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Mike Johnson to Helm Tale of Despereaux

Stop-motion vet Mike Johnson, who co-directed the Oscar nominated CORPSE BRIDE with Tim Burton, is headed back to London to replace director Sylvain Chomet on Universal Pictures 3D-animated feature, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX.

Gary Ross and Allison Thomas are producing DESPEREAUX, which is based on Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Medal-winning childrens novel, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX: BEING THE STORY OF A MOUSE, A PRINCESS, SOME SOUP AND A SPOOL OF THREAD. The story concerns a literary mouse, an awkward servant girl and a conflicted rat that cross paths with a princess. Screenwriters Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi adapted the novel.

According to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, Chomet (THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE) stepped down to concentrate on his other animated project, THE ILLUSIONIST, which is based on a script that the great French comic actor Jacques Tati planned to make as a live-action film with his daughter.

Johnson told AWN that he is looking forward to his 3D debut with DESPEREAUX: Its time to embrace CG since were in the 21st century. Were going to push the look a bit into unchartered territory. The style is inspired by early Flemish painting from Medieval to the Renaissance Hieronymus Bosch and Vermeer. Its perfect for CG with lots of detail and saturated palettes. Its going to be a real challenge and Im going into it with a stop motion background. I will be trying to get CORPSE BRIDE crew to help me through the transition. Some of the key artists have their feet in both stop motion and CG.

As previously reported, DESPEREAUX represents the first production from Framestore Feature Animation, the animation unit of Framestore CFC headed by SHREK producer David Lipman. Johnson, who just returned from London, said they are in visual development and character design (some of which was already done by Chomet). Soho is buzzing with a lot of animation.