Walden Media, the NewYork-based production outfit run by Cary Granat and backed by PhilipAnschutz's The Anschutz Company, has signed a two-year first-look NorthAmerican distribution deal with The Walt Disney Studios (TWDS). The dealfollows from two separate project deals between the two companies: Disney hadpreviously acquired North American and UK distribution rights to JamesCameron's Ghosts Of The Abyssand has just taken North America and most of the rest of the world on Holes starring Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight which iscurrently in post-production and scheduled for an early 2003 release.

Walden will now show all itsnew projects to Disney's Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group underpresident Nina Jacobson. "They have a first look at new projects,"Granat said yesterday. "We obviously share sensibilities, and they are looking at projects we've been developing for the last two years as well as ongoing projects. It's a unique put arrangement."

Walden is close toannouncing a series of multi-picture deals with foreign distributors in keyterritories negotiated by its foreign sales partner Summit Entertainment."We have a multi-picture arrangement with Telepool in Germany, forexample," said Granat. "In some instances, it will make sense to gowith our partners; in others, like Holes, Buena Vista International (BVI) will handle thefilms."

The new deal does notinclude Around The World In 80 Days,an epic new version of Jules Verne's novel starring Jackie Chan to whichParamount has domestic rights and Summit international. As to which companywill distribute Walden's planned film franchise of CS Lewis's TheNarnia Chronicles, Granat would notbe drawn. "I have no comment," he said. Walden has signed Shrek director Andrew Adamson to direct the firstadaptation from the book series - The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

Walden was created byGranat, the former head of Disney-owned Dimension Films, to make films witheducational and learning applications such as Ghosts Of The Abyss, James Cameron's large-screen 3D underwaterexploration of the wreck of the Titanic which will be released in North Americain April 2003 in both large-screen and traditional 35mm theatres, or Holes, an adaptation of the children's novel byLouis Sachar about a young boy sent to a Texas juvenile detention center for acrime he didn't commit. The company has also shot I Am David, a film of the classic Anne Holm novel with JoanPlowright and Jim Caviezel in leading roles.

"We will work togetherwith Disney on traditional and non-traditional marketing of the films,"said Granat, referring to the learning outreach programmes he intends to put inplace for each film. "The philosophy behind the kinds of filmsthey're choosing to make perfectly complements ours," said TWDSchairman Dick Cook in a statement.

"Cary has always beenan innovator and made excellent choices throughout his career, and we thinkhe's continuing on that trend," added Jacobson. "Walden Mediais coming forth with some of the most interesting projects around andwe're both honoured and excited to have them here with us."