Pete Candeland will direct animated remake of Dr. Seuss' Christmas classic

The holidays have come and gone, but Illumination is already at work on bringing a classic Christmas anti-hero to the bigscreen, as the toon shop is developing “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” with Pete Candeland set to direct.

Universal Pictures will handle worldwide distribution with Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri producing. Audrey Geisel will exec produce.

Though the Chuck Jones 1966 animated pic is widely considered one of the most popular adaptations of any Seuss book, it’s no surprise that Illumination is putting a new spin on “Grinch,” given the reslationship the studio has built with the Seuss estate.

Pic will mark Meledandri’s third Dr. Seuss adaptation after “Horton Hears a Who” — which was through Fox and his Blue Sky Studios banner — and “The Lorax,” which made $348 million worldwide. Illumination is also developing a “Cat in the Hat” adaptation and an untitled “Dr. Seuss” live-action biopic.

While no release date has been set and a writer is now being sought, insiders say “How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” will be the next Dr. Seuss adaptation Illumination to bow in theaters.

Sources say the plan is to stay faithful to the book, and that given how the original story organically lends it self to a three-act structure, there won’t be as much of a need to invent certain material like with “Horton Hears a Who” and “The Lorax.”

Insiders add that there will opportunity to explore the story from a perspective more in line with underlying tones of the book — and distinguish it from the Universal’s 2000 live-action remake starring Jim Carrey.

By the time the film makes it to theaters, it should be close to the 50th anniversary of the Chuck Jones pic’s debut on television. Initial plans are to put the element of Cindy Lou Who’s ultimate optimistic attitude and the Grinch’s ultimate pessimitic attitude at the heart of the story.

There is also the opportunity to reach new audiences around the world: “The Grinch” is a completely known property in English-speaking territories but not so much in others.

The Verve-repped Candeland has no big features under his belt, having only worked as animator on projects like “Balto” and “Aladdin: The Animated series”; he’s best known for his work music videos for The Gorillaz, is also currently developing “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” for Disney. But Illumination has rolled the dice on tyro helmers to good effect, like “Despicable Me” helmer Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. Sources say Illumination execs liked Candeland’s distinct look and style for “Grinch.”

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