HOLLYWOOD filmmakers have picked a characterful South Lakeland market town to film scenes for the upcoming 'The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle' movie.

Filming begins in May for Universal’s live action-animated hybrid at historic areas of Kirkby Lonsdale, including Ruskin's View, Market Square and St Mary's Church.

Taking the lead role in the movie is Ironman actor Robert Downey Jr, who discovers that he can talk to animals.

Animal voiceovers will be provided by WWE wrestler John Cena (a polar bear), American singer Selena Gomez (a giraffe) and British actress Emma Thompson (a parrot).

Other cast members include Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen and Jim Broadbent.

Few details of the movie's plot have been released.

Geoffrey Buswell, chairman of Kirkby Lonsdale Town Council, said the town will be transformed back to the 1920s, when the original series of children's books by Hugh Lofting were set.

"They (location managers) have been around a couple of different places and Kirkby came out on top," he said. "The town has still got its character, where else could they have gone?

"We don't have many modern buildings that don't fit in well. The square is very easy to transform."

He added: "There's not going to be any disruption to the public except the days of shooting.

"I think most people will be quite happy but there will always will be some who aren't. Anything that brings business to the town must be good."

Robin Sadler, from the town's chamber of trade, said a number of businesses had been approached to get their agreement to having fake fronts placed over their stores.

He understood none of the actors will be heading to Cumbria but said a life-sized wooden giraffe will be used before computer imagery brings it to life.

The film is scheduled to be released on April 12 next year.

The 1998 Dr. Dolittle film starring Eddie Murphy made $294.4m at box office and generated four sequels - Dr. Dolittle 2, Dr. Dolittle 3, Tail to the Chief, and Million Dollar Mutts.

In 2013 Kirkby Lonsdale was used by the BBC for an adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's classic novel Jamaica Inn.

The town was transformed to an eerie 1820s back-drop for the production, which starred Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay.