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‘Panda’ man picks ‘Prince’ project

Osborne will lead $63 million production

“Kung Fu Panda” co-director Mark Osborne has been tapped to direct Gallic 3D toon “The Little Prince.”

One of the biggest European movies this year, with a budget of €45 million ($63.4 million), “Little Prince” is produced by Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam.

Pic is an adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s 1943 novella, which has sold more than 80 million copies in about 180 languages.

“Having Mark onboard gives the project an international label of quality: He brings in his storytelling talent and level of experience,” Rassam said.

Osborne’s involvement also underscores the producers’ ambition to “make ‘The Little Prince’ for worldwide audiences on a similar scale as Miyazaki’s and Hollywood films.”

“On ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ I worked with many French animators,” Osborne said. “I look forward to building on that experience and collaborating with French talents again.”

The producers are in the process of securing an international voice cast. Production will start in 2012 for delivery in 2014.

Soumache also is producing a $25.3 million toon skein based on “The Little Prince” via his TV shingle Method Animation.

The Gallic producers have two high-bracket pics in post-production: “Upside Down,” a $57 million sci-fi romance starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess, and “Prodigies,” a $54 million 3D motion-capture thriller.

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