In February 2011, we reported that Guillermo Del Toro was developing a 3D stop-motion animated adaptation of Pinocchio with author Gris Grimly and Mark Gustafson co-directing based off Grimly’s 2002 book. Today, Variety reports that Del Toro has now stepped in to co-direct with Gustafson (there’s no mention of Grimly). Del Toro is currently in post-production on the blockbuster monster movie Pacific Rim, which is due out July 12, 2013. He and Gustafson (animation director for Fantastic Mr. Fox) plan to start a year-long shoot for Pinocchio in summer 2013. Del Toro wrote the script with Grimly and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark co-writer Matthew Robbins.
According to Variety, the story will be set in Italy between World War I and World War II. “It was when everyone was behaving like a puppet,” says Del Toro, “except for puppets.”
When we previously reported on the project, Del Toro was only set to produce. He also said that this Pinocchio would be “more surreal and slightly darker,” adding:
“The Blue Fairy is really a dead girl’s spirit. Pinocchio has strange moments of lucid dreaming bordering on hallucinations, with black rabbits. The sperm whale that swallows Pinocchio was actually a giant dogfish, which allows for more classical scale and design. The many mishaps Pinocchio goes through include several near-death close calls, a lot more harrowing moments. The key with this is not making any of it feel gratuitous, because the story is integrated with moments of comedy and beauty. He’s one of the great characters, whose purity and innocence allows him to survive in this bleak landscape of robbers and thugs, emerging from the darkness with his soul intact.”
Variety reports that Del Toro “is planning to work on a re-design for Pinocchio,” but provided no further details. This will be Del Toro’s first time directing an animated feature, although he’s worked with DreamWorks Animation as a creative consultant on Megamind and as an executive producer on Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2, and the upcoming Rise of the Guardians.
I’m glad Del Toro plans to hit the ground running right after he’s done with Pacific Rim, especially since he hasn’t gotten a film to the big screen since 2008′s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. However, his plan for Pinocchio will delay his adaptation of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, and his adaptation of Disney’s The Haunted Mansion ride.
It’s also worth noting that Del Toro might be in a race with Tim Burton‘s Pinocchio, which would star Robert Downey Jr. as Gepetto. While the two movies couldn’t be more different (one is animated, the other is live-action), to audiences and to studios, they’re both Pinocchio movies, and being first could make a serious impact on box office. However, I expect Del Toro to get his adaptation in theaters first since Burton and Downey have so many other options for their next pictures.