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U, ILM plan Frankenstein

Pic is first CGI for duo

Digging into its vault of classic horror films, Universal Pictures has teamed with George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic to produce an untitled CGI-animated feature based on the studio’s nearly 70-year-old “Frankenstein” franchise.

Pic marks the first foray into full-length, computer-animated films for both Universal and ILM, where the primary focus has been creating special effects for live-action features. Moreover, the film is the first produced under the supervision of U’s newly formed animation and visual effects division. Universal intends to release the pic in the summer of 2000.

While rumors have circulated on the Internet that the film would be titled “Frankenstein and the Wolfman,” studio sources said that title wouldn’t be used and that the film is not a remake of any previous “Frankenstein” film. But U confirmed the Wolfman would be in the film, albeit in a lesser role than the bolt-necked monster.

John Swallow, U’s senior VP of production technology, is overseeing the film for the studio.

Universal is touting the film as a “digital dramatic picture” that will be targeted to all audiences.

The film is in production at ILM under the direction of Dave Carson and Brent Maddock, from an original screenplay by Maddock and S.S. Wilson.

The film uses some photorealism and will bring back the classic, flat-topped monster that appeared in eight U films, including the original 1931 “Frankenstein,” which starred Boris Karloff and was directed by James Whale.

Taking place in 19th century Eastern Europe, pic follows the eccentric Dr. Pretorious (who was introduced in U’s 1935 film “The Bride of Frankenstein”) as he conducts bizarre experiments to improve existing life forms. Because his research depends on the power of the same electrodes that were at the center of Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments, Pretorious seeks out the sole remaining electrode — which is implanted on the neck of the monster who was supposedly killed in a mill fire 40 years before.

Pic marks the first Frankenstein film Universal has released since 1948’s “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein ” that uses the original monster, devised for the screen by make-up artist Jack Pierce.