U to bring ‘Zhu Zhu Pets’ to DVD

Toy hamsters heading to two feature-length 3D toons

Universal Pictures has locked down the homevideo and TV rights to Cepia’s “ZhuZhu Pets” in a deal that will initially involve the production of two feature-length 3D toons starring the popular toy property’s hamsters.

Pics “Quest for Zhu” and “Power of Zhu” will bow exclusively on DVD later this year and in 2012.

Moonscoop (“Jakers,” “Clifford, the Big Red Dog”) will produce the pics, scripted by Sean Catherine Derek (“Smurfs,” “Spider-Man”), with Prana Animation Studios (“Tron: Legacy”) handling the 3D animation.

Universal sees the deal as a way to expand its family biz of direct-to-homevideo offerings, according to Craig Kornblau, prexy of Universal Studios Home Enter-tainment. The studio has already been bolstering its family fare through Illumination Entertainment.Given U’s ownership of theme parks, it’s likely the hamsters will eventually wind up as licensed merchandise and attractions down the line.

Cepia sees films as a new way to expand its toy line that has sold 62 million hamsters in more than 65 countries since bowing in 2009.

“Bringing ‘ZhuZhu Pets’ to life through the magic of movies is an exciting new chapter in the Zhu-niverse evolution,” said Russ Hornsby, CEO of Cepia. “Creating movies is an exciting new experience for ‘ZhuZhu Pets’ and Cepia and with these films we have another way for our brand to come alive for the fans.”

St. Louis-based Cepia’ “ZhuZhu Pets” line has also spun off “Kung Zhu,” “ZhuZhu Princess,” “ZhuZhu Babies” and “ZhuZhu Puppies.”

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