Guillermo del Toro fans have long known to temper their excitement for the filmmaker’s developing projects, as the filmmaker’s most ambitious films frequently fall apart before they reach the screen. But with streaming giant Netflix behind him, del Toro has been able to resurrect his long-gestating Pinocchio movie and turn it into a sure thing. Which is why it’s no surprise that del Toro has signed a multi-year deal with Netflix on the same day that it was announced that A-list stars like Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Tim Blake Nelson, and Finn Wolfhard will be joining the cast of del Toro’s stop-motion animated musical.
Netflix announced the news via a press release that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio movie has cast Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Watchmen scene-stealer Tim Blake Nelson, Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, and more, on the same day that the filmmaker signed a multi-year overall agreement with the streamer.
Newcomer Gregory Mann will star as Pinocchio, while Swinton is set to play the Turquoise Fairy and David Bradley the wood carver Gepetto. They join Ewan McGregor, who had already been cast as Cricket. Also joining the cast are John Turturro (The Plot Against America), del Toro favorite Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman (Pacific Rim), and two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz.
“We have spent a long time curating a remarkable cast and crew and have been blessed by continuous support from Netflix to quietly and carefully soldier on, barely missing a beat,” said del Toro in a statement.
Pinocchio has been shooting since fall 2019 at ShadowMachine’s Portland, an Oregon-based studio, and continued uninterrupted through the pandemic. However, del Toro’s project had been bouncing around Hollywood since long before that. Formerly one of del Toro’s many unmade projects, Netflix rescued Pinocchio from oblivion and basically gave del Toro free rein, with the Oscar-winning Shape of Water filmmaker co-directing the film with Fantastic Mr. Fox animation director Mark Gustafson, from a script by Over The Garden Wall and Adventure Time writer Patrick McHale.
But if del Toro thought he had free rein with Pinocchio, Netflix is about to give him even more creative freedom with a new multi-year deal. The deal encompasses film and TV, and will allow del Toro to write, direct, and produce new projects for Netflix, which views the filmmaker as a “world builder and a creator who has proven to successfully work across genres, age brackets and mediums.”
Del Toro has built up a strong partnership with Netflix over the years, mostly in the animated realm, creating the Tales of Arcadia trilogy, developing the streamer’s beloved Trollhunters animated series with a feature on the way, and creating the upcoming Netflix live action anthology series, Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight. It’s no wonder that Netflix is eager to back del Toro, whose live-action feature follow-up to The Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley, has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. And this is a win for del Toro, who may finally be able to follow through on all of his ambitious unmade projects.
Del Toro’s Pinocchio is expected to be a dark take on the classic Carlo Collodi story, described as a “story of love and disobedience as Pinocchio struggles to live up to his father’s expectations” during the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy. A musical film, Pinocchio will feature song lyrics by del Toro and Katz, with music by Alexandre Desplat, who is also writing the score. Illustrator Gris Grimly created the original design for the Pinocchio character. The film’s puppets are being built by Mackinnon and Saunders (Corpse Bride). The Jim Henson Company’s Lisa Henson also produces alongside del Toro and ShadowMachine’s Alex Bulkley and Corey Campodonico.
Netflix plans to release the film on its streaming service as well as in theaters.
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