Two projects from the development slate of visual-effects studio Rhythm & Hues are moving toward production as the company moves away from being strictly a vendor and looks to become a producer.

Company has even jumped in as an equity partner on a studio feature. R&H, which was lead shop on the Oscar-winning vfx for “The Golden Compass,” has an equity stake in Warner’s 3D family pic “Yogi Bear” and will get a co-producer credit on the pic.

“Yogi Bear” is live-action with CG animals, an area that is a special strength of R&H.

It is unusual but not unprecedented for a visual effects company to take such a credit. CafeFX invested in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and had associate producer credit on the pic.

The company’s strength in photorealistic animals is reflected in its other projects as well:

  • “Toad Trip,” a family comedy that features live-action actors with a CG toad. Stephen Herek (“101 Dalmatians”) is set to direct. Script is by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (“The Fighter”).Herek will do “Toad Trip” after finishing “The Chaperone” for WWE Entertainment (Daily Variety, June 8).

    Lee Berger, prexy of the film division at R&H, said, “The stated goal was to be shooting in autumn for it to come out next spring or summer. Whether that happens or not depends on casting.”

    R&H acquired the property in turnaround from DreamWorks, where it was developed by Michael De Luca. Independent financier Social Capital is an investor in the project.

    “We did a promo test for ‘Toad Trip’ so buyers could see what the toad looked like,” said R&H director of development Venecia Duran. “(Social Capital) took that to Cannes and that helped get a lot of attention.”

    Tamasy, Martin Shore and Christopher Tuffin are producers. Johnson, Gordon Steel, Berger are executive producing.

  • R&H has also optioned the graphic novel and script for “Tales From the Farm,” and will be taking the project out to cast and directors shortly. Pic will be shot live-action with CG elements. Duran said “It’s a very sort of quirky, drama/comedy. The tone was different enough that it got our attention.” Story has a major ice hockey angle. Jeff Lemire wrote the graphic novel, which was published by Top Shelf. John Carr wrote the script.Lemire is executive producer with Steven Gilder and Alec Chorches producing.
  • Company is developing an untitled period romance set against the backdrop of a real-life natural disaster. Steve Heller is producing with Mark Wilson and Charles Wilson writing the script.

Duran called it “an epic love story” in the vein of “Titanic.”

Company also is working with Julia Pistor on several family projects based on properties owned by Blighty-based HIT Entertainment.

Berger said some future projects on the company’s slate are to be fully CG-animated, but none of those titles have been disclosed yet.

Berger said due to the recession and studios’ desire to reduce development costs, producers are more interested in having a vfx company partner early.

“They can find a project, have a script, come to a company like Rhythm & Hues, and we can do a sizzle reel or a test of their character, so when they package it and go to a director and actor, they can say here’s what it’s going to look like.”