'Coraline' studio sets 'Mr. Fox' animation director to helm

As if there was any doubt that stop-motion animation upstart Laika Studios would stick with its supernatural kidpic theme, the makers of “Coraline” and the late-summer release “Paranorman” have optioned “Goblins,” an adaptation of a British novelist Philip Reeve’s book that Mark Gustafson (animation director on “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) is set to helm.

The 3D, stop-motion animation pic will tell the story of a Skarper, a clever young goblin who lives among his ill-mannered brethren in an ancient castle. Only he understands that an ancient evil is rising that will bring all manner of monsters and mythical creatures into an epic magical conflict.

Reeve’s book was published in the U.K. earlier this month and hits the U.S. next year.

“Goblins is a fantasy with bite,” said Laika prexy & CEO Travis Knight. “In the hands of Laika’s freakishly talented artists and guided by the ineffably gifted Mark Gustafson, it will make a strange, stirring, and altogether beautiful film.”

“Coraline,” Laika’s first feature release in 2009, was a surprise hit at more than $124 million worldwide and was nominated for an animated feature Oscar.

Portland, Ore.-based studio’s followup “Paranorman” unspools Aug. 17.

Reeve is represented by the Law Agency in London; Gustafson by the Gotham Group in Los Angeles.

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