‘Chimps’ ride Fox’s rocket

Virgien, Cook to helm Williams-produced pic

Fox is going ape in outer space with Vanguard Animation.

Studio will distribute toon house’s next CG feature, “Space Chimps,” in 2008 as part of its deal with Vanguard minority owner IDT Entertainment.

Pic is the second of four IDT is committed to offer Fox as part of a distribution deal signed last year. First film under the pact, “Everyone’s Hero,” comes out in September.

Once the deal is done, IDT plans to distribute toons made by several studios it owns through an internal operation being set up by new hire Chris McGurk (Daily Variety, April 5).

“Space Chimps” is a family comedy about the descendants of the first chimps sent into space.

Pic is being produced for about $40 million with funds from IDT and foreign pre-sales.

Vanguard topper John Williams (“Shrek”) is producing. Norton Virgien and Donovan Cook direct from a script first penned by Kirk De Micco (“Racing Stripes”).

Vanguard’s last toon, “Valiant,” made only $20 million domestically when released by Disney last year. It grossed a somewhat healthier $39 million overseas.

Much of the same U.K.-based team that worked on “Valiant” is now animating “Space Chimps.”