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Call it a case of one eagle with two nests. There’s a documentary version of The Eagle Huntress that made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was promptly bought by Sony Pictures Classics. And there’s an animated remake at 20th Century Fox Animation, which just gained some added momentum with Ice Age helmer Chris Wedge signing on to direct.
It may seem odd that two different studios — Sony and Fox — will bring to the big screen two versions of the story of a Kazakh teen girl in Mongolia who broke the falconry gender barrier. But this was no ordinary deal.
Fox had been developing a broader film on Mongolian falconry — the male-dominated tradition of training a bird of prey for hunting — and the competitions it spawns for at least a year when Sundance announced that it was debuting the YA-friendly, subtitled doc in its kids section (Daisy Ridley quickly boarded the girl-power film as an executive producer and signed on to narrate an English-language version). Reluctant to lose the work already done by Wedge (wearing his producer’s hat) and writer Darren Lemke, Fox scrambled to buy animation remake rights.
“In the last several years, I’ve sold the feature remake rights for many documentaries, but I’ve not seen—and I think it is unprecedented—a deal for feature animation remake rights, especially to a major studio,” says attorney Marc Simon, an executive producer on the doc who repped the filmmakers. “Two years ago, while packaging the film, director Otto Bell predicted that the documentary would be ripe material for creating an animated feature.”
There’s no question that SPC’s film will come out first given the amount of time it takes to make an animated film. SPC, which paid $2 million for distribution rights in North America, Latin America, Germany, Australia/New Zealand, Scandinavia and Asia, is eyeing a September release, with Ridley narrating. But now that UTA, which reps Wedge, has closed a deal for him to direct, Fox is officially in this falconry contest.
A version of this story first appeared in the May 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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