Walden Media has set Cameron Fay to adapt the Frank Cottrel Boyce book Cosmic, which is one among a handful of projects that Walden is moving forward with since restructuring its company in August. The book, which …
EXCLUSIVE: The studio specializing in children’s fare and backed by Philip Anschutz’s Anschutz Film Group is laying off over a dozen employees across multiple departments, I’m told, as Walden Media restructures. That’s a significant number for a company that only has about 50 staffers on the payroll. Walden, whose hits include the Chronicles Of Narnia films, Bridge To Terabithia, and Charlotte’s Web, is axing development of original content and will instead focus on co-financing studio-submitted and third party-produced film and TV projects. Some of the layoffs are effective immediately and others will roll out in the next few weeks. Here’s a statement from Walden Media on the staffing cuts and new content focus:
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has acquired rights to turn Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? into a live-action film involving Jennifer Lopez. I’d heard that Walden Media will develop the property as a vehicle for Lopez to play the title character, but Walden Media said at this point, she’s attached to produce only. The hope is to turn the property into National Treasure meets The Thomas Crown Affair. The logline: When the ACME agency’s greatest detective Carmen Sandiego becomes the world’s greatest thief, it’s up to her former partner to follow her clues and track her down. Their cat-and-mouse game leads the partner to confront a greater mystery: Is Carmen really a thief or a hero? The property originated as an educational computer game before it was turned into an animated TV series.
The film will be produced by Lopez and her Nuyorican Productions’ partners Benny Medina and Simon Fields, and Underground Films’ Nick Osbourne, Trevor Engelson and Devin Andre. Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick and SVP Evan Turner are steering the property after it was acquired from Hougton Mifflin. The property fits into Walden Media’s mandate to create properties that challenge kids; Carmen Sandiego is used as a teaching tool in more than half of elementary schools nationwide. The project tried the movie route once before; Disney optioned it in the late 1990s and developed a version for Sandra Bullock, but it never went anywhere.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has acquired film rights to Flat Stanley, the series of children’s books created in 1964 by Jeff Brown about the adventures of a two-dimensional person stuck in a 3D world. The plan is to shoot the film live action, using visual effects to turn the lead character into a one-dimensional hero (why do I feel like I’ve given Deadline commenters a wealth of ammunition to discuss the current state of 3D and certain leading actors with those last two sentences?)
The protagonist is Stanley Lambchop, who, after being given a bulletin board by his father to put above his bed, is flattened by it in the night. He’s OK despite his appearance and can slip under doors and entertain his brother by posing as a kite. He even solves an art heist by posing as a wall painting. The series has sold millions of copies around the world. The film will be produced by John Carls and his Wild Things Productions banner. Carls’ credits include Where The Wild Things Are as well as Rango. Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick and senior veep Evan Turner set up the project and are meeting with filmmakers for the adaptation.
EXCLUSIVE: After more than 54 years of trying, Universal Pictures is getting closer and closer to telling the unbelievable story of Olympian-turned-WWII POW Louis Zamperini in a feature film. Walden Media has just signed on to co-finance with Universal Pictures the screen adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. The Water for Elephants team of screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and director Francis Lawrence are prepping the story about the unbreakable spirit of Zamperini, the former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW at the hands of Japanese prison guards. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing; Lawrence and Mick Garris are exec producers.
Universal bought Zamperini’s rights back in the 1950s, when Tony Curtis planned to play him right after he completed Spartacus. Zamperini, still kicking at age 93, has waited all this time to see his story turned into a feature film. Baer has been pushing the ball up the hill for more than a decade, but it turned out that the best thing to happen to the project was Hillenbrand’s book, which has drawn a fresh audience to Zamperini’s story of perseverence. Universal previously turned Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit into the Gary Ross-directed hit. In book form, Unbroken blew past Seabiscuit‘s sales figures in its first four weeks, and has been at or near the top of The New York Times bestseller list since its publication six months ago.
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has teamed with Walden Media to buy rights to Bil Keane’s venerable syndicated comic strip The Family Circus, and they’ve hired Bob Hilgenberg & Rob Muir to script a live action feature. John Baldecchi and Stacy Maes are producing. Bil Keane started the strip in 1960 and continues to generate the single-panel script with his son Jeff. It is the most widely syndicated strip in the world, according to King Features. A number of studios competed for the rights for what is envisioned as a multiple quadrant family franchise. Though several members of the Keane clan have become film animators, Bil Keane resisted making a film deal all these years. Producer Baldecchi spent two years trying to track them down. He got Keane’s number, but never had his messages returned. One day, Baldecchi called and Keane picked up the phone. He made enough of an impression that Keane introduced the producer to his son Jeff. Soon they had an agreement to move forward and then studios got involved. I’m told the deal was six figures against seven-figures and went to Fox and Walden, which are partnered in the upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.