Have you heard? Grumpy Cat, the most decorated Internet cat of the past year, has inked a major motion-picture deal. The credit goes to Ben Lashes, a Los Angeles-based talent agent who has successfully cornered the cat meme market. His former clients include Keyboard Cat and Princess Monster Truck. Grumpy Cat (who lives in Arizona with her human family, the Bundenens, and goes by Tardar Sauce) has a namesake YouTube channel with 120,000 subscribers and was voted Meme of the Year at the 2013 Webby Awards. Lashes plans to take that fame to new heights, according to The Wall Street Journal:
[Lashes] says he operates with this question in mind: ‘What would Walt Disney do if he created Mickey Mouse and it went viral on YouTube?’
Mr. Lashes, whose legal name is Benjamin Clark, became the cat’s representative in October. He says he is trying to help the Bundesens capitalize on the cat’s fame without overexposing it. This week, Mr. Lashes helped negotiate the sale of a film option based on Grumpy Cat’s persona to Broken Road Productions, the production company responsible for Adam Sandler’s 2011 vehicle ‘Jack and Jill.’ Terms of the one-picture deal weren’t disclosed.
Mr. Lashes says he is driven by a desire to ‘protect the little guy’ but also to have fun. At the South by Southwest tech convention in Austin, Texas, in March, he arranged a paid-appearance deal for Grumpy Cat from the website Mashable. For two-hour stretches over three days, the cat lay on a cushioned pedestal in Mashable’s tent and conventioneers waited in line for hours to have their photo taken with the nonplused puss.
So far, the “little guys” are cleaning up. In addition to locking in a Garfield-like feature film, Lashes worked with Grenade Beverage to develop a line of Grumpy Cat branded bottled coffee beverages. The WSJ article states that his efforts have earned the Bundesens a low-six-figure sum so far, and Charlie Schmidt, the man behind Keyboard Cat, has reportedly made around $300,000.
The movie should be an interesting test for the meme’s staying power. Turning a bored-at-work phenomenon into a pop culture icon is no small task, and the most recent Garfield film scored a so-so $24 million in the box office. But 20 million YouTube viewers and a paparazzi attack at South by Southwest could signal big bucks for the project. And if not, Tardar Sauce is sure to have a retort lined up.
[Image: Grumpy Cat via HighRes]