High profile French animation artist Guillaume Ivernel is onboard to direct a 3D animated sci-fi thriller, “Soul Man,” his follow-up to “Dragon Hunters.”Budgeted at an ambitious $45 million, the English-language “Soul Man” is backed by Denis Auboyer’s CMC, one of Gaul’s largest technical providers, which owns and operates Digimage Cinema and Def2Shoot, as well as other post-production outfits. Blacklight Movies, the Paris-based company founded last year by Ivernel and Francois Belot, among others, is producing. Digimage Cinema is co-developing and co-financing a six-minute 3D preview with Piste Rouge and Mad Light. Blacklight is also working with Les Androids Associes, a shingle specializing in digital previsualization. Script is co-penned by Ivernel and acclaimed crime novelist Caryl Ferey (“Zulu”)t. Set in an alternate world built on two levels, “Soul Man” turns on a former Polish detective entangled in a shady multibillion-dollar biotech deal — the key to which is a baby girl the detective is asked to look after. Ivernel created the concept and the decors, while the toon’s characters are designed by animation vet Valerie Hadida, who previously designed the characters of “Igor” and Dragon Hunters. Ivernel describes “Soul Man’s” world as cyber-funk “in the vein of 1970′s black action pics, with a sci-fi beat.” “The characters and decors are very colorful, with soul and funk music playing a big part in the film, says Ivernel, a self-proclaimed fan of the Blaxploitation genre. “But the story has a much darker undertone aimed at an audience of teenagers and adults.” Belot said the company is looking to build a cross-platform franchise on ancillary markets, including vidgames, merchandising and original score. Belot said Blacklight will cast Hollywood talent in voice roles. “Soul Man’s” pilot will be presented during the Cartoon Movie co-production forum, which takes place in Lyon, France, March 2-4.