'Shrek' scribe to pen upcoming pic

Walden Media has acquired “Tortoise and Hippo,” a pitch for an animated film to be scripted by “Shrek” co-writer Roger S.H. Schulman.

The film will mix live action and photo-real CGI animation, the formula used in the upcoming Walden films “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

Relevant Entertainment’s Mike Menchel will produce the film. He hatched the idea after one of his daughters showed him an unusual wire service photograph. Taken at a wildlife sanctuary, the photo showed the close bond between a 100-year-old tortoise and a baby hippo that was rescued from the Indian Ocean after December’s tsunami.

Schulman took the idea and turned it into the unlikely bonding tale of a cranky old tortoise in India who at first tolerates the baby hippo because it is a chick magnet, but develops patriarchal feelings and takes the baby on a dangerous journey home to Africa.

Walden CEO Cary Granat bought it as soon as he heard the pitch.

“It was a perfect movie for us at the perfect time,” Granat said. “It allows us to continue the work we’ve done that brings photo-real creatures to a new level of reality, and it is timely to have a story about adoption, taking responsibility for others and putting self-interest to the side and embracing someone else in time of need.”

Walden will set a director shortly, but likely won’t strike a deal with a distributor until it wraps up a toy deal.

Relevant partner Jonathan Baruch will oversee the pic with Walden execs Alex Schwartz, Jackie Levine and Jared Mass.

Relevant has already made a publishing deal for a tie-in book with Debra Dorfman, president of Grosset/Dunlap, the children’s division of Penguin Books. Dorfman is married to Relevant partner Rick Dorfman.

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