Smurfs from Lafig Belgium S.A. : Sony Animation Project

June 10, 2008–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 dynamic, live action/animated major picture based on the iconic and lovable sky blue colored classic characters it was jointly announced today by Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, presidents of Columbia Pictures, Bob Osher, president of digital production for Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Hannah Minghella, President of Production for Sony Pictures Animation. Jordan Kerner will produce the film for Sony.

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.

Commenting on the announcement Belgrad said, “The Smurfs are one of the best-known franchises and among the most beloved collection of characters in the world. These classic characters have entertained millions of people and several generations all over the world for more than half a century. We're very excited to introduce a new generation to Papa Smurf, Smurfette and the other Smurfs in all of their 'three apple tall' glory.”

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 Osher. “We couldn't be more delighted or excited about working together on The Smurfs motion picture.”

“The entire team at Sony Pictures Animation is tremendously excited to team with our colleagues at Columbia Pictures and Kerner Entertainment in bringing the Smurfs to the big screen. 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.

Said Kerner, “It all began with a holiday conversation with Michael Lynton and then another with Amy Pascal. Michael was raised with the “SCHTROUMPFS” in the Netherlands. He relished them as I do and suggested that it should be a live-action/CG film. Amy felt equally that there was potentially a series of films in the making. I knew that the dream would come true when we started working with Doug, Bob and Hannah. It all became very Smurfy! I have been working with Veronique Culliford, the daughter of Peyo, the author-creator of the Smurfs, and Hendrik Coysman, CEO of Lafig Belgium to bring this franchise to the screen. They have captivated me for years with their great humor and huge hearts.”

Added Coysman, “Jordan Kerner and the entire Sony team have demonstrated such great enthusiasm for bringing Peyos creation to the big screen. Their passion, together with a true understanding of the property, will translate into a wonderful entertainment experience for fans old and new alike. We are thrilled that the Smurfs have found such a great home for their new adventures!”

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 best selling line of statuettes (selling over 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(r) 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.

Creative Artists Agency brokered the deal on behalf of Kerner and Lafig Belgium S. .A.

The movie rights to the property were secured in 2002 and Jordan 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 Entertainment 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. His many other films include Snow Dogs, Inspector Gadget, George of the Jungle, the Mighty Ducks franchise, The Three Musketeers, Fried Green Tomatoes, When a Man Loves a Woman, Red Corner, Up Close and Personal, The War, Miami Rhapsody, and Less Than Zero. Among the films and miniseries he has produced for television are “A Wrinkle in Time,” “A House Divided,” “Mama Flora's Family,” and “Heat Wave,” which won four Cable ACE awards, including best picture, an Emmy Award, a WGA Award, and an NEA Award.