Former Disney producer Peter Schneider and producing partner Elisabetta di Mambro, in association with Broadway Across America and Mehr! Entertainment, have acquired the worldwide rights to adapt Sara Gruen’s best-seller Water For Elephants as a stage musical. The novel, published by Algonquin Books, has sold  over 10 million copies worldwide.

Here’s their description of the story:

In this Depression-era novel, young Jacob Jankowski’s life is dramatically changed when he is tossed by fate onto a train that is the home of the “Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.” Just shy of his veterinary degree, Jacob is hired to doctor the circus’s animal menagerie. During this time, he bonds with Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but emotionally troubled superintendent of animals. The tempestuous triangle that develops becomes even more complicated when Rosie, an Asian elephant with a personality to match any of the humans, enters the picture. “The Great Gray Hope” for this third-rate traveling show raises the stakes—both literally and figuratively—in this romantic saga of love and trust pitted against danger and evil.

“I have loved Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants since it was first published and was captivated by its theatricality,” Schneider, who led Walt Disney Feature Animation and brought The Lion King to Broadway,  said in the announcement.

“The novel evokes an exotic, colorful and gorgeous world and yet its very human emotions are instantly recognizable and universal,” said di Mambro, producer of The Old Woman, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe.

The producing collaboration between Schneider and di Mambro reflects the avant-garde/commercial sensibility that led to the inspired matching of the Disney hit feature The Lion King with experimental director Julie Taymor to bring the project to life on Broadway. Schneider has had a long career as producer and director, working with envelope-pushing talent.  Di Mambro has worked with the iconic stage director Robert Wilson and has her own production studio, Change Performing Arts, in Italy.

No creatives or casting were announced with the Water For Elephants deal.