Fresh off his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro is ready for his next project — and it’s one he’s been working on for a long time. Netflix announced Monday that it’s teaming up with del Toro for a stop-motion musical version of Pinocchio that is the director’s “lifelong passion project.”
Although Disney famously created an animated version of Pinocchio in 1940 (widely regarded to be among the studio’s greatest artistic achievements), the fairy tale was first written by Italian author Carlo Collodi in 1883. Del Toro’s version in particular will draw heavily from illustrator Gris Grimly’s 2002 edition, but will still pay homage to the story’s Italian origins — this Pinocchio will be set in 1930s Italy, under the reign of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. One of del Toro’s previous films, Pan’s Labyrinth, also juxtaposed a fairy tale story against the historical reality of European fascism.
Del Toro has been trying to bring his Pinocchio to life for so long that he first talked about it to EW’s Clark Collis in 2012. The director explained then what drew him to the story of a puppet who just wants to be a real boy.
“In a strange way, two of the stories that fascinate me the most are kind of related, which is Frankenstein and Pinocchio,” del Toro said back then. “They are both about creatures that are created and then get lost in a world they don’t understand. And they are both journeys of understanding, and journeys of evolution of the spirit. When we started working on Pinocchio we knew very clearly that we wanted to make it different in the sense that it is not just a fairy tale but a fairy tale that actually moves you and emotionally affects you. It deals with ideas that are relevant to everyone, to all mankind in a way.”
Del Toro also told EW how he imagined his version differing from the famous Disney adaptation: “Well, the Disney version is one of my favorite animated movies of all time. What I’m going for is a PG-13 — more adolescent, more teenage. I hesitate to say just darker, because it’s not just darker. It is a tale that is adapted to a more complex reality, more complex ethical questions. It’s more a tale for youth than a tale for just kids.”
When del Toro gave that interview in 2012, he was also hard at work on Pacific Rim. That film’s battles between demonic kaiju and giant robots featured many creature designs by Guy Davis, who had previously honed his monster design skills on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. Davis will now serve as co-production designer on Pinocchio, taking inspiration from Grimly’s designs. Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) will co-direct alongside del Toro, while Patrick McHale (Over The Garden Wall, Adventure Time) will co-write the script. Netflix expects production to begin this fall.
In case you’re wondering what Disney has to say about all this, the House of Mouse is also pushing ahead on its own new live-action version of Pinocchio, to be directed by Paddington‘s Paul King.