EXCLUSIVE: The animated feature The Nut Job has drawn a voice cast that will be led by Katherine Heigl, Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Stephen Lang, Sarah Gadon, and Jeff Dunham. The feature, which Peter Lepeniotis will direct based on his 2005 short film Surly Squirrel, is a co-production between Canada-based ToonBox Entertainment and Korea-based Redrover Co, Ltd. Redrover is financing with plans to release next year.

Written by veteran Disney animation scribe Lorne Cameron (Brother Bear, Over The Hedge), The Nut Job is an action-packed comedy set in the late 1950s in fictional Oakton. Pic follows the travails of the mischievous squirrel Surly and his rat pal Buddy as they plan a nut store heist that gets out of hand.

Thom Chapman and Graham Moloy are producing and Daniel Woo, Hong Kim, Mike Karz, and Tom Yoon are executive producers, in association with Gulfstream, headed by Karz and Bill Bindley. Gulfstream will make the distribution deal.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the cast that’s being assembled for our first feature,” said Chapman, ToonBox vice president. “They have brought the film to a whole new level. Each voice is perfect for their respective roles, and they truly make the characters come alive.”

Lepeniotis has worked with Pixar Animation Studios and ILM and as an animator on such films as Fantasia 2000 and Toy Story 2. His first project with ToonBox was the animated TV series Bolt’s & Blip. Heigl, Fraser and Dunham are represented by CAA, Arnett and Gadon by WME and Lang by Innovative. Gadon’s also repped by Creative Drive Artists in Canada.

Here is Lepeniotis’s Surly Squirrel short, which looks pretty good from here: