×

Sony finds Rx for its f/x

'AstroBoy' to help gauge ImageWorks' usefulness

In a seven-figure deal that marks a policy shift for Sony Pictures Entertainment, “Dinosaur” co-helmer Eric Leighton has inked to direct the studio’s first all-CGI movie, “AstroBoy.”

In recent months, Sony considered selling off Imageworks’ f/x facility, but found no takers. Facing a dearth of viable suitors and having seen the impressive CGI sequences created for the “Stuart Little” sequel, Sony brass is now eyeing Imageworks as a possible Pixar-esque studio that would hopefully produce the B.O. — not to mention merchandise licensing — riches enjoyed by Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” and DreamWorks’ B.O. monster, “Shrek.”

The studio’s parent company, Sony Corp. of America, has recently been rethinking its commitments to content creation: It agreed to sell its stake in Spanish-lingo broadcaster Telemundo; halted development of new TV shows at Columbia TriStar Television; shut down a facility that digitally mastered its pics; and held preliminary (though quickly aborted) talks with MGM about a merger of movie studios.

Popular on Variety

“AstroBoy” will be produced by Don Murphy (“From Hell”) and his Col-based Angry Films banner, and by Jim Henson Pictures prexy Lisa Henson and Henson production exec Kristine Belson.

SPE vice-chairman Gareth Wigan is personally overseeing the project’s development and production. Imageworks has already begun tackling test footage, and a greenlight is thought to be imminent. A release date is planned for some time in 2004.

Rocket powered

Todd Alcott (“Antz”) and Ken Kaufman (“Space Cowboys”) penned the “AstroBoy” script, which tells the tale of a permanently youthful robot boy modeled after the deceased son of a research scientist. Originally intended to be kept a secret, the Pinocchio-like character becomes a publicly renowned superhero — complete with devices like laser-firing fingers, uncanny hearing and jet-powered boots — all eventually used to repulse an alien invasion of Earth. Pic’s protagonist was originally created by the late Japanese comic artist Osamu Tezuka; film will be based on characters created by the Tezuka Corp.

Leighton co-helmed Disney’s expensive CGI pic “Dinosaur” with Ralph Zondag, cutting his teeth supervising animation on Disney pics like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach,” both under helmer Henry Selick. While the “Dinosaur” budget was $150 million-$200 million, easily qualifying the film as the most expensive of all time on a cost-per-minute basis, the “AstroBoy” budget is as yet unset, say insiders.

“AstroBoy” also marks several reunions. Project reteams scribe Kaufman with Henson, for whom he penned Columbia Pictures’ 1999 film “Muppets From Space,” as well as Murphy and Henson, who are also developing “Parasyte,” based on Hitosi Iwaaki’s comicbook series of the same name.

Leighton, like Kaufman, was repped in the deal by United Talent Agency. Leighton was also repped in the deal by attorney Melanie Cook at Bloom Hergott Diemer & Cook.

(Marc Graser contributed to this report.)

More Film

  • The Painter and the Thief

    'The Painter and the Thief': Film Review

    Incredible. That’s the word that comes to mind with Benjamin Ree’s “The Painter and the Thief,” a stranger-than-fiction friendship story in which vérité techniques produce unbelievable results. I don’t mean to imply that this astonishing documentary isn’t truthful. Rather, I’m in awe of how things played out, and fully aware that there was a certain [...]

  • 'The Cost of Silence': Exclusive First

    'The Cost of Silence': Exclusive First Look at Sundance Doc on Deepwater Horizon Spill

    “The Cost of Silence,” a new documentary about the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, doesn’t just chronicle the worst oil drilling disaster in history. It looks at the devastating impact that the use of chemicals called “dispersants” had on Gulf Coast families. It turns out the so-called cleanup was not the success story [...]

  • Cuties

    'Cuties': Film Review

    Eleven-year-old Senegalese immigrant Amy (Fathia Youssouf) reckons there are two ways to be a woman. Amy could mimic her mom (Maïmouna Gueye), a dutiful drudge with three kids and a husband who’s just announced he’s bringing home a second wife. Or she could copy the “Cuties,” a quartet of brazen girls who wear tube tops [...]

  • Crip Camp

    'Crip Camp': Film Review

    If “Crip Camp” strikes you as a politically incorrect name for a movie about a summer camp where kids on crutches, in wheelchairs, and otherwise living with disabilities found it possible to feel included rather than ostracized, consider this: The irreverent, stereotype-busting documentary was co-directed by Berkeley-based sound designer Jim LeBrecht, a spina bifida survivor [...]

  • Summertime

    'Summertime': Film Review

    “Use your words.” I remember one of my sheroes saying that to a stammering 4-year-old decades ago. Here was a woman who’d dedicated her life to preschool education, whom I assisted for several summers, trying to get through to a tongue-tied little boy. The more he sputtered, the more upset he got, unable to express [...]

  • Mickey Rourke

    Film News Roundup: Mickey Rourke's 'Adverse' Opens Fantasporto Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, a Mickey Rourke crime drama will premiere in Portugal, a film about the Purdue Pharma scandal is in the works and the documentary “After Parkland” will be shown at 100 locations on the second anniversary of the Parkland shootings. FESTIVAL OPENER The world premiere of Mickey Rourke’s crime drama “Adverse” [...]

  • Director of the Sundance Film Festival

    Outgoing Sundance Festival Director John Cooper Reflects on 30 Years of Highs and Lows

    John Cooper, the outgoing director of the Sundance Film Festival, has been on Robert Redford’s payroll for 30 years. Many in the small world of Hollywood, and the even smaller ecosystem of global film festivals, braced at the announcement last June that Cooper would step down, taking with him decades of institutional memory. Cooper spoke [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content