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Big Ideas For The Big Screen

Big Ideas For The Big Screen“Around The World in 80 Days” – the latest film project by Cary Granat and Michael Flaherty – is further cementing the Tufts graduates' vision of blending entertainment and education. Los Angeles.

Boston [06.17.04] "Around The World in 80 Days," opened nationwide this week, drawing legions of families to theaters while further cementing the vision of the two Tufts graduates who set the box-office remake in motion. Brought to the big screen by Walden Media - the entertainment studio brainchild of Cary Granat and Michael Flaherty - the film marks the latest success by the Tufts grads to blend Hollywood ideas with educational values.

"If a studio could be born that marries the best of family entertainment and a new approach to education, we could show kids an alternative of what they learn at school," Granat, former head of Dimension Films, told the Financial Times of the company's focus.

"Around The World in 80 Days" - which features an all-star cast featuring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan and long list of cameos that includes Luke and Owen Wilson as the Wright Brothers and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a lusty Turkish prince - is Walden's latest project to bring more family-friendly films with educational roots to the big screen.

The New York Times' Stephen Holden described the film as a "swatch of epic slapstick, in which three madcap adventurers from London play beat the clock in a race to circle the earth by any means necessary," and a "satisfying slice of old-fashioned storybook entertainment."

Directed by Frank Coraci - who found success with "The Waterboy" and "The Wedding Singer" - the film's "peppy and fast moving" pace, will keep kids glued to the screen while educating them in the process, reported The Boston Globe.

"No project blends curiosity and imagination better for the family audience than the adventures of going around the world in 80 days," Granat told Zap2it.com.

The film, which was shot and financed completely independently by Walden, is being distributed by Disney.

Walden was formed when Granat, had a conversation with Flaherty, then a Boston high school teacher. The two realized they could pair Granat's Hollywood successes with Flaherty's interest in raising test scores and strengthen education. In 2001, Walden Media was born.

With an ever growing library of film successes, including "Holes,""Ghosts of the Abyss" and "I Am David," Walden is steadily strengthening its established reputation as a producer of quality children's entertainment.

"The Walden brand is very specific," Granat told The Hollywood Reporter. "We're in the process of building trust with educators not just here, but in Canada as well."

Recently, Walden received another big boon by landing the rights to C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia," beating out almost every other major studio.

"We would not let them leave the room until we had a deal," Granat told the Financial Times. "We forged a relationship with the estate to work closely on the development phase of the project."

The first installment in the series - "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" - goes into production this summer and a film version of Lois Lowry's novel, "The Giver," is currently in development.

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