‘Astroboy’ takes off

Sony Pix relaunches pic for 'Dexter's' creator

Sony Pictures Entertainment has pacted with “Samurai Jack” and “Dexter’s Laboratory” creator GenndyTartakovsky to write and direct its long-in-development film version of the classic Japanese toon series “Astroboy.”

Pic is being produced by Don Murphy of Angryfilms as well as by Lisa Henson and Kristine Belson of Jim Henson Pictures for Sony’s Columbia Pictures.

Project was purchased by the studio in 1997 as one of the high-priority properties for Col chairman Amy Pascal and slated as a live-action tentpole picture. Screenplays were generated by Todd Alcott and all systems were go, but the pic hit a snag in 2000 when Steven Spielberg began “A.I.” Both projects involved a robot boy who replaces a dead child.

“Astroboy” is a futuristic Pinocchio story about a scientist who builds a robot replacement for his dead son but then turns him out in the world when it becomes clear he’s not human.

Subsequently, Eric Leighton (“Dinosaur”) was hired to make the pic all-CGI, but insiders now say the project will be a blend of animation, animatronics and live-action, a la “Stuart Little.”

Character is the creation of Osamu Tezuka, often called the Walt Disney of Japan, who also created such characters as Kimba the White Lion and the Phoenix.

“When this was stuck in the animation division, the film was going nowhere,” Murphy said of the move, adding, “It’s fantastic to have it back on track as a live-action film, which I always envisioned.”

Tartakovsky is also a director and producer on Cartoon Network’s “Powerpuff Girls.”