Virtual pets find a home

Warner leashes NeoPets pix

Warner Bros. Pictures has bolstered its star stable with Ruki, Yurble, Uni and Kacheek.

The studio has closed a deal with NeoPets to make CGI-animated features using 50 different pet species from the kids Web site. Dylan Sellers will produce the films with NeoPets chairman-CEO Doug Dohring. NeoPets will co-finance development of the films.

Several studios competed for the deal, and Warner has been locked into an exclusive negotiation for the better part of a year, spearheaded by production president Jeff Robinov. WB and NeoPets have already firmed a concept for the first film and have begun talks with an animation director they would not name.

Created in 1991, NeoPets has a global following of about 25 million members — mostly preteens — who log on regularly to create and care for their own virtual pets, follow storylines about the pets that populate Neopia and pit their virtual NeoPets against those of other Web site users.

WB execs hope that translates into the kind of pre-sold audience that turned out for such films as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” “Pokemon” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

“There is a rich universe of smartly developed characters and the heart of the site is literally millions of Web pages of content,” Sellers said.Company, which makes its money through advertising and ancillary products like plush toys and a new trading card game, is just signing a promotional deal with McDonald’s and a PlayStation 2 game to be released this summer.

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