Guillermo del Toro To Produce Stop-Action Pinocchio

Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) announced that he will produce a 3-D, stop-motion animated version of the classic fairytale Pinocchio. But unlike its Disney predecessor, this Pinocchio will be a darker, edgier tale (think Nightmare Before Christmas, but even more surreal). According to a report by Deadline, del Toro will partner with the Jim Henson Company to produce this twisted re-imagining.

This film adaptation is based on the somewhat macabre children’s story by Carlo Collodi of a wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy. What inspired Del Toro to do this movie, besides his love of stop-animation, was a 2002 book edition of Pinocchio illustrated by Gris Grimly. Grimly earned a reputation as an artist/writer for his bizarre and eerie children’s illustrations. He was influenced growing up by the macabre in film and literature, and has written and illustrated his own bizarre spin off on classic nursery rhymes called “Wicked Nursery Rhymes.” Grimly will co-direct with Mark Gustafson. I take it as a good omen that Grimly, whose illustrations catalyzed this project, is directing. With his eerie and stylized artistic vision matched with Del Toro’s dark cinematic fantasies, I can see this film being pretty groundbreaking.

del Toro worked on the story with scriptwriter Matthew Robbins. The duo worked on past film Mimic and upcoming project At the Mountains of Madness together. Lisa Henson and Jason Lust of the Jim Henson Company are set to produce with del Toro and Allison Abate.

The soundtrack looks like it will match the edgier atmosphere as Nick Cave, a rock musician and film composer, is on board to consult. The puppets and 3-D elements are in the competent hands of MacKinnon and Saunders, the entity behind some great stop-motion animation of late including The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Corpse Bride, and the upcoming Tim Burton project Frankenweenie.

del Toro has his hands full with his upcoming horror film At the Mountains of Madness, which is only weeks away from getting a green light from Universal Pictures. He will direct the Lovecraftian tale of horrific aliens in ice, with James Cameron set to produce.

Deadline reports that del Toro wants to do a dark, surreal Pinocchio.

“There has to be darkness in any fairy tale or children’s narrative work, something the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney understood,” Del Toro said. “We tend to call something Disney-fied, but a lot of people forget how powerfully disturbing the best animated Disney movies are, including those kids being turned into donkeys in Pinocchio. What we’re trying to do is present a Pinocchio that is more faithful to the take that Collodi wrote. That is more surreal and slightly darker than what we’ve seen before.”

Of some of the key changes from the Disney version, Del Toro said,

“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.”

Production will start later this year.