Art to Imitate Wildlife with Tortoise and Hippo

Daily Variety reports that Shrek co-writer Roger S.H. Schulman has been attached to script a film based on the unlikely, real-life relationship between a 100-year-old tortoise and a baby hippo residing in an Indian wildlife sanctuary. Walden Media optioned the pitch from Relevant Ent.’s Mike Menchel, who was inspired by a wire-service photo of the mismatched pair of critters.

Tentatively titled Tortoise and Hippo, the film will blend photo-realistic CG animation with live-action footage, much like Walden’s upcoming adaptation of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web for Paramount Pictures and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for Disney.

The real-life animals struck up an unusual relationship after the young hippo was rescued from the Indian Ocean following the devastating tsunami that hit Indonesia and the surrounding area in December of this year.

Shulman’s script will reportedly paint the tortoise as a cranky, old reptile who uses the newcomer as a chick magnet but soon becomes a father figure to the hippo as they undertake a perilous journey back to Africa.

Menchel will produce the film while his Relevant partner Jonathan Baruch, oversees with Walden execs Alex Schwartz, Jackie Levine and Jared Mass. According to the trade, a distribution deal probably won’t be made until a master toy licensee is on board. A publishing deal has already been struck between Relevant and Penguin Books’ kid lit imprint, Grosset/Dunlap.