Ilumination Entertainment, Universal Pictures’ animation subsidiary, has announced that they are adapting Ricky Gervais’ bestselling children’s novel Flanimals for the big screen. The studio wants to render the story in 3-D computer-generated animation.

According to Variety, writer/producer Matt Selman (The Simpsons
Movie) is co-writing the script for the flick, and Gervais himself will voice the role of the lead character, a chubby, balloon-like purple creature named Puddy the Puddloflaj.

“It will be great to play a short, fat, sweaty loser for a change,” Gervais said about his character. “A real stretch.”

So far, Gervais is the only voice actor associated with the project, but The Office star says he’d like to approach Danny DeVito and Samuel L. Jackson to voice roles in the film.

Ricky Gervais Wrote Flanimals With Illustrator Rob Steen

Gervais wrote his first novel, Flanimals, for Faber and Faber in 2004, with Rob Steen providing the illustrations. It takes the reader into an imaginary world populated by hideously ugly creatures that include Coddleflops (essentially a mushy puddle with eyes), Plamglotises (an ape-like creature that swallows its hands to walk), Frappled Humpdumblers (an octopus-like creature) and Honks (small Flanimals that sleep most of the time, only waking to emit an extremely loud “Honk!”).

Gervais and Steen have since collaborated on several sequels: More Flanimals, Flanimals of the Deep and Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling. The latter book was widely seen as the last of the series, since all the Flanimals were eventually eaten by the swarm-like Bletchling.

A fifth book, Flanimals: Pop Up, has been scheduled for release later this year. British broadcaster ITV was looking to develop a television series based on the books – scheduled to air in 2009 – but later dropped the project.

Universal is a latecomer to the animation game: its first real splash was with 2008’s The Tale of Despereaux. The film earned a 55% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes – with 57 out of 104 reviewers liking the film – and made $86 million in worldwide box office.

Before Flanimals goes to theatres, Illumination/Universal will release Despicable Me, a CGI film starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Danny McBride, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews. Carell will voice a character named Groo who plots – along with his wicked mother (Andrews) – to steal the moon. The Horton Hears a Who writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio will pen the script.

Flanimals is tentatively scheduled for a 2011 release.