Walden bids adieu to Mouse

Pact not clear about Fox's funding

This article was updated at 9:52 p.m.

Philip Anschutz’s Walden Media has left Disney for Fox.

Under the terms of the deal, Fox and Walden together will develop and produce five projects, four of which are based on celebrated children’s novels, with Fox responsible for distribution.

It’s not yet clear whether Fox will provide overhead and development funding for those pictures, or will front the cost of all P&A.

Pic include Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn-Dixie” (due for release next January); Katherine Paterson’s “Bridge to Terabithia”; Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”; Wendy Orr’s “Nim’s Island”; and Adam Mortimer’s as-yet-unpublished comicbook proposal “Biblionauts.”

TCF production prexy Hutch Parker said Walden had “shown a remarkable instinct and ability with event children’s material.” He said the studio planned “to move forward quickly” on the Walden slate.

The five Walden projects are in various states of development:

  • “Because of Winn-Dixie” is in post-production. Joan V. Singleton adapted DiCamillo’s novel with Wayne Wang (“Maid in Manhattan,” “The Joy Luck Club”) directing.

  • Gabor Csupo (producer of “Rugrats Go Wild!” and “The Wild Thornberrys Movie”) is attached to direct “Bridge to Terabithia” as his first live-action project. Lauren Levine (“I Am David”) will produce the film with the author’s son, David Paterson.

  • Jeff Bridges is attached to produce “The Giver,” with Todd Alcott (“Antz”) adapting the screenplay based on the Newbery Medal-winning young-adult science fiction novel by Lois Lowry.

  • Paula Mazur (“Corrina, Corrina”) will produce “Nim’s Island” and adapt the book with screenwriter Joe Kwong.

  • Susan Montford and Don Murphy will produce “Biblionauts” as a series of motion pictures. Mortimer, who created the pilot “Conspiracy 101” for MTV and will co-produce the pic with Murphy and Montford, was developing the idea as a series of graphic novels when he submitted it to Montford, who took it to Walden Media.

Unlike the old Disney deal, the new Fox pact is neither exclusive nor constrained by time limits, according to Chris DeMoulin, Walden’s exec VP of marketing.

“It was appropriate when we signed it,” DeMoulin said of the Disney deal “but now we have so many projects in development, we are not looking for exclusive single-studio deals.”

Under Walden’s lapsed deal with Disney, shingle released the Andrew Davis’ “Holes” based on Louis Sachar’s children’s book, and James Cameron’s 3-D underwater exploration docu “Ghosts of the Abyss.”

Walden’s co-financing, producing and distribution venture with Disney on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” fell outside its two-year Disney pact, as did the company’s deal on “Around the World in 80 Days.” Directed by “Shrek” helmer Andrew Adamson, “Wardrobe” is budgeted at about $100 million; Walden is co-financing that pic equally with Disney.

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