Universal acquires 'Dragonology' rights

Leonard Hartman to write and exec produce adaptation

Universal has acquired the film rights to the children's book series "Dragonology," setting Leonard Hartman to write and executive produce the adaptation.

The faux nonfiction books by Dugald A. Steer are based on the conceit that dragons actually exist as revealed by the Victorian dragonologist Ernest Drake. An underlying theme is that dragons should be studied and revered in the same way as any rare species.

Hartman's fantasy adventure take revolves around a group of dragonologists who go on a globetrotting quest to keep a corrupt man from taking control of the world's dragons and using them to wipe out humanity.

The first book, devised and published in the U.K. in 2003 by Templar and in the U.S. by Candlewick Press, has sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide in 32 languages. Subsequent titles, from books on tracking and taming dragons to a code-writing kit, have brought the total sales for all "Dragonology" titles to 5.7 million, according to its publisher.

Templar recently signed a licensing agreement with video game producer Codemasters, which will see "Dragonology" adapted into Nintendo Wii and DS games.

Hartman most recently penned the script for Universal's "Fury," which is in development, and he wrote the short "Gray Matter." He is repped by ICM and Flashpoint Entertainment.

Universal senior vp production Jeff Kirschenbaum is shepherding for the studio.