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Did “Frankenweenie” Kill Guillermo del Toro’s Stop-Mo “Pinocchio” Project? [UPDATED]

Last May, it was announced that Guillermo del Toro and animation veteran Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, The PJs) would co-direct a stop motion adaptation of Pinocchio for the Jim Henson Company. The film was based on a version of the story illustrated by Gris Grimly.

According to Bleeding Cool, Grimly posted a couple of tweets yesterday that implied the project is stalled:

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
— Gris Grimly (@GrisGrimly) January 30, 2013

and then:

@thinkbaker There are people like us out there. But they look at numbers. Frankenweenie was a box office failure to them.
— Gris Grimly (@GrisGrimly) January 30, 2013

The tweets have since been deleted so perhaps Grimly’s announcement was premature. The production studio ShadowMachine still lists the project on their homepage. With Henry Selick’s stop-motion film also shut down last year, what other feature film stop-mo projects are still in production? If anyone knows more about what’s happening, do tell.

[UPDATED—Feb. 2, 2013]: Gris Grimly gave an update to Bleeding Cool about his earlier comments on Twitter. He says Pinocchio is still alive though it would appear that no studio has committed to the film yet:

I’m writing to clear up the rumor that has gotten started. It all started with misconstrued information that I passed along through my networks. But it has come to my knowledge that Pinocchio is indeed still kicking with interest from the studios. Although I thought it was going to lay quiet for a little while, I never thought it would be canceled. It’s too good.

  • Larry

    I heard rumblings of Pinocchio being stalled before Frankenweenie came out, so not sure we can blame it all on that. Another factor might be that Mark Gustafson has a competing project in development at Laika — Goblins — which I hear is in strong contention to be their next. In any case, Del Toro and Gutafson are both landing on their feet, so can’t feel too bad for them.

  • I’m a big fan of Guillermo, but I’m sick of his lame excuses. He basically said the same thing about how Prometheus was going to tackle on the same things he wanted to explore with his now-defunct Mountains of Madness project.

  • Stefan

    Aardman has a couple of stop-motion projects in development. But it will be disappointing if this and other American-made stop-motion features don’t get the greenlight. Frankenweenie didn’t perform too badly. It managed to make $80 million worldwide on a $39 million budget. Pretty good for a black-and-white film (which was the main reason I think it didn’t do better, not because it was stop-motion).

    • Jon

      But all the studio only gets half the box office take. Theaters get the other half. If the best Frankenweenie could do is cover the cost of its getting made–and that’s before promotion and advertising costs and figured in–that’s not good..

  • Joseph Hudak

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Pity, because this looks better than how Frankenweenie ended up.

    So I guess the big question is: Did the poor box office of Frankenweenie and ParaNorman doom further large budget stop motion efforts? Aside from Aardman, that is.

  • I don’t think its just Frankenweenie, all of the stop motion films last year underperformed to studio expectations. Del Toro’s got a strong name for sure, and that’s probably what’s keeping Pinocchio from having the plug pulled. I’m guessing the studio is waiting to see how Pacific Rim does, but as big a name as Del Toro is, he still doesn’t have the overwhelming influence on general audiences like Tim Burton. We’ll see what happens, but I have a feeling though we’re probably not going to be seeing much in the way of stop motion animated features for a little while.

  • OtherDan

    Frankenweenie was awesome! So was Paranorman. Maybe the studios need to learn how to market, rather than lay blame on the artists.

  • Lio’s StopMotionWorks is a good resource for current news in stop-mo.


  • Capital_7

    Frankenweenie was unnecessary. The whole short story has been available as a freebie on the NBC disks. Also, the sameness of all of the Burton stuff worked against it, as did the sub par voice work. Pinocchio’s design work looked to be an attempt to make a “Burton” Pinocchio, so it’s not surprising that this has been pulled. The sameness killed it.

    Paranorman was flawless though. More stop motion, less Burton.

  • Mike

    Wow. That screenshot looks incredible.

  • It’s sad that we live in a world where Alice in Wonderland makes an absurd amount of money while Frankenweenie gets shafted by audiences.