De Saint-Exupery family approves $61 mil project

PARIS — French producers Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam are preparing a stereoscopic 3D animated feature adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic children’s tale, “The Little Prince.”

The pair have secured rights from Saint-Exupery’s family for the €45 million ($60.8 million) movie, meaning “Prince” is likely to be one of the biggest European projects this year.

Pic will closely follow the book, centering on the friendship between a downed pilot lost in the desert and a boy with magic powers. Production is set to begin in early 2011.Saint-Exupery’s great-nephew Olivier d’Agay has come on board to advise the producers.”I’m a fan of Aton and Dimitri’s past films, notably ‘Renaissance’ and ‘The Children of Timpelbach,’?” said d’Agay. “I’m confident they have the necessary experience and creativity to give ‘The Little Prince’ the modern treatment it deserves.”

Penned in 1943, the book has been translated into more than 180 languages and sold more than 80 million copies.

“We aim at making ‘The Little Prince’ an animated-feature that has a universal appeal in the vein of Miyazaki and Pixar films,” Soumache said.

Rassam said they were working on securing an international voicecast.

Soumache is also developing a spinoff animated TV series loosely based on the book. Series, budgeted at $27.5 million, follows a boy traveling among planets looking for his home asteroid.

And Soumache and MK2 topper Nathanael Karmitz are developing a Web platform and a vidgame.

(John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.)

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