Ron Howard.

Imagine Entertainment co-founder Ron Howard will direct The Shrinking of Treehorn, the first of four live-action animated co-productions between his company and Animal Logic Entertainment.

Paramount Pictures will release the film based on a 1971 children’s book by Florence Parry Heide with illustrations from Edward Gorey.

Rob Lieber (Peter Rabbit, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day) is writing the script, which follows Treehorn, a boy who begins shrinking after playing a strange board game, which goes largely unnoticed by his parents. He spends an unhappy day and night until he discovers a magical game that restores him to his natural size.

It will be Howard’s first animated feature as a director, a move suggested by Animal Logic Entertainment CEO Zareh Nalbandian, who signed a co-production agreement with Imagine in 2017.

When the JV was announced Imagine chairman Brian Grazer said: “The animation space consistently outperforms other genres and we wanted to enter into that space by partnering with a company that is at the forefront of creative and technical achievement.

“Animal Logic is one of the industry’s most highly regarded digital production studios and I am excited for what we can create by combining our resources and talent in storytelling.”

Nalbandian tells IF: “Being able to tap into the strength of an incredible talent pool in our animation studios in Sydney and Vancouver is a huge advantage, giving us the confidence and ability to execute innovative, ground breaking content.

“Production schedules will be determined by the films being ready to go into production, but our ambition is to greenlight at least one a film a year.”

Also set up at Paramount is Rainbow Serpent, an an original concept rooted in Australian Indigenous culture, from Stuart Beattie; no director is attached yet.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Imagine and Animal Logic on these two very exciting projects and hope this marks the beginning of a long and wonderful collaborative relationship,” Paramount Animation president Mireille Soria told Variety.

The slate includes Zero, a buddy comedy from first-time feature director Carlos Stevens and writers Jonathon Stewart and Eyal Podell (The Angry Birds Movie 2, Cars 3), to be distributed by Warner Bros. The film explores the connection between family and technology, in the vein of Pixar’s Inside Out.

The fourth title in the JV is Muttnik, a live-action hybrid about a dog launched into space by the Russians, who crosses the space-time continuum and returns home to his family an evolved creature. It will be scripted by Mike LeSieur (The Grinch, Keeping Up with the Joneses). The director and distributor are yet to be announced.

“In my view Stu Beattie, Rob Lieber and Mike make the perfect trifecta,” Nalbandian concudes.

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