U, Imagine in ‘Curious’ monkey biz with Bird

Live action film back in spotlight

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment are finalizing a deal with “The Iron Giant” helmer Brad Bird to develop the feature version of “Curious George.”

“George” has been in various stages of development at Imagine for several years, but the project was put on the back burner earlier this year, reportedly due to budget concerns and the pic’s special effects’ demands. At that time, Larry Guterman (“Antz”) was attached to direct.

With Bird on board, U and Imagine will look for a writer whom Bird can supervise on a rewrite of the screenplay.

Numerous writers have taken cracks at the screenplay over the years, including Mike Werb, Brian Levant, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Pat Proft and Audrey Wells.

Based on the bestselling children’s books created by Margret Rey and her husband H.A. Rey, “George” follows the shenanigans of an accident-prone, mischievous monkey with a talent for trouble, and his master, the Man in the Yellow Hat.

Imagine prexy of production Michael Bostick is overseeing the pic’s development for the banner.

It’s little wonder that U and Imagine have re-ignited the project. With its widespread recognition and family appeal, “Curious George” has been regarded as major franchise material, with substantial ancillary value stemming from promotional and merchandising potential. Under a deal negotiated with the books’ publisher, U will share merchandising rights with Houghton-Mifflin.

Pic will be a combination live action/CGI production, and, while combining some of the animated flourishes he is known for, the pic should mark Bird’s first foray into live action directing. In addition to writing and directing the critically lauded “Iron Giant” for Warner Bros., Bird also wrote the 1987 feature “Batteries Not Included.”

Bird, who is repped by CAA, is writing and will direct “The Incredibles,” an animated feature about a family of superheroes, for Warner Bros.

His reps also are looking for a home for “Ray Gunn,” another animated feature scripted by Bird and Matthew Robbins. Originally developed at Turner Pictures, “Ray” has been described as a melange of Raymond Chandler and Buck Rogers, set in a streamlined city of the future.