Mike Chirco's Big Adventure

A metro Detroit homebuilder brings his live-action film to the big screen.


Published:

It’s not every day that a first-time executive producer invests $33 million to create and promote a movie featuring characters with names like Goobie, Toofie, and Zoozie. However, for Mike Chirco, president and owner of MJC Cos. in Macomb Township, one of the state’s largest homebuilders, the move made perfect sense.

The film, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, shot entirely in Michigan, made its debut on August 29, just in time for the Labor Day weekend. The storyline, aimed at preschoolers, finds Goobie, Toofie, and Zoozie trying to retrieve five magical balloons that floated away just before a surprise birthday party for their friend, Schluufy.  

“It’s a children’s musical where the kids sing, and get up and dance, based on what’s happening on the screen,” Chirco says. “I was one of the original investors, and it was a case where I was so far in, I had to spend my way to get out.”

The multimillion-dollar budget is an eye-opener — but first, a little history. In 2003, Chirco and several partners invested in a kid’s show called Bed Bugs, which appeared locally on PBS. The goal was to take it national. “The show had a lot of potential,” says Chirco, who last year built 250 homes. “I didn’t understand why it didn’t go national. Through a friend, I met with children’s producer Kenn Viselman, who did Teletubbies, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Eloise, and he saw it as a movie.”

Viselman suggested an immediate name change; hence, Bed Bugs became Oogieloves. He also advised Chirco to buy out his partners and secure all rights to the project. “I was on board,” Chirco says. “Kenn helped generate $12 billion in merchandising for the Teletubbies and (characters in) his other films, so I got him to sign on as a producer.”

Next on the agenda was lining up stars for the live-action film, including Toni Braxton, Jaime Pressly, and Christopher Lloyd. A team also was assigned to scout locations — one scene was shot at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford, where a balloon is found on the tail of Toni Braxton’s plane (she plays Rosalie Rosebud). Another balloon is stuck on top of a windmill in Holland — so naturally, the Oogieloves ride a fast-growing beanstalk to retrieve it.

The hijinks were inexpensive by Hollywood standards: Chirco invested $12 million into the film, minus $4 million he received in Michigan film tax credits. Distribution was an entirely more expensive proposition — $25 million. “A good movie will cost $10,000 per screen to market, so we’ll be in 2,500 screens,” Chirco says.

If the film is successful, Chirco plans one or two sequels. He also hopes to cash in on merchandise sales. “If the movie doesn’t do well, I still have my homebuilding business,” he says. db

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Buildings In Time

From jewelry to historic buildings, Roger Basmajian embraces urban redevelopment.

Safe and Secure

Many inventions that have the greatest impact on everyday life are deceptively simple. Auburn Hills-based Hydra-Zorb’s cushion clamp could be considered one of those breakthroughs.

Capital Gain

If area banks backed loans against intellectual property, it would propel Michigan’s video game industry.

Stacking Up

Joe H. Schodowski, president and CEO of Shelving Inc. in Auburn Hills, sums up the company’s offerings succinctly: “We rack your world,” he says.

Virtual Anatomy

Researchers at the University of Michigan are taking the science of anatomy into the simulated 3-D world.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Detroit Historic Scarab Club to Launch Major Rebranding Campaign
    The Scarab Club in Detroit’s Midtown district will unveil a major rebranding campaign in early...
  2. Ann Arbor’s TITLE Boxing Club Adds New Owners
    Ann Arbor-based TITLE Boxing Club International— which has grown to 150 boxing clubs from 20...
  3. Detroit Denim Co. Opens New Location, Launches Additional Product Lines
    Described as a new manufacturing center in the Motor City, Detroit Denim Co. opens its new...
  4. Detroit’s Metropolitan Building to be Converted into Extended-stay Hotel
    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and two local partners will convert the historic...
  5. GM Unveils Luxury Edition of 2016 GMC Yukon
    General Motors Co. today revealed the 2016 GMC Yukon SLT Premium Edition, a more luxurious...
  6. GM Renaissance Center Launches Weekly Summer Event Series
    The GM Renaissance Center has announced the launch of On the Plaza, a new summer program...