×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

“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.)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Taiwanese director Fu Yue

    China, Taiwan in Film Awards Face-off With Roosters, Horses Scheduled on Same Day

    Despite rising political antagonism, China and Taiwan have for years been able to put aside their differences for a night of shared glitz and glamour at the annual Taipei-based Golden Horse Awards, known as Asia’s Oscars. But with cross-strait relations at a nadir, that’s about to change.  Chinese-language cinema is set for a showdown the [...]

  • Julia Roberts Harriet Tubman

    Studio Exec Suggested Julia Roberts Play Harriet Tubman, 'Harriet' Screenwriter Says

    Multi-talented multi-hyphenate Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic “Harriet.” But according to “Harriet’s” screenwriter, Gregory Allen Howard, Julia Roberts — yes, white woman Julia Roberts — was once suggested by a studio executive to play the role. In a Q&A for “Harriet” studio Focus Features as well as a piece for the [...]

  • Atlantics

    Variety Names 10 Directors to Watch for 2020

    Before film critics start summing up the present year at the movies with a deluge of Top 10 lists, Variety gazes into the medium’s future by announcing its annual 10 Directors to Watch — a lineup of filmmaking talents who’ve stood out on the recent festival circuit, or whose movies will soon be hitting screens [...]

  • Napa Valley Film Festival Winners: 'Lucky

    'Lucky Grandma' Wins Napa Valley Film Festival Narrative Feature Prize

    “Lucky Grandma,” “The Remix: Hip Hop in Fashion” and “The Nomads” were among the winners of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which ran Nov. 13-17 in various towns in the valley. The winner of the narrative feature was “Lucky Grandma,” presented by ZD Wines, which won a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley. [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    Brad Pitt's 'Ad Astra' to Blast Off in China in December

    The Brad Pitt sci-fi blockbuster “Ad Astra” is set to take off in Chinese theaters Dec. 6, more than two months after its U.S. launch. Directed, co-written and produced by James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”), the thriller also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Pitt plays [...]

  • Fred Wolf to Direct 'Love 40'

    Film News Roundup: Fred Wolf to Direct Tennis Rom-Com 'Love 40'

    In today’s film news roundup, Fred Wolf is directing a romantic comedy in New York; Leah Remini, Chinoye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang receive honors; and the topless bar documentary “Red Dog” finds a home. ‘LOVE 40’ Bluewater Lane Productions has brought on Fred Wolf to co-write and direct the romantic comedy “Love 40,” [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Lupita Nyong'o Follows Hollywood's Tradition of Two Roles in One Film

    Peter Sellers played three roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 “Dr. Strangelove.” In December of that year, Variety reported that Columbia was mounting an Oscar campaign for lead actor, but was also considering three supporting-actor campaigns, for each of his characters. (They settled on one campaign, and Sellers’ nomination as lead actor was one of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content