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D’Works exec ankles post for prod’n deal

Howard's Melwood to develop live-action, animated pics

Max Howard, a former top animation exec who is producing DreamWorks’ “Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron,” is stepping down from that producing job to take a first-look deal with DreamWorks.

Howard said that now that “Spirit” was “well into production … I am excited to start exploring new pathways in my career.”

His production company, Melwood Pictures, will develop both live-action and animated pics. “Animation is just one way of telling a story,” Howard said. “I’m interested in great stories no matter what the form.”

Howard joined DreamWorks to produce “Spirit” in 1998 after spending three years as president of feature animation at Warner Bros. While Howard was at WB, his division produced the hit “Space Jam,” starring Michael Jordan, and “Quest for Camelot” and “The Iron Giant,” which were B.O. disappointments, although “Giant” garnered strong critical praise.

Prior to heading WB animation, Howard was at Disney for nearly a decade, beginning as head of the London animation studio for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” He later got Disney’s Florida animation studio off the ground, then moved to Los Angeles, overseeing strategic planning and operations for Disney animation as senior vice president.

While at Disney, he worked closely with DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg. “We were at Disney together so this seems a natural progression of that relationship,” Howard said.

Howard began his entertainment career in his native England as a child actor on the London stage and later became a stage manager, producer and director in the theater.

“Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron” tells the tale of the American West from the perspective of a mustang. Howard said the pic will be in production for 15 months more or so. Mireille Soria, who is also producing the film, will continue overseeing the pic.

DreamWorks’ latest animated feature, “The Road to El Dorado,” opens Friday.

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