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‘Little Prince’ toon gets a helmer

Osborne will lead $63 mil production

PARIS — Top U.S. toon helmer Mark Osborne, who co-directed “Kung Fu Panda,” has been tapped to direct Gallic S3D animated feature “The Little Prince.”

One of the biggest movie projects to launch from Europe this year, with a budget of E45 million ($63.4 million), “Little Prince” is produced by Aton Soumache (“Renaissance”) and Dimitri Rassam (“The Children of Timpelbach”).

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

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

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

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 S3D motion-capture thriller.

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