Hollywood is going to the cats.
Internet viral sensations like Grumpy Cat and Lil BUB have landed big deals recently – Ms. Cat will star in a feature film, while Ms. BUB has partnered with Discovery's online video channel Revision3 for a talk show series, has a book coming out September 3, and is featured in a documentary ("Lil BUB & Friendz") set to release on VICE.com in mid-July.
TheWrap investigated just how these power pusses are pursuing their fame in different ways these days. Ms. Cat now has a manager, Ben Lashes, while Ms. BUB's owner/manager, Mike Bridavsky, waits for any deals to come to him (and Ms. BUB).
"I have a rule from the very beginning that I don't approach anybody for anything," Bridavsky told TheWrap.
Ms. Cat's owner, Tabitha Bundesen, largely stays out of her pet's business affairs, leaving them to her brother Bryan Bundesen and Lashes. Bryan told TheWrap that while Ms. Cat's manager actively seeks out deals, "most of the deals we have, it's people that have come to us."
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Ms. Cat's film deal came about, Bryan said, through Lashes's connections with Broken Road Productions. Bryan declined to go into financial details about the deal but said Ms. Cat will get a "higher than average" percentage of the movie's profits and associated merchandise, and will retain the rights to her likeness.
Other than that, there are few details about Ms. Cat's film debut; it has yet to be written, so shooting and release dates are not set. An insider close to the project told TheWrap that a CGI version of Ms. Cat is being strongly considered, instead of the live-action version.
More is known about Ms. BUB's upcoming projects. Several YouTube channels and online video companies approached Bridavsky, but he says he chose Revision3 because of its ties to Discovery and Animal Planet and how much it seemed to care about Ms. BUB. Revision3 also gave him and Ms. BUB full creative control over the videos and the necessary budget to build cat-sized sets and pay a film crew. Bridavsky will also write the script.
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Much of the effort will be focused on Ms. BUB's new talk show, which could premiere as early as mid-August. Ms. BUB will sit behind a custom cat-sized desk, while her guests will appear on a screen housed on a leather couch. Bridavsky says to expect guests ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Justin "Nordic Thunder" Howard, Air Guitar World Champion 2012. Famed journalist Bill Kurtis will provide the show's voiceover intro.
Revenue will be generated from selling ads, with Revision3 taking half of the proceeds. Bridavsky wouldn't reveal the terms of his deal with Revision3, simply that he just about breaks even after donating a "very generous" part of his proceeds to various animal-related charities. Managing Ms. BUB is a fulltime job (Bridavsky estimated between 60 to 80 hours a week), but Bridavsky is just happy to give his friends work (many of them will work behind the scenes on the show) and promote a positive message about accepting differences.
Filming around a cat comes with its own issues. For one, Ms. BUB, who recently celebrated her second birthday, is not capable of human speech. The guests' segments will be pre-recorded, with Bridavsky asking them questions. Their responses will then be cut in against Ms. BUB's subtitled questions and assorted squeaks and squawks that will be familiar sounds to BUB fans. In other videos, Ms. BUB's inner monologue will be voiced by comedian Tig Notaro.
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If Ms. Cat appears through the magic of CGI, that would make the process of filming around an unpredictable feline significantly easier, and reduce the stress to Ms. Cat, who celebrated her first birthday last April and is known as "Tardar Sauce" to her friends and family.
That's important, as there has been concern that the animals are being exploited. Bridavsky stressed that Ms. BUB's health and comfort is always his primary concern, and all contracts have include a clause that lets Ms. BUB skip any commitments if she's having health issues
Ms. BUB's unique appearance – short limbs, a smaller lower jaw in a mouth that she is unable to close, and huge eyes – is the result of several genetic deformities, and during the filming of "Lil BUB & Friendz" she had a health crisis that threatened to take away her mobility. Happily, she's doing much better now.
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Though Lil BUB doesn't travel as much as Grumpy Cat, she's happy to do so, Bridavsky said, noting that she is one of the rare cats who actually enjoys traveling.
As for Ms. Cat, Tabitha said she "seems pretty happy" despite her grumpy reputation, and PETA approved of her recent South by Southwest appearance, when she was only available to the public for two hours a day and strangers were not allowed to handle her. She spent much of that time sleeping, apparently not bothered by all the fuss.
Though there is a risk that too many famous cats could saturate the market, representatives for both cats say there is no rivalry nor competition for Cat Meme Dominance between them. Ms. Cat and Ms. BUB have never met whisker-to-whisker, but Bryan thinks they would "probably get along."
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"I don't think she has any enemies or rivals," Tabitha said. Bryan noted that Ms. Cat is "actually really nice" and, to the best of his knowledge, not territorial like many other cats. That said, he doesn't see Ms. BUB nor any other cat usurping Ms. Cat's Cat Queen of the Internet throne anytime soon: "We're not worried about any of the other Internet-famous cats."
Bridavsky is more effusive. "They're kindred spirits," he said. "I would love for them to meet." Ms. BUB is a "positive cat," he said, and "fully supportive of what other cats do." In fact, look for up-and-coming feline stars Henri and Colonel Meow to appear in Ms. BUB's book.
Despite their sudden fame, both cats remain down-to-earth, their owners say. "She's indifferent to it," Bryan said. "She still prefers to hide under the bed and not socialize," Tabitha added.
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Both cats are focused on their current projects, but there are hopes for the future. "A reality show would be cool," Tabitha said. "But hopefully we can get over the movie part first."
Bridavsky is looking forward to Ms. BUB's new show and her book, promising we'll see some "game-changing" pictures of Ms. BUB and her friends. As long as Ms. BUB stays happy and healthy, the sky is the limit.
"She's the most amazing cat on the planet," Bridavsky said. "She knows she's happy and well taken care of."