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New Line lands on ‘Planet 51’

Animation feature written by Stillman

MADRID — Venturing for the first time into toon pic distribution, New Line Cinema has taken U.S. domestic rights to “Planet 51,” one of Europe’s most ambitious CGI animation movies, penned by “Shrek” and “Shrek 2” screenwriter Joe Stillman.

Budgeted at $60 million, alien planet spoof “Planet 51” is produced by Madrid’s Ilion Animation Studios and London’s Handmade Films, and sold by Handmade Films Intl.

It turns on a lantern-jawed U.S. astronaut, Capt. Charles “Chuck” Baker, whose shuttle touches down on a supposedly uninhabited planet. But he discovers a civilization whose banana-haired denizens live a 1950s lifestyle in a world that looks like “Pleasantville” meets Cuba’s Havana.

And the planet’s inhabitants live in paranoiac fear of an alien invasion, repped by Baker.

Comedy, which allows Stillman to take swipes at cross-culture paranoia and contempo mores, is directed by Jorge Blanco and produced by Ilion’s CEO Ignacio Perez Dolset.

The domestic deal was initially discussed by Handmade’s Guy Collins and New Line co-chair Bob Shaye this fall, and closed this week by Collins and Dolset and New Line’s head of business affairs and co-production Carolyn Blackwood and head of acquisitions Guy Stodel.

The alien planet comedy has already sold to north of 30 territories, including the U.K. (Entertainment) and Spain (DeAPlaneta).

“Planet 51” is skedded for completion by March 2009. Its producers are aiming for “A” list Hollywood talent to voice the toon feature.

“The deal has been made with the objective on everybody’s part of going out on no fewer than 3,000 screens,” Dolset told Daily Variety.

Pic marks the entry into feature filmmaking of arguably Spain’s most successful international entertainment company, vidgame and cell-phone contents specialists, Supreme Ent., which also co-owns mobile contents multinational, the Zed Group.

Perez Dolset and Blanco broke through internationally as the producer and lede artist on cult vidgame franchise “Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines,” launched in 1998 by vidgame developer Pyro Studios, another Supreme subsid.

Pyro is prepping a “Planet 51” vid game to roll out over the five leading console platforms.

Pic will be co-helmed by Javier Abad and Marcos Martinez, who worked with Blanco on “Commandos.”

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