Oddworld setting 'Siege' to video game audiences

Merges social relevance, action

Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna, former Rhythm & Hues executives and co-founders of video game developer Oddworld Inhabitants, have teamed with John Williams' Vanguard Animation to develop "Citizen Siege," a CG-animated sci-fi action thriller.

Lanning will make his directorial debut on this project, and McKenna will executive produce with Vanguard execs Terry Botwick and Margaret French Isaac.

"Sherry and I have always dreamed of bringing audiences powerful and inspiring stories that push the CG-animated feature film into some exciting new territory," Lanning said. "The time for tools and technology is right, the partnership is right and the audience is ready, so this is the opportunity we've been waiting for to prove if we've got what it takes."

In "Siege," Lanning and McKenna are creating a new universe where current global conditions are extrapolated into a frightening near future where democracy has all but disintegrated under the rule of global corporatism. Well-known for heartfelt characters and socially relevant story lines, Oddworld intends to raise the intensity level as its latest hero, an ex-patriot, finds himself ensnared in a nightmarish credit racket that leaves him "repossessed."

" 'Citizen Siege' promises to be an action thriller that, like other great science fiction stories, also has incredible poignancy to the universal issues of our time," said Williams, who optioned, developed and produced "Shrek" at DreamWorks. "Lorne and Sherry are highly revered as founding masters of CG animation, and we think 'Citizen Siege' is perfectly suited to be a breakout action adventure."

Oddworld retains the video game rights for "Siege," and Lanning said a video game deal will follow.

"Interest has been high, but we did not want to secure a game agreement before the film deal was inked for the obvious benefits of launching a film production first," Lanning said. He said the plan is to develop the CG film and video game simultaneously so that both the linear and interactive elements can launch together.

Lanning and McKenna's Oddworld video game franchise has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide during the past 10 years. Williams said he was a fan of the company's "Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee" video game, which he called "a genre-busting original."

"I'm a storyteller, and solid stories transcend all mediums, of which 'Star Wars' and 'Lord of the Rings' are the prime examples," Lanning said. "As we head deeper into the 21st century, film, television and interactive design will continue to grow more intertwined."

Oddworld is repped by CAA.