EXCLUSIVE: Paul McCartney’s long-gestating animated film High In The Clouds has moved a step closer to the big screen after finding its writer. Jon Croker, who wrote The Woman In Black: Angel of Death and worked on the production draft of Paddington, has signed up to pen the movie.

The project has been in development since 2009 with French studio Gaumont, which has offices in Beverly Hills, optioning it earlier this year.

The film is based on McCartney’s eponymous book, which the former Beatle wrote with children’s author Philip Ardagh and was published in 2005. It tells the story of Wirral the squirrel, who embarks on a journey to find the animal paradise of Animalia after his forest home is destroyed and his mother is killed by bulldozers.

McCartney is believed to be voicing one of the main characters and the movie will feature a number of original songs by artists including Lady Gaga.

Up and coming British scribe Croker is currently writing the script; alongside feature films including Desert Dancer, Fast Girls and In Fear, Croker’s recent projects include the US remake of French thriller The Prey for Dreamworks, The Famous Five for Working Title, a ghost story for Fox Searchlight, and an adaptation of a novel about a Ukrainian penguin. He began his career as a director’s assistant on the Harry Potter movies, working with directors Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell.

Gaumont, the oldest film studio in the world, will produce in association with Michael Lynne and Bob Shaye, co-founders of Unique Features – who have been involved with the project for years – and McCartney’s MPL Communications.  McCartney, Shaye and Lynne will serve as producers alongside Gaumont’s CEO Sidonie Dumas, vice-CEO Christophe Riandée, and president of animation Nicolas Atlan.

Croker is represented by Grand View, Independent Talent and WME, while McCartney is represented by attorney Lee Eastman, and Unique is represented by attorney Ezra Doner. WME’s Samantha Racanelli brought the project to Gaumont.