EXCLUSIVE: On the heels of the breakout success of Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle, children’s book author Chris Van Allsburg and his producing partners William Teitler, Ted Field and Mike Weber have been staked to a production deal by 20th Century Fox. The aim is to generate new tent poles based on Van Allsburg’s titles, his future books and ideas currently in the works. Aside from Jumanji, which spawned the 1995 hit that was just successfully resuscitated by Sony and is headed for a sequel, Van Allsburg has had two other books adapted by Hollywood: Polar Express was turned into a motion capture animated film by director Robert Zemeckis and Warner Bros, and Jon Favreau directed Zathura for Sony. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has so far grossed $823 million worldwide for Sony.
The Caldecott Medal winning author has in his arsenal children’s titles that include The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Sweetest Fig, The Garden Of Abdul Gasazi, The Widow’s Brook, Wreck Of The Zypher, and The Stanger.”
Fox and the Van Allsburg camp confirmed the deal. Fox exec Matt Reilly will oversee the relationship. Reilly scoped out the opportunity and brought the author and his producing partners to meet with Emma Watts, Vanessa Morrison and Nate Hopper the next day. They made a quick deal. This follows another made by Fox with its Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and his Maximum Effort banner.
“Chris Van Allsburg has created a universe of imaginative and visionary stories with broad and enduring appeal,” said Teitler. “We look forward, in concert with Fox, to bringing together writers and directors to adapt and translate his work into the medium of film and think this will be an exciting magnet for the entire creative community.”
Weber added that all of the author’s titles “have the same Chris Van Allsburg magic that make for high concept hit movie adaptations.”
The vet producer Field said the deal was made more quickly than a lot he has been involved in.
Said Field: “We spread the 15 books out on a huge conference table, pitched the premise of each and when we were done, Emma said: ‘great, let’s make a deal’ so we did!”
UTA and attorney Tom Hunter negotiated on behalf of the producers and Van Allsburg.