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Film News Roundup: Disney Developing ‘Flora and Ulysses’ for Streaming Service (EXCLUSIVE)

In today’s film news roundup, Disney is developing “Flora and Ulysses” for its streaming service, Luke Wilson’s “The S—heads” gets distribution and Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” rounds out its cast.

FAMILY DRAMA

Disney is in early development of a family drama based on Kate DiCamillo’s novel “Flora and Ulysses” for its upcoming Disney DTC (direct-to-consumer) service, Variety has learned exclusively.

“Flora and Ulysses” centers on a cynical girl who spends her time reading comic books and a squirrel who is run over by the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner. The squirrel’s brush with death causes him to develop superpowers.

The book won the John Newbery Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children. Gil Netter is producing and Lena Khan will direct from a Brad Copeland adapted script. Sam Dickerman is the Disney exec.

The Disney-branded DTC streaming service will launch in the latter part of 2019, streaming the latest Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars feature films. The studio will produce four to five feature films a year exclusively for the service.

Disney is also planning to produce a number of original series for the new service, including a series based on Pixar’s Monsters franchise, a “High School Musical” series, a series from Marvel Television, and a live-action “Star Wars” series that Jon Favreau will executive produce.

DISTRIBUTION DEAL

Slate Entertainment Group has acquired worldwide distribution rights to Macon Blair’s road comedy “The S—heads,” starring Luke Wilson and Ron Funches, for its blockchain video on demand platform Binge.

Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill’s Rough House Pictures, Alex Orr, and Filmscience will produce alongside Jeremy Saulnier, Blair’s Bonneville Films and XYZ Films. SEG is fully financing the project with production to commence at the beginning of 2019.

Although it’s a global streaming platform, SEG said Thursday that it is committed to supporting the theatrical experience and will give selected films on the Binge platform theatrical windows.

Blair is directing from his own script, which follows a pair of deeply unqualified bozos who’ve been hired to transport a troubled teenage millionaire to rehab. XYZ Films, an SEG strategic partner, will oversee production on behalf of SEG and brokered the deal with CAA Media Finance, which also packaged and arranged financing for the film.

PRODUCTION START

Fox Searchlight Pictures has launched production on the satire “Jojo Rabbit” in the Czech Republic with “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi helming.

Previously announced cast include Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson. The studio announced Thursday that New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie (“Leave No Trace”) has joined the movie along with newcomer Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo. Producers are Waititi, Carthew Neal and Chelsea Winstanley with Kevan Van Thompson serving as executive producer.

“I’m stoked to begin shooting my anti-war satire,” Waititi said. “We’ve assembled an incredible cast and I couldn’t be more excited to finally ridicule Nazis and their beliefs. This film is going to piss off a lot of racists and that makes me very happy.”

The story follows an awkward young German boy, played by Griffin, raised by a single mother (Johansson). His only ally is his imaginary friend Hitler, played by Waititi. His naïve patriotism is tested when he meets a young girl, played by McKenzie, who upends his world views.

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