Today's Variety is reporting that Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) has hired a host of animation heavyweights including the director and producer of The Lion King, two directors from Fantasia 2000, nationally known cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and Neil Gaiman, the best-selling author of American Gods and the Sandman graphic novels.  Both Feiffer and Gaiman have had animation experience.  Feiffer won an Oscar for his cartoon Munro in 1961, while Gaiman did an excellent job of adapting Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke for the American market.  SPA has a number of animated features in development, though the studio is yet to announce which film will become its first entry into the marketplace.


Gaiman is writing the script for Tam Lin, a fantasy property created by husband and wife artist team Brian and Wendy Froud.  Lion King director Roger Allers and Brenda Chapman (script supervisor on the Disney classic) will direct Tam Lin, which is loosely based on a Celtic folk ballad.  Meanwhile Feiffer is penning This Enchanted Forest, an original property that mirrors the author's skewed outlook.


Other projects at SPA include an Astro Boy feature film (see 'Director Signed For Astro Boy Feature'), one based on the work of nationally syndicated cartoonist Steve Moore (Bleachers), and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, based on the children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett.