In 2004, French artist Thomas Astruc
(who’d been a storyboard artist on programs such as W.I.T.C.H. and Totally Spies) encountered a female artist with a ladybug illustration on her shirt. This provided the inspiration for an idea about a Franco-Chinese girl named Marietta Cheng who was, by night,the superheroine, Ladybug the Mini-Menace, fighting crime in her city while avenging the death of her Father . Astruc took his cue from American comic books and Japanese superhero programs.
He also fleshed the project out with these conceptual fake comic book covers
One of which introduced the concept of a male counterpart in a black cat costume called “Le Chat Noir”
Around 2010, this attracted the attention of French production company owner, Jeremy Zag,
who picked up the concept for a proposed animated series. The characters were fleshed out a little more and given more names and personalities.
Marietta became Marinette, and her origin was expounded upon where she is a shy girl plagued by bad luck until a black cat leads her to a pair of Ladybug earrings hidden under the floorboards of an abandoned house. These imbue her with the power of good luck. However, if she attempts to use her powers for selfish reasons, they will backfire. So, Marinette becomes the costumed superheroine, Ladybug.
Her friend, Alya, is in on the secret, but finds her “superpower” to be ridiculous. Marinette is in love with a handsome, yet rude and distant rich boy (later named Felix in a site description). Felix is secretly the bad luck themed black cat “hero”, Chat Noir.
Meanwhile, a sinister, butterfly themed villain, Papillon (who May be Felix’s Father), and his mime henchman who can produce dangerous invisible objects out of thin air., are wreaking havoc that the two teen heroes must put a stop to. Even escaping from a collapsing Eiffel Tower as these storyboards from Astruc’s Instagram account.
However, Astruc then was told to change the format into an ensemble show with Ladybug and Chat as part of a superhero team called The Quantic Kids.
Along them were blade thrower, Sparrow, Music-themed fighter, Melodie, and speedster, Mercury.
Zag then requested for the character of Sparrow to be replaced by another character called “Kid Mime”,a friendly variation of the villainous Mime character.
Mercury was then replaced by a mysterious light controlling hero named Gavroche.
However Astruc stated
“The illustration you’re talking about is a request of a producer who wanted Ladybug and Cat Noir to be members of a team of teen superheroes. It was supposed to help sell the concept to broadcasters but it didn’t. As for Quantic Universe, it is the extended universe in which live Ladybug and Cat Noir. Ladybug is to Quantic Universe what Spider-Man is to the Marvel-verse, or Batman to the DC-verse. Quantic Universe is filled of super-heroes in all countries, alien races, magic… Ladybug is just a tiny part of it. Hopefully, if the series is successful, we’ll be able to explore it.”
By 2012, The group then sought the top-notch Japanese anime company Toei and Pretty Cure, Dragon Ball Super director, Kimitoshi Chioka,
to produce a three minute sales trailer for a planned 26 episode series. Which now introduced a “magic girl” idea of “luck spirits” which give the two their powers. The characters were also fleshed out more.
“Marinette Cheng, a shy high-school student, has inherited some magical ladybug-shaped earrings. The ornaments grant the power of Luck to whoever wears them. Yet there is one condition : they have to be worn in an altruistic manner, or else, beware of the consequences !
Whenever the situation needs it, Marinette turns into LADYBUG, the guardian angel.
Ladybug saves the World every night thanks to the power of Luck alongside her clingy ally, the Black Cat who has the opposite power. He needs a kiss from Ladybug to free him from his unlucky ring. Ladybug is the first character originated from the Quantic universe.”
Despite the high budget animation, or perhaps because of, in addition to the fact that the animators had begun to complain that the multiple spots on Ladybug’s costume made her difficult to animate, led Astruc to suggest several alternate costume designs.
However, these designs went uninstituted, and ultimately, the concept did as well. According to Astruc, it was felt that the relationship aesthetic between Marinette and Felix wouldn’t work, combined with the idea that anime wasn’t at the popular peak it had once been in the western market, so the decision was made to not only change the character of Felix to the more saccharine and accessible Adrien, and switching to South Korea’s Method CGI animation, and not only that, but the cast and story were completely reworked as well, and the show was ultimately released as “Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir”.
Although a large number of artwork, character designs and animation have been released, a considerable amount of the above, including the remaining story points have yet to be uncovered.
UPDATE: Jeremy Zag was nice enough to share the following expression charts via his Instagram page