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Steven Spielberg Takes First Directing Turn With Walt Disney Studios

Steven Spielberg’s long and storied career as a director had one noticeably missing partner — Disney. That changed with the announcement Monday that the Walt Disney Studios will co-produce and co-finance Spielberg’s “The BFG” with Walden Media.

Set for a summer 2016 release, “The BFG” tells the story of a young girl who sets out with the titular “Big Friendly Giant” to overcome evil, man-eating giants. The story is from Roald Dahl, author of “James and the Giant Peach” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Mark Rylance has previously been cast in the title role, with newcomer Ruby Barnhill playing Sophie amid a platoon of giants — Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, Michael David Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Adam Godley, Jonathan Holmes, Paul Moniz de Sa and Olafur Olaffsonnamed.

While he has produced films in collaboration with Disney, Spielberg said he welcomes his first directing turn with the studio. “It is a special joy to be in the director’s chair as we start ‘The BFG,’ alongside my longtime friends and film collaborators Kathy Kennedy, who introduced me to this project, Frank Marshall and Melissa Mathison,” Spielberg said. “Together with them and Disney, there are many reasons why I am so excited about this joint venture.”

Disney studios chairman Alan Horn and DreamWorks Studios CEO Michael Wright also hailed the project. “Over the years, we have enjoyed a fruitful collaboration,” said Wright, “and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with Disney in this expanded capacity on ‘The BFG.’ ”

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Spielberg is teaming with screenwriter Mathison, who last joined with him on “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”  Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer will produce, while Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Michael Siegel and Kristie Macosko Krieger are on board as executive producers. Adam Somner is a co-producer.

The July 1, 2016, opening marks the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth. The Walt Disney Studios is distributing the film in the U.S. and several international territories while Mister Smith Entertainment will oversee distribution in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Reliance will distribute the film in India.

The announcement describes “The BFG” as a Disney/Amblin/Reliance production, in association with Walden Media. Walden is both a financing and production partner, according to one of the company’s reps. It previously worked with Disney on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and “Bridge to Terabithia.”

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