Oscar-nominated Shane Acker (9) will direct Reel FX‘s currently untitled CG animation, based on the Dark Horse Comics series by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. Darren Lemke (Turbo, Shrek Forever After) is adapting the Beasts Of Burden project, about a team of fearless four-legged “Watch Dogs” who investigate parananormal activities in the neighborhood of Burden Hill and defend their humans from the supernatural. Reel FX President of Animation Aron Warner will produce alongside Mike Richardson for Dark Horse Entertainment and Andrew Adamson for Strange Weather. The Dallas- and Santa Monica-based Reel FX is also at work on the Guillermo del Toro-produced Day of the Dead-themed Book Of Life, to be released October 10, 2014 by Fox Animation, and the Jimmy Hayward-directed Turkeys, in theaters November 14, 2014 via Relativity Media.
EXCLUSIVE: Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures has hired Focus Features executive Matthew Plouffe to be its new SVP Production. Plouffe, who has spent the past six years in the New York headquarters of Focus, will move to Los Angeles and start the job Oct. 1. Plouffe is currently Focus’ Director of Production and has worked on such Focus films as the Sam Mendes-directed Away We Go, Shane Acker’s 9, the Ryan Fleck/Anna Boden-directed It’s Kind of A Funny Story and most recently on the Lone Scherfig-directed adaptation of One Day that stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Plouffe wanted to move West, and the transition was done with the blessing of Focus Features chief James Schamus, who wrote and produced Maguire’s breakout film as an actor, The Ice Storm. “All of us at Focus have been blessed over the past six years to see Matt grow to become one of the smartest, hardest-working and kindest execs out there, and while we’re sad to see him go, he couldn’t have found a better opportunity than the one Tobey has offered. It’s great to see two of the smartest people in the business teaming up,” Schamus said.
EXCLUSIVE: HIT Entertainment, rights holder to the Thomas the Tank Engine kiddie juggernaut, is moving forward with its first live action theatrical film. Shane Acker, who directed the 2009 animated film 9, will direct a film set in Sodor, the island of talking trains., where Thomas is among a litany of characters . Weta Workshop and Mattel’s entertainment properties design team have joined the creative team, and the financing and distribution is being sold by Cinetic Media and the UTA Independent Film Group. the script was written by Chris Viscardi & Will McRobb. and Shrek the Third’s Josh Klausner.
Created 65 years ago, Thomas the Tank Engine has been the number one preschool toy license in the UK for 11 years. It has held the top spot in the US for a decade. Since the core audience of Thomas is preschool age, the choice of Acker as director is surprising. After all, he’s best known for turning his student short film 9 into a Tim Burton/Timur Bekmambetov-produced animated feature about a rag doll that awakens in a post apocalyptic world and battles a soul-stealing monster. Acker acknowledges that he wants to broaden the movie’s audience beyond pre-schoolers, but has no interest in causing nightmares.
“I’m a recent father, with a 20-month old daughter,” he told Deadline. “We lead such busy lives in Hollywood, always running and hustling, but children tend to slow you down a bit and reconnect you with that inner …