Empire swims with underwater friends

Sea-Monkeys are swimming their way to the bigscreen.

Empire Pictures has struck a deal with Transcience Corp. to develop an animated film and possible franchise from the infamous children’s toy line “The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys.” Under the deal, Empire acquired entertainment rights to the line, which has been on the market for 45 years and sold in more than 50 countries.

Empire founder and prexy Michael Birnbaum is focusing first on an animated feature, but possible spinoffs down the line could include a television series and merchandising. Birnbaum currently is meeting with writers to develop a take for the story before shopping the project to studios.

Product line features the tiny pets, which hatch instantly and live up to two years in a special tank. Their bigscreen story will be set in a microscopic ocean world, Birnbaum told Daily Variety.

“I grew up with Sea-Monkeys,” he said. “The property’s instant name recognition on a global basis makes it a platform from which to launch an animated film franchise.”

Sea-Monkeys launched in 1960 and were created by inventor Harold von Braunhut. Transcience owns the Sea-Monkeys brand, which currently is distributed by Educational Insights.

Transcience CEO Yolanda von Braunhut said filmmakers have approached the company before about the rights. “Dozens of producers have inquired about making a Sea-Monkeys film over the years, but Michael’s passion and vision made him the clear choice to guide these lovable and telepathic beings who want to be our friends on their journey to the silver screen,” she said.

Birnbaum most recently produced 20th Century Fox’s “John Tucker Must Die,” released today. He also produced “Bandits” for MGM.

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