WB taps videogame vet for animated feature

Warner Bros. has tapped its top Thundercat.

Vidgame vet Jerry O’Flaherty will helm the studio’s CG-animated “Thundercats” feature, based on the popular ’80s cartoon series, comicbook and toy line.

The project marks the first feature directing gig for O’Flaherty, who served as an art director on such bestselling games as “Gears of War” and “Unreal Tournament 3″ for Epic Games and the “Command and Conquer” series from Westwood Studios.

O’Flaherty had been looking to make the leap into movies and was considering several projects, even live action.

But the “Thundercats” story appealed to him, as well as the fact that vidgames are increasingly incorporating lavish animated sequences that mimic pics, making a toon a much easier transition.

“It feels like a natural thing for me to step into,” he said. “Games have come so far now. The last four years of my life have been about bringing the energy of filmmaking into the videogame experience.”

O’Flaherty will now work with scribe Paul Sopocy on the script.

Warner-based Paula Weinstein will produce through her Spring Creek Prods. banner, along with Dick Robertson and Lew Korman.

WB optioned a “Thundercats” script from Sopocy this summer (Daily Variety, June 5). The origin story expands on the major heroes and villains from the animated series, with the plot focusing on Lion-O coming of age as the leader of the Thundercats.

The property revolves around a group of humanoid cats who must flee the planet of Thundera, which is destroyed. Once crash-landing on another planet, Third Earth, they must thwart Mumm-Ra, an evil sorcerer bent on killing them off.

O’Flaherty plans to remain faithful to the “Thundercats” franchise, which began in 1983 and spawned several animated series, the most recent of which aired on Cartoon Network; a toy line produced by LJN; and comicbooks published by Marvel and DC imprints. Warner Bros. has owned the rights to the animated series since acquiring Telepictures in 1989.

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