EXCLUSIVE: Rob Minkoff, Yair Landau produce family animation.

GFM has boarded sales on family animation Blazing Samurai, which is being produced by former vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Yair Landau (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) and The Lion King director Rob Minkoff.

Ed Stone and Nate Hopper’s script, partly inspired by Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, tells the story of Hank, a scrappy, wide-eyed pooch that dreams of becoming a Samurai. In order to fulfil his dream, he travels to a small town in the middle of ancient Japan, which turns out to be inhabited exclusively by cats.  

Although beset by prejudice, Hank perseveres, befriends a once great Samurai cat and fastest blade in the East, Jimbo, and learns not only how to be a great warrior, but how to be an even better dog.

Landau said: “Blazing Samurai is a broadly appealing family film that marries a classic western narrative with brilliant Japanese visuals. We are fortunate to be working with a truly top notch team of experienced artists who are bringing to life a uniquely compelling story.”

“I am thrilled to serve as a producer on this very exciting project,” said Minkoff. “I’ve always loved classic Japanese Samurai movies and Mel Brooks. It may not be the most obvious combination but that’s what they said about the teriyaki bagel. ’Blazing Samurai’ is a very funny action-comedy and I hope global audiences will come along for the ride.”

Landau and Minkoff are joined on the production team by Landau’s partner at Mass Animation, Susan Purcell.  

Guy Collins of GFM said: “We are always looking for high end animation stories with great characters and Blazing Samurai hits all the go buttons. It’s funny and thrilling with strong underlying family themes in the tradition of all the great animal-led animated movies.”

The film is set to start full animation next year for delivery in 2017 and budgeted at $40m.

In other GFM news, Mr & Mrs Smith producer Lucas Foster has come on board to produce GFM’s long-gestating cyber sci-fi thriller Neuromancer

Foster said: “Neuromancer is a seminal book in the science fiction pantheon and it had a big influence on me when it was first published. A number of visionary films and filmmakers have paid homage to the ideas that first appeared in William Gibson’s original vision. I am excited to do my part to adapt this book to our modern techno-culture.”

Also on GFM’s slate are thriller Severance, due to be directed by Asger Leth, recently announced Henry Cavill action-thriller Stratton, and Terry Jones comedy Absolutely Anything.