In his first feature deal to direct since The Shape of Water won him Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, Guillermo del Toro has made a deal with Netflix to co-direct his stop-motion animated passion project Pinocchio. Del Toro has pined to make a darker version of the wooden boy tale for the past decade. He has written the script with Patrick McHale (Over the Garden Wall and Adventure Time), and will co-direct with Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Guy Davis will serve as co-production designer, taking inspiration for the Pinocchio character from Gris Grimly’s original designs drawn from Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio.
Production will begin this fall on a version of the classic story that is less romanticized than the 1940 Disney animated classic. Del Toro’s film will be a musical set in Italy during the turbulent 1930s. This collision of innocence in a political environment of repression and growing fascism is reminiscent of the construct of his Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, a spectacular fable set in the backdrop of Francoist Spain in 1944.
Said del Toro: “No art form has influenced my life and my work more than animation and no single character in history has had as deep of a personal connection to me as Pinocchio. In our story, Pinocchio is an innocent soul with an uncaring father who gets lost in a world he cannot comprehend. He embarks on an extraordinary journey that leaves him with a deep understanding of his father and the real world. I’ve wanted to make this movie for as long as I can remember. After the incredible experience we have had on Trollhunters, I am grateful that the talented team at Netflix is giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to introduce audiences everywhere to my version of this strange puppet-turned-real-boy.”
The filmmaker makes his animated film directing debut here – he has been a producer on The Book of Life and Kung Fu Panda 3 – and this follows a burgeoning relationship with Netflix that began with creating the Netflix Emmy-winning TV series Trollhunters, the first installment of the DreamWorks’ Tales of Arcadia trilogy. The next chapter, 3Below, is set to debut December 21, followed by Wizards in 2019. The filmmaker is also the creator of the upcoming Netflix series Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight.
This becomes the third substantial stop-motion animated film for Netflix. Thor: Ragnarok helmer Taika Waititi is teamed with del Toro’s Pinocchio co-director Gustafson on the stop-motion animated Bubbles, a film about Michael Jackson’s beloved pet chimp, from Isaac Adamson’s Black List-topping screenplay. After Jordan Peele won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, Netflix last March set Wendell and Wild, a stop-motion animated feature that re-teams Peele with his longtime partner Keegan-Michael Key, who’ll voice two scheming demon brothers in a film directed by James and the Giant Peach helmer Henry Selick.
Pinocchio is a co-production of del Toro, The Jim Henson Company and ShadowMachine. Latter, responsible for Bojack Horseman and The Shivering Truth, will house the stop-motion animation production. Del Toro is producing with Lisa Henson, Alex Bulkley, Corey Campodonico and Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment. Blanca Lista will co-produce. The film’s puppets will be built by Mackinnon and Saunders (Corpse Bride).
Del Toro is repped by WME and Exile Entertainment.