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Guillermo del Toro developing stop-motion Pinocchio with the help of Henson and Pathe

Guillermo del Toro, The Jim Henson Company and Pathe are moving forward with a stop-motion animated 3D Pinocchio. It is a feature adaptation of the Carlo Collodi fairy tale and will reportedly be edgier than the 1940 animated Disney classic. Gris Grimly is set to co-direct with Mark Gustafson, and production will begin later this year.  The basis of this project was Grimly's 2002 illustrated book of of Collodi’s tale.

Del Toro and Matthew Robbins crafted the story based on a script from Robbins, who has collaborated with del Toro on scripts for Mimic, the Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark remake, and the upcoming At the Mountains of Madness.  The director is producing the feature along with Jim Henson Company’s Lisa Henson and Jason Lust, and Allison Abbate. Gary Ungar is exec producer along with Pathe’s Francois Ivernel and Cameron McCracken.

This version will be for audiences 10 years and up, and will be scarier than the Disney film. Australian musician and film composer Nick Cave will serve as the music consultant for the project. The puppets and 3D elements will be developed with the UK's MacKinnon and Saunders, that did The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and the upcoming Frankenweenie.

The photo below gives us an idea of the feel which shares a core theme from the Disney film: "the innocent whose inherent goodness, purity and love for his father saves him from a series of harrowing adventures and temptations in his quest to morph from wooden puppet to real boy." 

Click the image below for the larger version:

Here is what del Toro had to say about the film:

“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. 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.”

He goes on to say:

“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.”

At the Mountains of Madness will soon have a greenlight and Del Toro and producer James Cameron will soon begin production on it for Universal Pictures. The film is an R-rated $125 million 3D live action adaptation of the HP Lovecraft book about the "discovery by scientists of horrific aliens thawing in Antarctica." Tom Cruise is attached to star in the film. Here is what del Toro had to say about this project:

“we are doing very intense prep work, we’ve shown Universal tests, designs and they are very very happy. I hope to start this as soon as possible, by May. This long process has been a blessing, because we’ve had two years of full pre-production. I have gotten to be involved in every meeting and key decision, during part of The Hobbit process and post-Hobbit.”

Unless del Toro plans to clone himself, which would be fine with me, he is going to have a lot on his plate. Despite being an accomplished multi-tasker, how does del Toro have time to get involved? Deadline reports that when he and Robbins originally wrote the screenplay nearly four years ago, he plannned to direct. Del Toro has long been a stop motion fan, saying:

“I’ve had a special effects house for a decade in Mexico, and we were one of the first stop motion animated houses where a lot of influential animators trained. I put that down to do Pan’s Labyrinth and when Matthew and I came back to it in 2008, we added some great ideas that made it funnier and livelier, and we enlisted the aid of Nick Cave. For me, it was most important to find that voice and a big  part of that is the music of the movie. But I could not make the time to direct it myself.”

Grimly is a perfect choice to helm the film since his original book animation was the project’s catalyst. Gustafson is also great becasue he was the animation director of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Del Toro goes on to say:

“We’ve designed key frames and characters, we know the mood and the feel, we’ve created a bible. Shooting stop motion animation takes a lot time, but we’ve got the right team and I will be there for daily or weekly updates on how it’s going."

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