Lionsgate nabs 'Happytime Murders'

Comedy thriller has been in development at the Jim Henson Co. since 2008.

"Happytime Murders," a comedy thriller written by Todd Berger and to be directed by Brian Henson -- son of Jim Henson -- has landed at Lionsgate.

The project has been in development at the Jim Henson Co. since 2008, when it picked up the script as a spec. Lionsgate's acquisition gives the risky project -- a dark adult story featuring puppets -- a shot at getting made, with insiders talking about a possible January start, depending on when a star can be found for the lead.

"Happytime" takes place in a world where humans and puppets coexist, with the puppets viewed as second-class citizens. When the puppet cast of 1980s children's TV show "The Happytime Gang" begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet -- with a drinking problem, no less -- takes the case with his former human partner. Think "Avenue Q" meets "L.A. Confidential."

Berger, repped by the Kohner Agency, Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment and Eclipse Law, wrote the script from a story he wrote with Dee Austin Robertson.

Henson is producing with his sister, Lisa Henson.