Into the prod’n pen

IDT herds $40 mil 3D toon 'Sheepish'

CANNES — After John Malone’s Liberty Media said it would acquire IDT Entertainment in a deal worth more than $200 million this week, IDT unveiled in Cannes plans for a $40 million budgeted toon tale “Sheepish.”

Pic follows a wolf who violates the code of his species and is cursed to become a sheep. Saul Blinkoff and Elliott Bour have been tapped to helm the pic.

Blinkoff was an animator on “Tarzan” and “Mulan,” and Bour was an animator on “Mulan,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” The duo co-helmed “Kronk’s New Groove” for Buena Vista Home Video.

Skedded to head into production next year, “Sheepish” is based on an original script by Bart Coughlin, a character technical director on “Shrek.”

IDT prexy of feature films and TV Neil Braun said that the project will have the sensibility of “Tootsie,” and that the lead lupine character “learns to be a better wolf when he sees what it’s like from the other side.”

He added that IDT has taken foreign tastes into account in creating the project.

“Economically, it works best when you anticipate the value of what you are doing in different cultures,” said Braun, also prexy and COO of Vanguard Animation. “We’d prefer to have key working relationships in foreign territories, and to have an ongoing dialogue to keep our production team informed.”

Unit — which has animation facilities in Burbank, Toronto, Vancouver and Israel, and reps rights via IDT Entertainment Sales — hit Cannes in the middle of building live-action production and theatrical distrib operations under former MGM No. 2 Chris McGurk.

McGurk said that he’s been cautious about choosing the right product and partners to kick-start the indie studio.

“We are not aiming to chase bigger-budget and general audience films,” said the exec. “We want to be in the targeted-audience business, and we’re being very selective in aligning the right product and the right filmmakers.”

IDT has a domestic distrib pact with Twentieth Century Fox through 2008, and owns DVD imprint Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Moving to Liberty, IDT will effectively turn its new parent’s Starz paybox banner into a small-scale media conglom.

Upcoming IDT credits include Christopher Reeve’s “Everyone’s Hero” and the comedy “Space Chimps.”

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