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Sony Animation And Columbia Teaming Up For Smurfs Pic

Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation have obtained the motion picture rights to the SMURFS from Lafig Belgium S.A. via producer Jordan Kerner.

The parties will develop a live action/animated major motion picture based on the iconic and lovable sky-blue classic characters.

David Stem and David Weiss are in negotiations to be brought on board to write the screenplay. Stem and Weiss are the award-winning screenwriters behind SHREK 2 and 3, and other notable animated projects including THE RUGRATS MOVIE, and JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS.

"Through Animation and Imageworks, our visual effects and character animation studio, we have an extraordinary capability to mix animation and live action having created a number of fully-realized CG characters in live action films from STUART LITTLE to SPIDER-MAN 3," said Bob Osher, president of digital production for Sony Pictures Ent.

" This is our first hybrid film and we're excited to expand our creative initiatives in this direction" said Minghella, president of production for Sony Pictures Animation.

The SMURFS project is the first new piece of development Minghella and her team will oversee since joining the division in April.

Best known in the U.S. for the long-running Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the SMURFS were created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, known throughout the world as Peyo. The SMURFS -- originally called LES SCHTROUMPFS in French -- were created for a Belgian series of comic books, first as minor characters, but soon taking on a life of their own. The peaceful little characters were featured in a bestselling line of statuettes (selling more than 300 million worldwide), models, games, toys, theme parks, and, of course, the immensely popular television series.

Running as part of NBC's Saturday-morning lineup from 1981-1990, the cartoon was a huge critical and commercial success, twice winning Daytime Emmy Awards for Best Children's Entertainment Program, running for 256 episodes, and inspiring seven specials.

Sony will begin a licensing effort around the Classic Smurfs characters at this year's Licensing Show beginning today in New York.

The movie rights to the property were secured in 2002 and Kerner had been developing a SMURFS based feature at Paramount/Nickelodeon, which has an option to co-finance the film and distribute internationally. The development of the script will be overseen for Kerner Ent. by Ben Haber and the movie will be executive produced by Haber and Paul Neesan.

Kerner is the producer, most recently, of CHARLOTTE'S WEB, a live- action/CG adaptation of the E.B. White classic novel.