UK-based Ecosse Films is teaming with US heavyweights Walden Media,Beacon Pictures, and Revolution Studios for the fantasy film The Water Horse.

Ecosse's Robert Bernstein and Douglas Rae will produce with Barrie Osborne (The Lord of the Rings) andCharlie Lyons.

Alex Schwartz, Jackie Levine and David Kaufmann areoverseeing The Water Horse forWalden, with Lyons and Zanne Devine for Beacon and Derek Dauchy for Revolution.

Jay Russell (My DogSkip, Ladder 49) will direct from a script by Robert Nelson Jacobs andSimon Beaufoy from the novel by Babe author Dick King-Smith. Thefilm will be a live action/CGI project about a Scottish boy who befriends a seacreature. Robert Nelson Jacobs

The production will have a 14-week shoot that will start inMay. The majority of the film will be shot in New Zealand, but producers are planning a two-week shoot at a Scottish estate nearLoch Ness.

Ecosse said it considered an entirely UK shoot for the Scotland-set tale, butwere lured to New Zealand in part due to the expertise of effects company Weta Workshop and Weta Digital,which recently worked on King Kongand Walden's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. CGI work for the creature is indevelopment now although it is too early to discuss details.

Casting is inearly stages, but Bernstein noted that the leads were likely to go to UK actors.

London-based Ecosse,which previously made films including MrsBrown and Charlotte Gray, saidthat it had been working on the project for almost a decade. The film was beingdeveloped with Miramax seven years ago but fell through until Ecosse revived it with director Russell recently.

"We went out to Hollywood with Jay Russell and met with bothWalden and Beacon. Both wanted to produce the film with us and ended uppartnering together. Then they found Revolution," Bernstein says. "It's prettyamazing, you've got the cream of Hollywood wanting to partner on a project thatwe've been wanting to make for so long."

The time wasright for this kind of project, Bernstein says: "With the success of Narnia and Harry Potter, classic family films arebecoming incredibly popular. [The WaterHorse] has hit the zeitgeist in a way that perhaps 10 years ago it didn't."

Ecosse recently produced horror film Wilderness, being sold at the EuropeanFilm Market by AV Pictures, and will also start production this year for Becoming Jane, a romance about a youngJane Austen (sales at EFM through HanWay).