Whedon, Fox vamping

Ani feature based on 'Dracula' in the works

Joss Whedon’s new Mutant Enemy, Inc. production company and Fox Animation Studios are developing an animated musical feature film based on the legend of “Dracula,” the studio confirmed on Thursday.

Whedon, who recently signed a large overall deal at Twentieth Century Fox for both film and TV, is best known for another vampire franchise, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Whedon is also developing a “Buffy” feature, based on the WB netlet’s TV series, which itself was adapted from the original Whedon film of the same name.

“Dracula” will be Whedon’s first original screenplay under his deal with the Fox studio, and he’s expected to produce and write the songs for the film as well.

Whedon, who wrote the screenplay for Disney’s animated feature “Toy Story,” has tried his hand at penning song lyrics in the past. He wrote one of the songs for Disney’s animated video sequel to “The Lion King.”

It is not clear whether “Dracula” will be produced in Fox’s flagship Phoenix studio or at an independent facility, but it is intended as the Chris Meledandri-led Fox Animation Studios’ third major theatrical release — following the unit’s debut “Anastasia” and the currently lensing “Planet Ice.”

Whedon’s Mutant Enemy, formed just last August, has hired two development executives to work on those and several other film and TV projects out of their new Santa Monica lot.

Jeff Bynum has been named senior VP of production at Mutant Enemy. His most recent position was creative executive at Walt Disney/Hollywood pictures. Prior to that, he was director of production at Walt Disney. Bynum will oversee all aspects of development at Mutant Enemy and run day-to-day operations.

George Snyder, who served as Whedon’s assistant on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has been named director of development. He’ll oversee project production.

“Jeff and George have a great narrative instincts and an aesthetic that matches mine,” Whedon said. ‘Jeff’s experience in development is invaluable for a flegling. …

“Oh God, who am I kidding? I have no idea what I’m doing. I just hired these guys because they’re cute and they weren’t mean to me. Really. They’re not executives. I’m not even sure they both speak English. The whole company’s just a tax dodge, anyway. Oh, God, the hypocrisy!”

Tax dodge or not, Mutant Enemy will have its hands full. In addition to the “Dracula” and “Buffy” features, Whedon is developing several other projects, most with vampire themes. Under terms of Whedon’s deal, he can write, produce and direct any of the projects.

“Grampire” is a feature film family comedy about “two kids who suspect their grandfather is a creature of the night,” Whedon said. The idea for the script came from an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and both Whedon and the “Buffy” staff will write the script.

“Alienated” is a comedy about someone kidnapped by aliens who turns the tables on his captors. Whedon will supervise a writer and that project and may co-write.

Mutant Enemy is also developing a “Buffy” spinoff for the WB netlet called “Angel,” based on the character from the series played by David Boreanaz. The WB has ordered 13 episodes for fall 1999, and David Greenwalt will co-create and executive produce the series, which will be more adult, darker and more episodic than “Buffy.”

Whedon and his team are also developing a midseason TV pilot for Fox Broadcasting Co. called “Cheap Shots.” It’s an ensemble sitcom, co-written by “Buffy” writer Ty King, about people making low-budget horror films at a B-movie company.

All the TV projects will be produced under the 20th Century Fox TV banner, led by president Sandy Grushow. The film projects will be shepherded by Bill Mechanic, chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment; Tom Rothman, president of worldwide production at 20th Century Fox; and Meledandri. Whedon is repped by UTA and attorney Sam Fischer.