Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman signs on to write scripts based on ‘Journey to the West.’

Neil Gaiman (‘The Sandman’) has been signed by Chinese television producer Zhang Jizhong to pen an adaptation of the classic Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’ for a series of big-budget 3D films.

Gaiman and producer Jizhong recently consulted with James Cameron on how to translate the 2,000 page novel into a trilogy. Said Gaiman:

“We have to do what Peter Jackson did with Lord of The Rings. We have to make it filmic, non-episodic. This story is in the DNA of 1.5 billion people.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gaiman will write “an outline over the next month that will attract enough investment to enable Zhang to hire the right director, the right Western and Chinese cast and the right team of computer animators to give the project a flight round the world.” Last year Jizhong said the film series would cost on the order of around €217 million to make.

The Hollywood Reporter also suggests that Guillermo del Toro, who is a good friend of Gaiman’s, is apparently being courted with Zhang keeping things in perspective saying, “He has shown a lot of interest but he wants to see the treatment first. Obviously the more celebrated the director, the busier they are.”

Journey to the West is a 500-year-old tale by Wu Cheng’en that is based off the real-life pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang. The story follows Xuanzang as he eventually joins ranks with the magical Monkey King, a gluttonous pig spirit, a river-ogre, and the third prince of the Dragon King, on a quest to retrieve Buddha’s scrolls from India – as a means (both literally and symbolically) of attaining enlightenment.

The tale has been adapted numerous times for both stage and screen, like the classic 1970’s TV series ‘Monkey,’ 2008’s ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and in 2007 Gorillaz collaborators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett adapted the tale into an opera titled ‘Monkey: Journey to the West.’ The most recent adaptation would be last year’s video game ‘Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.’