Estimated prod'n cost to fall between $40 mil-$60 mil

HOLLYWOOD — Director John Woo and producer Terence Chang’s Digital Rim Entertainment have inked a deal with Mirage Studios to develop and produce a CGI-animated feature film based on the $4 billion “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise.

Pic’s estimated production cost will fall between $40 million and $60 million and will return the shell-backed heroes “to their darker, edgier comic book roots,” according to “Turtles” co-creator Peter Laird, owner of Mirage Licensing, which reps Mirage Studios.

Digital Rim has already produced a new animated “Turtles” TV pilot, which inspired the company to pursue the film rights. The pilot is currently being shopped at the networks.

“John and I look forward to working with Peter to incorporate these original extreme martial arts characters into a terrific first CGI film for Digital Rim, fusing traditional Hollywood creative know-how and highly advanced computer technology,” Chang said.

“I’ve always loved the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ ” Woo added. “It’s one of the greatest action-adventure properties ever.”

Honolulu-based Digital Rim was formed last October when Woo and Chang linked up with vidgame and TV production company Rainbow Studios and South Korea-based J.G. Lee’s Digital Dream Studio (DDS) to produce digital and CGI-animated pics and vidgames.

Rainbow Studios and DDS will handle the animation duties on the still untitled “Turtles” film. Woo and Chang’s Lion Rock Prods. will collaborate on the development and production. No Hollywood studio is attached to co-finance or distribute the pic.

“Were not looking for financing or distribution right now,” Digital Rim prexy Earl Jarred told Daily Variety. “We are looking to develop a script and see what happens with the TV series.”

Although already working on “Ark,” another CGI film, “Turtles” will most likely be Digital Rim’s feature film debut. Pic is tentatively skedded to hit theaters in Christmas 2002.

William Morris Agency repped both Digital Rim and Mirage on this project.

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