Guillermo del Toro is putting the finishing touches on Pacific Rim, before shooting the pilot for FX’s The Strain later this year (drawing from his and Chuck Hogan’s novel) and moving forward with the haunted house picture Crimson Peak in early 2014. So where, exactly, does that leave the filmmaker’s stop-motion Pinocchio adaptation, which the Jim Henson Company has been slowly co-developing with del Toro since 2008?
Last year, del Toro agreed to co-directing the project with Mark Gustafson (the animation director on Fantastic Mr. Fox), in addition to producing and working on the script with Matthew Robbins (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). Vocal recording was planned for this summer, with the main cast – rumored to include Daniel Radcliffe as Pinocchio and Tom Waits as Gepetto – possibly voice-acting their characters by using the “emotion capture” technique from Gore Verbinski’s Oscar-winning computer-animated western Rango.
This particularly macabre re-interpretation of Carlo Collodi’s renowned fairy tale is based on an illustrated retelling created by Gris Grimly, whose accomplishments include the gruesome short Cannibal Flesh Riot. However, things appeared to be in trouble, following recent comments made by Grimly on his Twitter account, which he has since deleted (via Bleeding Cool):
Short to the point update on Pinocchio for those inquiring: It appears that this is not the right time for such a superior-adventurous flick
Grimly pointed to mixed box office returns from Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (which grossed $67 million worldwide on a $39 million budget), as the explanation for why del Toro’s Pinocchio‘s been unable to garner the necessary funding to move forward. In fact, three critically-acclaimed stop-motion features opened last year – Frankweenie, ParaNorman and The Pirates! Band of Misfits – but all fell short of matching their budgets at the U.S. box office; that also happened with Fantastic Mr. Fox, back in 2009. The stop-motion medium tends to be artistically-rewarding, but its moderate financial track record in general accounts for Pinocchio struggling.
However, Grimly has since retracted his grim diagnosis, with the following:
Pinocchio still has a heart that beats! I spoke too soon and it turns out that Pinocchio is still pulling interest from studios.— Gris Grimly (@GrisGrimly) February 1, 2013
This comes as welcome news, for fans feeling dispirited about yet another creepy and imaginative del Toro venture being sidelined due to a lack of funding (see: At the Mountains of Madness, which remains stuck in development limbo). Maybe we can finally get back to debating the merits of his work – rather that speculating about what could’ve been – beginning with this summer’s Pacific Rim being the first Del Toro-directed picture to see the light of day in five years.
More on Pinocchio as the story develops.