Sony shoots for ‘’AstroBoy"

posted on by Scott Green
Variety reports hoping to enjoy the same box office -- and merchandising -- riches yielded this year by hit cartoons ‘’Monsters, Inc.'' and ‘’Shrek,'' Sony Pictures is developing its first all computer-animated movie.

‘’AstroBoy,'' scheduled for sometime in 2004. The studio's Imageworks f/x facility has already begun tackling test footage, and a greenlight is thought to be imminent.

The story follows a permanently youthful robot boy modeled after the deceased son of a research scientist. Originally intended to be kept a secret, the Pinocchio like character becomes a renowned superhero -- complete with devices like laser-firing fingers, uncanny hearing and jet-powered boots -- all eventually used to repulse an alien invasion of Earth.

Eric Leighton, who co-directed Disney's ‘’Dinosaur,'' has signed a seven-figure deal to shoot from a script by Todd Alcott (''Antz'') and Ken Kaufman (''Space Cowboys'').

While the ‘’Dinosaur'' budget was $150 million-$200 million, easily qualifying the film as the most expensive of all time on a cost-per-minute basis, the ‘’AstroBoy'' budget is as yet unset, say insiders. Leighton directed that film with Ralph Zondag.

The ‘’AstroBoy'' project marks a policy shift for Sony. In recent months, the studio had considered selling Imageworks, but found no takers. Facing a dearth of suitors and having seen the impressive sequences created for the ‘’Stuart Little'' sequel, Sony brass is now eyeing Imageworks as a possible Pixar, the Disney-linked powerhouse behind the ‘’Toy Story'' films and ‘’Monsters, Inc.''

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