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U, Illumination to light up ‘Lorax’

Duo to turn Dr. Seuss book into 3-D animated pic

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment are joining forces to turn the Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” into a 3-D CG animated feature.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” will be co-directed by Chris Renaud and Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with Paul & Daurio writing the script.

Though published in 1971, “The Lorax” has a timely “green” theme. It is narrated by a greedy entrepreneur who, despite warnings from the tree-loving Lorax, strips a forest of its stock of Truffula trees to manufacture clothing. The results are catastrophic as all the animals leave and nothing’s left.

The picture is targeted for a March 2, 2012, release, which falls on the birthday of Theodor Geisel, who died in 1991.

Illumination topper Chris Meledandri will produce and Audrey Geisel will be executive producer. Illumination’s John Cohen and Janet Healy will also be involved in producing capacities.

“Ted Geisel was prescient in an uncanny way when he wrote the book and explored themes of greed and how that can lead to the destruction of environment,” Meledandri told Daily Variety.

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The deal allows Meledandri to continue a relationship with Geisel that began with “Horton Hears a Who,” which Meledandri put together when he ran Fox Animation before leaving to form Illumination as a family film division for Universal.

Paul & Daurio, who wrote “Horton Hears a Who” and make their directorial debut on “Lorax,” have separately signed an exclusive four-year writing and directing deal with Illumination, a pact that comes after they wrote “Despicable Me,” which Renaud co-directed with Pierre Coffin.

Renaud makes “Lorax” the second film in a three-picture exclusive directing deal with Illumination.

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