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

Design Studio

Toll Brothers, a residential building outfit in metro Detroit, is using a 5,000- square-foot design studio to show off all of the different options they can build with.

Express Payment

A novel kiosk payment system launched in Detroit expands its offerings.

Grounds For Success

A fifth-grade class in southwest Detroit is selected as Young CEOs of the Year.

PDA Q&A: Alan Jay Kaufman, E-Interview

Interview with CEO of H.W. Kaufman Financial Group in Farmington Hills.

eGoals

Mark Bellissimo took over JRT Agency two years ago. Ever since, the company has been thriving.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Historic Detroit Club to Reopen in January, Be Private with Public Restaurant
    The historic Detroit Club at the northeast corner of Cass Avenue and Fort Street will reopen in...
  2. Black Star Farm’s VinBar in Ann Arbor to Offer Other Northern Michigan Wines
    Black Star Farms, which has operations on both the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas near...
  3. U-M Tech Transfer Reports 444 New Inventions in FY2017
    Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor reported 444 new inventions, up from last...
  4. 30 in Their Thirties 2017
    Disruption is a key aspect of the 2017 class of 30 in Their Thirties, upending such traditional...
  5. Cork and Gabel Restaurant to Open in Corktown Spring 2018
    Cork and Gabel, a restaurant fusion of Irish, Italian, and German cuisine, is slated to open in...
  6. Brooklyn Outdoor Launches Eastern Market Event Space
    Detroit-based independent outdoor advertising company Brooklyn Outdoor has made its headquarters...