Japanese animation director Mamoru Oshii is gearing up to start work on a big-budget adaptation of Hiroshi Mori's five-part novel series The Sky Crawlers.

The film will be produced by Oshii's long-time backer Production IG in collaboration with Nippon Television Network (NTV). Warner Brothers Japan will distribute the film as part of its 2008 slate, continuing its involvement with locally produced films.

'It's an honour for Warner Brothers Japan and our Burbank headquarters to distribute a film by such an internationally acclaimed fimmaker. We will put our best efforts into the release,' said WBJ President William Ireton.

Set in an alternate future, the story focuses on boy and girl teenaged pilots called 'Kildren', who are raised to engage in aerial battles over Europe for the entertainment of adults. The film will employ 3D animation for the dogfights and feature a love story, both a departure for Oshii.

Oshii has tapped young screenwriter Chihiro Ito (Crying Out Love, In The Center Of The World) to write the screenplay adaptation of Mori's series, which has sold over eight million copies in Japan.

Production IG also produced Oshii's Ghost In The Shell and sequel Innocence. The latter became the first Japanese animated feature to compete for the Palme d'Or in Cannes, while Oshii's Tachigui - The Amazing Lives Of The Fast Food Grifters screened out of competition at last year's Venice Film Festival. The company was also behind the anime sequences in Kill Bill: Vol 1.

Production IG is also currently acting as an agent to develop a live-action version of Ghost In The Shell with a US studio.

Production IG also sold the live-action remake rights for Blood: The Last Vampire to major French financer and distributor Pathe. Korean star Jun Ji-hyun heads the cast of the film, produced by Bill Kong, which is currently in production.