Nabs film rights to '60s TV series

Animal-centric pics have performed well for Fox, so the Fox 2000 arm is putting its latest bet on a talking horse named, of course, “Mr. Ed.”

Studio has acquired feature film rights to the beloved TV series, which aired on CBS from 1961 to 1966.

Friendly Films principal David Friendly (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Jim Mahoney will produce the live-action family film, which will feature a real horse with a CG-animated mouth. Producers will soon begin their search for a writer.

“It’s always the perfect time for a four-quadrant family movie,” Friendly told Variety. “Those are the movies that have the strongest pull. As a producer, I try to envision the poster and this one looks pretty good coming from the studio behind ‘Marley & Me’ and ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks.’ ”

Friendly brought the project to Fox 2000 and has experience making successful films about talking animals, having previously produced “Dr. Dolittle.” He and Mahoney spent several years wrangling the “Mr. Ed” rights from two different estates.

Mahoney has ties to the franchise, having exec produced the 2004 TV movie “Mr. Ed,” which starred David Alan Basche as Wilbur and featured the voice of Sherman Hemsley. The original series starred Alan Young and featured the voice of Allan Lane.

As a passionate equestrian, Fox 2000 prexy Elizabeth Gabler was the driving force behind the project, which Fox 2000 exec Carla Hacken will oversee on behalf of the studio. In addition to “Marley” and “Chipmunks,” Fox 2000 also produced the 2006 pic “Flicka.” Its next release will be David Frankel’s bird-watching comedy “The Big Year” on Oct 14.

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