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Sony hears the roar of Christian the Lion

July 6, 2010 |  7:34 pm

Contemporary studios love movies with pre-awareness, and they love family films, so you can understand why Sony would be enamored of the story of Christian the Lion, which takes all that and throws in a tearful animal reunion for good measure.

What in the name of Gunther Gebel-Williams are we talking about? The above viral-video sensation -- about a couple of wacky Australians who raised a lion, sent it back into the wild and then went out to find it -- which is being developed as a feature.

There had been some early word that the studio was interested in a movie about John Rendall and Ace Bourke  who nearly 40 years ago, bought a lion cub at Harrod's department store, raised it and frolicked with it, only to set it free and have it recognize them a year later.  (Hey, it was the '70's.) Now that film is officially moving forward. The studio has brought on writers Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft, who are behind the upcoming John Landis movie "Burke and Hare," to write a script for the adventure story that will be produced by Hollywood mega-producer Neal Moritz (he was behind "Fast and Furious" and "I Am Legend," the latter about a different kind of wild creature) and his Original Film production banner.

A piece of an older documentary about the pair had previously been remixed to the music of Whitney Houston and found millions of viewers on YouTube, and producers are hoping that the built-in love will carry over.

There are echoes of Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" (with a happier ending) in the Christian the Lion story, as well as shades of "Everybody Loves Whales," an equally feel-good period story about the rescue of several trapped whales that Warner Bros. is eyeing as a feature with Drew Barrymore. [UPDATE -- Universal reminds us that, while Warners initially developed, it has picked it up, and is set to go into production later this year.]

Sony is already in the beastly business;  it has high hopes for the upcoming "The Zookeeper," which uses a bevy of animals to help Kevin James find romance. With all-ages films doing well, you can understand why a studio would beat their chest about this sort of picture. Plus it has lions acting like puppies. Get the Kleenex ready.

--Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Video: A portion of the documentary A Lion Called Christian. Credit: Timeless Multimedia

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If Neal Moritz's record is any indication, Christian the Lion will work undercover with the DEA to break an illegal drifting ring.


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