EXCLUSIVE: The classic Peeps marshmallow candies could be making the leap from Easter baskets to the big screen via filmmaker Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City, Underdog), who has optioned film and TV rights to the sugary confections along with his producing partners Brent Tinter and Brian E. Rochlin. Bethlehem, PA-based candy company Just Born moves $2 billion of the baby chicks and bunny-shaped treats a year domestically and has started to branch out into Peeps-themed merchandising in recent years. The company sprung for a full-length animation feature pitch from Rifkin & Co. to adapt Peeps into a Lego Movie-esque family epic set the night before a Peeps diorama contest, when a wayward Peep gets misplaced and must adventure through the fantasy lands of different-themed dioramas before the contest’s judging begins.
Rifkin got the idea from watching his niece and nephew construct their own Peeps diorama for a school project. That led him to discover the elaborate annual contests hosted by the likes of the Washington Post, whose winning entry this year was a black and white diorama of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech – fashioned, of course, entirely out of the sugar-dusted marshmallows.
The idea is to partner with a studio and fold in pre-existing IP, as WB did with Lego minifigs, DC comics characters, and historical and pop culture figures. The filmmakers are currently locking story points before Rifkin writes the script. In addition to his genre work, Rifkin’s got a history of penning family-friendly adventure features with Mouse Hunt and Small Soldiers under his scripting belt. He most recently completed feature Reality Show, adapted from his Showtime series of the same name. He’s next slated to direct meta-thriller Director’s Cut, from a script by Penn Jillette (Penn and Teller) about a movie star being stalked on a film set. Attorney Nick Gladden of Morris Yorn negotiated the Peeps deal on behalf of the producers.