‘Weslandia’: Kenny Ortega To Direct Feature Adaptation Of Bestselling Children’s Book

EXCLUSIVE: Radar Pictures and Bandits Roost Entertainment have tapped Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) to direct Weslandia, a feature adaptation of the international bestselling children’s book by Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman.

Shawn DeLoache (The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy) is penning the script. Producers of the family action adventure pic will include Ted Field (Jumanji, Riddick franchises), Anthony Tringali, Michael Napoliello and Maria Frisk for Radar, along with Cori Silberman and Michael Dovid for Bandits Roost. Field will also serve as executive producer.

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Originally published by Candlewick Press in 1999, Weslandia tells the story of Wes, a tween genius loner who expects, upon moving to his new home in Plainville, that his life is going to be, well, plain! Little does he know he’s soon to be tangled up, literally, in a mysterious alien jungle growing in his backyard. But when the seemingly utopian civilization he creates as well as the entire town come under threat, Wes will have to do the unthinkable — band together with new friends to stop evil supernatural forces from destroying everything he now holds dear.

In a statement on the feature take, Field shared: “Weslandia is the first children’s book since Jumanji that fully captured my imagination and I feel very privileged to be able to bring it to the big screen with a filmmaker as talented as Kenny Ortega.”

Given its blending of “heart, humor, wonder and magic,” Ortega called the project “right in my wheelhouse.” He added that it’s “a perfect opportunity for introducing fresh, breakout talent and creating a soundtrack that powerfully propels the narrative forward. I’m eagerly looking forward to the assembling of our creative team, and to bringing this vision to the screen!”

“Bandits Roost is thrilled to be working alongside such incredible creatives to bring Wes’ world to life,” added Bandits Roost co-founder Silberman. “This film will send kids on an adventure that shows them that through imagination and collaboration, creating a better world is truly in their hands.”

An Emmy- and DGA Award-winning director, producer and choreographer, Ortega is known for his work on the Netflix series Julie and the Phantoms, Disney’s High School Musical franchise, Hocus Pocus, Newsies and the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It among other projects.

Among other current projects for Radar Pictures’ Field is Amazon’s top-rated fantasy series The Wheel of Time, starring Rosamund Pike, which is heading into its third season.

Other upcoming projects for Bandits Roost include a feature adaptation of the novels The Coldest Winter Ever and American Savior, by Sister Souljah and Roland Merullo, respectively, as well as several new musicals aimed for Broadway.

Ortega is repped by A3 Artists Agency, McDonald Selznick Associates and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller; Fleischman by CAA; and Radar Pictures by Buchwald.

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