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French ‘Boots’ sprints to finish

MK2's version of fairytale out of bag before D'Works

The claws are out between DreamWork’s “Shrek” spinoff “Puss in Boots,” and a rival Euro project from Gallic mini-major MK 2.

DreamWorks has said its “Puss” will be ready for 2011. MK2 doesn’t intend to wait that long.

Its $24 million “The True story of Puss in Boots” — adapted from the original story story by French fairytale author Charles Perrault — is already in production and is slated for delivery end of 2008, for release in early 2009.

“We aren’t jumping on the bandwagon,” Nathanael Karmitz, MK2’s managing director, said on Friday. “Our film has been in development for more than two years. It’s just fortunate for us that we’ll be ready first.”

Co-produced with Belgium’s Nexus Factory and Swiss shingle Saga Prods., the Gallic project was developed and will be co-helmed by Pascal Herold, founder and former topper of Gallic f/x outift Duran Duboi, and theater actor Jerome Deschamps, director of Paris’ Opera Comique. Production will be the first feature handled by Herold’s new animation studio Herold & Family.

The Euro Puss is “in the spirit of the original story but it is a loose adaptation,” says Karmitz. “It’s more modern, with lots of action.”

Herold said: “A lot of traditional animation films are far too politically correct. Our puss isn’t like that.”

MK2 is planning to launch an aggressive merchandizing campaign around the film.

“Puss” reps MK2’s second foray into animation, after “Children of the Rain,” which it co-produced and distributed, and is part of a new ambition at the company to produce bigger-budget crossover fare.

“We’re currently producing six or seven films a year at budgets ranging from $3.3 million to $16.3 million,” Karmitz said.

Current lineup includes Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park,” and “The Cathars,” a $16.3 million historical actioner starring Benoit Magimel about the brutal extermination of the Cathars that Karmitz says will be “an answer to Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” ‘

“It is a reminder that there have always been religious wars in the world,” Karmitz said.

In Berlin, MK2 has the Panorama selection “La Leon,” by Argentinian helmer Santiago Otheguy, which was picked up Thursday by Germany’s Salzgeber; “The Legacy” the new film by “13 Tzemeti” helmer Gela Babluani, co-directed by Temur Babluani; “24 Measures,” French thesp Jalil Lespert’s helming debut with Magimel and Sami Bouajila; and Francesca Comencini’s “A casa nostra” with Valeria Golino.

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