Variety reported today that Guillermo del Toro will direct a stop-motion animated version of the beloved children's classic PINNOCHIO in 3D beginning in 2013 for the Jim Henson Company. Stop-motion animation has seen a marked resurgence of late as studios scramble to look for ways to reinvigorate their content offerings in a stale market. Later this year we'll see the release of the Focus Features-backed ParaNorman (scheduled for release on August 17, 2012), followed closely by Tim Burton's return to the craft where he made his mark with Frankenweenie, hitting theaters October 5, 2012 via Walt Disney Studios.
Stop-motion animation is a technique where a figurine(s) or object(s) are moved incrementally, photographed and sequentially re-positioned and re-photographed to provide the illusion of movement when the frames are played back together in order. This process provides the most realistic illusion of a three dimensional space on a two dimensional plane. And boy are we nostalgic for it (exactly what the suits are counting on)!
Peep out a few pieces of concept art:
The basis of this 'black fable' surrounds an Italian wood-carver whose creation - a wooden marionette - fancies becoming a real live boy and is magically given the chance by a fairy. The metaphor of Pinnochio's nose growing whenever he tells a lie or exaggerates the truth is often taken as a mirrored parable about mankind's own weaknesses and denial to come to terms with its unavoidable realities. This sounds exactly like the kind of ripe material for del Toro's imagination who often sets children in the midst of strong, morality-grounded tales that are also steeped in historical or Gothic allegories.
It's reported that the story will be anchored during World War I and II, a period "when everyone was behaving like a puppet, except for puppets," said del Toro. He also adds that his take will be much darker than Disney's 1940 happy-go-lucky adaptation - crafted in traditional 'flat' cell animation - an more in line with the original vision of the tale's author (Carlo Lorenzini, aka Carlo Colodi) where the title character is a stubborn and ungrateful misfit. Lorenzini penned the children's novel in 1883 as 'Le avventure di Pinocchio' (The Adventures of Pinocchio) in his native Italian first in serialized form and later as a full book.
The project has been developing legs for some time. When we first caught a whiff of the del Toro/Pinnochio possibility back in early 2011, Guillermo was knee-deep with the development of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (now in perpetual limbo) for Universal Pictures and was only slated to serve in the capacities of producer/executive producer. That has now changed with the prolific filmmaker shifting over to helm the film as co-director along with Mark Gustafson who served as animation director on The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a move that will be seen as a godsend by the throngs of fans of his unique brand of storytelling (us included). Del Toro will be working off a screenplay wriiten by Gris Grimly (who wrote and illustrated the book on which the movie is based) and Matthew Robbins with Del Toro having contributed to the story.
While casting decisions have not yet been made (or at least remain unannounced), speculation has mounted that Tom Waits and Donald Sutherland have been considered by el maestro in the roles of Geppetto and the anthropomorphic Fox, respectively. The project is anticipated to be in production for about a year beginning next year. Del Toro is currently in post-production on his mega-monster epic Pacific Rim, shot in Toronto which doubled for Tokyo.
Any astute guesses as to who might potentially play Jiminy Cricket or the beautiful Blue Fairy in del Toro's production? Leave your comments below.