Plush Plush

A new report published this week in France has revealed that backers of the French NFT-funded animated feature Plush may be out of around $1.66 million, as the project looks to be dead.

Yann Philippin and Youmni Kezzouf from French outlet Mediapart embarked on an exhaustive investigation into the state of the project, which took them around the world uncovering an abundance of red flags that seem to indicate Plush was probably never likely to get made in the first place.

What is Plush? Last summer, Plush was launched as a fully NFT-funded animated feature project which promised investors that they would not only be helping finance the film but that they would be fully credited producers who would have a say on the script and could make heaps of money on their investment.


The project had numerous popular French actors attached and helping with promotion, headlined by comedian Kev Adams, who frequently appeared in videos pushing the project. American actress Bella Thorne was also promoted as being involved with the Plush.


What was the Plush pitch? Plush promoters gained a great deal of attention when they set up a huge display outside La Majestic in Cannes during last year’s festival.

In promoting the film online, they did everything in their power to associate the film with box office powerhouse producer Illumination. Adopting the moniker Illuminart as the company’s official title, promoters told potential investors that they could make as much as a 516% return on Plush investments, using math from Illumination’s catalog of successful box office films to come up with the number. The company also prominently featured Illumination artwork on its homepage and played up several attached artists’ previous connections to Illumination films.


The full Plush sales pitch is still available on the project’s website.

Who is supposed to be producing Plush then? Plus was to be produced by two French companies. The first, Rooftop Productions, is a small studio launched in 2020 by Gaëtan Simonot, who had previously done character work on Netflix’s Arcane. The second is Karlab, founded in 2016 by Laurent Guittard and Ali Hamdan, two former Illumination employees. Neither company has ever led production on a feature film, and concerns were raised as to whether they would have the staff and expertise to lead such an ambitious project. Both Simonot and Guittard spoke with Mediapart for their investigation, emphasizing that they were not involved in the marketing of the film or sales of NFTs and were only signed on to handle animation.

Guittard said that his company actually reached out to Illuminart to correct misleading promotional materials. “One of their first communications was ‘by those who made Minions.’ They were told not to say that, but that my associate and I were involved in making Minions, which is true.”

NFT Sales: When the 50,000 Plush tokens went live in France on May 18, 2022, sales were rough. According to Illuminart, the company only sold 1,280 of their NFTs for $1,290 each, for a revenue of about $1.65 million. An international sale was launched in June, which only resulted in a few more sales. Since then, the Plush NFTs have lost nearly all their value. Only 14 have been resold since September of last year, and at an average price of .15 Ethereum, or around $275. There are currently 776 individual Plush NFT holders.

The real Illuminart: As things went downhill, people started asking more specific questions about the company behind the project. Now, Mediapart has some answers. Illuminart was run by a relatively mysterious figure who went by the name Fabi. He didn’t appear in the film’s early promotional materials, although he later donned a bear costume for a promotional video made with Adams, and claimed to be working with a group of anonymous investors.

It also turns out that despite positioning Plush as a fully French production, Illuminart was actually registered in Dubai, one of the world’s most popular tax havens. This is important because it means that investors aren’t protected under French and European consumer law.

When the company’s business license got leaked on Twitter last year, NFT holders were concerned to see that its registered name in English was “Illuminart calligraphers and painters” and that the Arabic name translated to “The minaret rental of horses and camels for excursions,” neither of which seemed to have anything to do with filmmaking. According to Fabi, who addressed the concerns at the time, the latter was an error on the part of the Dubai Ministry of Economy.

The company’s stated purpose in the document was the same in both languages, and once again had nothing to do with animation, filmmaking, or NFT sales. According to the license, the company’s objective was the “manufacture of decorative sculptures, manufacture of frames, crafts, calligraphy, painting.”

Who is Fabi? After some digging, Mediapart uncovered that Fabi is actually Fabien Tref, a 44-year-old French businessman and the sole shareholder of Illuminart. Tref has been living in Dubai since 2018 and when he filed for the Plush trademark, declared that he lives year-round in a royal suite of a Dubai palace, although the location denied having a reservation in Tref’s name. While little is known about what he does for a living today, Tref is well-known in poker circles and has invested heavily in cryptocurrencies. He has no filmmaking experience.

Red flags: In 2016, French prosecutors investigated Tref after receiving a report from Tracfin, an anti-money laundering agency that had tagged significant gambling winnings and large cash bets made by Tref. When approached by Mediapart, Tref’s lawyers said he was never convicted. For the past two decades, Tref has been engaged in numerous sketchy business ventures which are outlined in the Madiapart report. It also outlines several close relationships with other individuals who have been linked with less-than-legitimate businesses in the past.

Is Plush really dead? For the last nine months, it’s been nothing but radio silence from Tref and anyone else of real authority at the Plush project. NFTs are no longer being sold on the organization’s website, comments have been locked across several social media platforms, and Illuminart didn’t renew its Dubai business license when it expired in February.

French quotes in this article were translated using Google Translate.

Pictured at top: A screenshot from the Plush promotional video from 2022.