DreamWorks Toon Slate Takes Shape

DreamWorks Animation spilled the beans on some of the computer-animated features in development to Daily Variety. It was also announced today that actor Jack Black has signed on to voice the lead role in the upcoming comedy, Kung Fu Panda.

Dedicated to producing two animated releases theatrically each year, DreamWorks Animation is moving out of its start-up phase and focusing on getting a full slate of projects in the pipeline. The studio is moving forward with Kung Fu Panda, which is slated to share the 2008 release schedule with the recently announced sequel to the $500 million-grossing adventure comedy, Madagascar.

Storyboard artist John Stevenson (Madagascar, Shrek 2, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas) and Oscar-nominated animated filmmaker Mark Osborne (More) are directing Kung Fu Panda from a script by Monster House scribes Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab. Melissa Cobb is producing the pic about a lazy, irreverent, slacker panda named Po, who must somehow become a Kung Fu Master in order to save the Valley of Peace from a villainous snow leopard named Tai Lung.

Other candidates in development include an adaptation of Cressida Cowell’s children’s book, How to Train Your Dragon, about a Viking boy who must prove his worthiness by capturing a fire-breathing beast. Attached to direct are Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron helmer Lorna Cook and David Soren, a story artist on Shark Tale and Shrek.

Directors Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2) and Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) are developing an adaptation of vintage comic-book property Rex Havoc, which will have the monster hunter assembling a team of genetic mutants to take on invading aliens. The comic is being adapted for the screen by Maya Forbes (The Larry Sanders Show) and Wally Wolodarsky (The Simpsons).

The theme of alien invasion is also being explored with It Came From Earth!, only this time there’s a twist. Martians have to deal with the arrival of human astronauts in the script by South Park contributors Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle. No director has been assigned.

Conrad Vernon has also co-written a script with comedian/actor Harlan Williams titled Route 66. The story gives new meaning to the term "roadside attraction" as an enormous golf ball sets off on an adventure to find the love of his life, a giant blueberry that used to draw business to a produce stand across the road. Vernon and Williams pitched the concept with DreamWorks story department head Rej Bourdages, a former college roommate of Williams’.

DreamWorks Animation is releasing Aardman Animation’s Wallace & Gromit: curse of the Were-Rabbit on Oct. 7. In production for 2006 are Over the Hedge, an adaptation of the comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis, and Flushed Away, the story of a high-rise dwelling rat who learns how the other half lives when he is flushed into the sewer.