Chronicles OfNarnia backer WaldenMedia has teamed up with Mandate Pictures to co-finance Mr Magorium's WonderEmporium, thedirectorial debut of screenwriter Zach Helm which will star Natalie Portman,Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman.

Richard Gladstein of FilmColony and Jim Garavente areproducing the film which is scheduled to start shooting in Toronto at the endof the month.

Portman stars inthe film as Molly Mahoney, the awkward and insecure manager of Mr Magorium'sWonder Emporium, a fantastical toy store. But when Mr Magorium (Hoffman), the243 year-old eccentric who owns the emporium bequeaths it to her, a dark andominous change takes over the store.

"We cannot be prouder to join Joe Drake and his team atMandate as partners on this incredibly magical story," said Walden Media CEOCary Granat in a statement. "They have done a brilliant job packaging thefilm. We look forward to working with Zach Helm, who is truly an inspiredyoung filmmaker, and to be reteaming with the enormously talented RichardGladstein." Granat had worked with Gladstein when the former was an executiveat Miramax/Dimension where Gladstein produced several films in the last decade.

Walden's seniorvice president of production Jackie Levine and creative executive Jared Mossare overseeing the project for the company, while Mandate will be representedby president of motion pictures Nathan Kahane and director of development JimMiller.

Walden COO JessWittenberg and senior vice president of business and legal affairs JimMeenaghan negotiated the deal on behalf of the company. Mandate's CFO BrianGoldsmith and executive vice president of business affairs Rob McEntegartnegotiated for Mandate with Stephen Scharf of O'Melveny & Myers.

Walden's familyfilm-skewed slate in 2006/7 also includes films of Carl Hiaasen's Hoot and Thomas Rockwell's How To EatFried Worms both for NewLine as well as the big budget Paramount/Nickelodeon Movies collaboration Charlotte'sWeb, a Disneyco-production of Bridge To Terabithia and the sequel to The Chronicles Of Narnia.