According to Variety, in the increasingly competitive race to unspool toons, DreamWorks Animation has sped ahead and nabbed a Nov. 2, 2007, release date for its "Bee Movie," starring the voices of Jerry Seinfeld and Renee Zellweger.

Seinfeld co-wrote the pic and is producing.

The studio also announced the rest of the film's cast, making "Bee Movie" the furthest advanced animated film for 2007. No other toons due that year have selected thesps.

Along with Seinfeld and Zellweger -- who voiced the female lead in DreamWorks' most recent animated film, Shark Tale -- the studio has set Uma Thurman, Kathy Bates, Alan Arkin, Robert Duvall, William H. Macy, Tim Blake Nelson, Patrick Warburton and Oprah Winfrey to voice roles.

Matthew Broderick is in discussions to join the cast.

Castings continue the trend, particular at DreamWorks, of opting for A-list actors to provide every major voice in CGI toons.

After several years in the doldrums, animation is now red-hot in Hollywood, with Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony and Fox all cranking out storyboards and the other studios distributing toons made by outside houses.

Because animated films can take three years or more to produce, the pressure is on to stake out dates far in advance. In addition to "Bee Movie," 2007 will see DreamWorks' "Shrek 3," Sony's "Surf's Up" and Pixar's first non-Disney film, the name of which has not yet been announced. More undoubtedly will join the slate.

"Shrek 3," which unspools May 18, and "Bee Movie" satisfy DreamWorks' ambitious mandate to release two toons per year. Studio also will release its first direct-to-video pic, "Puss in Boots," that year.

"Bee Movie" is the comedic tale of Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld), a graduate bee fresh out of college who is disillusioned at having only one career choice: honey. On a rare trip outside the hive, Barry's life is saved by Vanessa (Zellweger), a florist in New York City. As their relationship blossoms, he discovers humans are mass consumers of honey and decides to sue the human race for stealing bees' honey.

Steve Hickner (The Prince Of Egypt) is directing with Simon J. Smith ("Shrek 4-D"), who is making his feature film directorial debut.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.