Xmas book picked up after being dropped by WB

Fox Family Films has picked up the feature film rights to Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed’s Christmas book, “Red Ranger Came Calling.”

Chris Meledandri’s Fox Family division struck the deal with Storyopolis — the family-oriented entertainment company founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and Abbie Phillips with principals Dawn Heinrichs and Fonda Snyder — after the film had been put in turnaround by Warner Bros.

Snyder and Fox-based producer Maureen Donley will produce the film, based on Breathed’s own adaptation of his 1994 children’s book. The project is being developed as a feature using a combination of live action with digital effects and cel-animated sequences.

Set during Christmas 1941, “Red Ranger” recounts the story of Breathed’s father, Red, a then 10-year-old cynic who believes more in his movie space hero, Buck Tweed, the Red Ranger of Mars, than all of the adults who have betrayed him. Sent to a distant island to stay with his aunt, Red’s quest for a Buck Tweed Two-Speed Crime Stopper Starhopper Bicycle leads him to a crusty hermit named Suander Clost, rumored to be the long-retired Santa Claus.

“The real Santa Claus isn’t the emotionally stable, cola-chugging pushover from the Saturday Evening Post,” said Breathed, who also created the Bloom County comic strip. “Thank goodness the folks at Fox have the courage to show America that St. Nick’s a very human guy who, like themselves, could use some scream therapy.”

Fox Family, which produced the recent animated feature “Anastasia,” also is developing “Santa Calls,” another twist on the traditional Christmas tale of Santa Claus, based on the children’s book by William Joyce.

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