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Ninja Turtles back in (live) action

2011 film will focus on characters' origins

HOLLYWOOD — The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are making their way back to the bigscreen.

The Mirage Group, which owns the property, is moving forward with a live-action film focusing on the origins of the iconic crime fighters. Project, targeted for release in 2011, would mark the fifth bigscreen outing for the sewer-dwelling heroes Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael as well as their master Splinter.

News coincides with the Turtles’ 25th anniversary celebration, which kicks off Thursday in New York as the first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film unspools at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Legendary Pictures former chief marketing officer Scott Mednick is producing the new pic alongside Galen Walker, who produced the 2007 computer-animated “TMNT” pic, the most recent installment in the franchise. Peter Laird, Gary Richardson, Frederick Fierst, Eric Crown and Napoleon Smith III are exec producing the film, which is based on the characters created by Laird and Kevin Eastman.

The characters first appeared in a May 1984 comicbook before spawning a lucrative line of toys, cartoons and three films released in the early 1990s. In 2003, the Turtles were reintroduced to a new generation via a TV series, the “TMNT” film and a revamped merchandising program.

The latest project is being financed by Lightbox Prods.

“The original dozen comics created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman are some of the best source material one could hope for,” said Mednick, whose exec producing credits include the upcoming “Where the Wild Things Are.” Laird, who bought out Eastman’s share of the property several years ago, said the film will remain true to the spirit of the original comicbooks. He added that the pic may employ face replacement technology, which would allow the turtles to be much more expressive.

Today’s 25th anniversary “Shell-ebration” will also include lighting the Empire State Building in “turtle green.”

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