One of the items that’s been on filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s overflowing “to do” list for a while now is a new version of the classic fairy tale, Pinocchio. He became attached to produce the pic back in 2008, and now it looks to at last be getting underway.

Being del Toro, he’s designing this new take on Pinocchio as a much more twisted and nightmare-inducing version of the fairy tale – one that frankly was still kind of disturbing, even after it was “Disney-fied” into a traditionally-animated musical back in 1940.

Deadline says that del Toro is collaborating with the Jim Henson Company, film composer and rock musician Nick Cave (who scripted The Crow reboot), and puppeteer facility MacKinnon and Saunders (Corpse Bride, Fantastic Mr. Fox) to turn Pinocchio into a 3D, stop-motion animated feature. Mark Gustafson and Gris Grimly will direct from a screenplay penned by del Toro’s frequent writing partner Matthew Robins, based off a storyline concocted by the pair of them.

Those who’ve read Carlo Collodi’s original novel, “The Adventures of Pinocchio”, are familiar with how Walt Disney’s adaptation made the story a bit more kid-friendly overall (case in point, the titular wooden boy suffered a rather gruesome fate in the original serialized form of the book). However, Disney’s movie was still at times a traumatizing experience for younger moviegoers (and adults too, as it were), as perhaps best evidenced by this infamous scene in the film:

For his Pinocchio, del Toro is planning something even more troubling and far more surreal in design. Here are a few details from the man himself:

“[In our ‘Pinocchio’], 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.”

“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.”

If that description’s not enough to get you excited (or disturb you), check out some of the pre-production artwork for the project below:

Production on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is slated to begin in the latter half of 2011, and it could potentially reach theaters by late 2012 or the first half of 2013.

Source: The Jim Henson Company (via Deadline)