, the plot runs, “maybe a cute boy… or two, as well as her incredible ability to activate magic, while keeping the underground Coven a secret for only her closest friends.”

A “high-calibre entertainment series for a global audience,” “Spellbound” is “an exciting high-concept series that combines ballet, magic, witchcraft, and more, with diversity and inclusivity at the heart of the production,” its partners announced Thursday.

“Having worked in the ballet world for a few years, we got excited about telling aspirational stories with a BIPOC lead. With a fresh perspective on ballet and the added excitement of a magical twist, Cece and her friends have a lot of exciting stories for us to share,” said Girling and Mather.

They added: “We are thrilled to have a fully diverse writers’ room, other than the two of us, giving us new and different perspectives than we’ve had in the past, allowing us to tell authentic stories for ‘Spellbound.’”

Cottonwood Media’s Zoé Carrera Allaix, Cécile Lauritano and David Michel produce the series.

“Spellbound” continues the company’s drive to serve an underserved kids and family audience worldwide, marking it out as a growth area for production.

While many primetime teen dramas have a near sitcom-feel in their limited sets, strong lighting and colors and frequent close-ups, “Find Me in Paris” was being shot “like a premium drama show,” Michel pointed out to The Hamden Journal when announcing “Find Me in Paris.”

No budget is given for “Spellbound.” It is likely, however, to be high for a tween show. The first season of “Find Me in Paris” was budgeted at just shy of €12 million ($12.6 million).

“It was easy for us to instantly fall in love with this wonderful concept! ‘Spellbound’ will fit perfectly into ZDF’s portfolio of high-profile live action teen series. We have been working with Cottonwood’s creative team on many projects and are very much looking forward to continuing our fruitful cooperation,” said Nicole Keeb, ZDF head of international co-productions and acquisitions, children and youth programs.

“Having kept the Paris Opera House as the main setting as per ‘Find Me in Paris,’ ‘Spellbound’ brings a completely fresh and innovative storyline with some surprise elements to delight audiences worldwide,” said Cottonwood’s Carrera Allaix, Lauritano and Michel.

Arne Lohmann, VP junior at ZDF Studios, observed that “after the tremendous success of ‘Find Me In Paris,’ it was only logical to partner again with the great production team of Cottonwood and the Paris Opera House.”

For Claire Heinrich, France Télévisions’ deputy director of children’s programs and head of acquisitions, “After ‘Find Me in Paris,’ which enchanted our viewers for three seasons in the exceptional setting of the Paris Opera, the ‘Spellbound’ project appealed to us because it goes further in terms of diversity and inclusion. We are delighted to enrich our fiction offering with strong female representations, aimed at a tweens demo who consume them mainly on our Okoo platform.”