Guillermo del Toro has been trying for much of the last decade to get a movie studio to commit to his lifelong passion project, and he’s finally found a company that’s willing to fund it: Netflix.

Del Toro, 54, is set to make his feature animation directorial debut with the streaming giant, where he will write, direct, and produce the classic novel Pinocchio as a stop-motion musical.

The first major announcement for the film was made back in 2012, but just last year, del Toro told an interviewer that “it’s not happening” after a deal with Amazon Studios fell through.

The production is a big win for Netflix, giving them del Toro’s first feature film since The Shape of Water, which won four Academy Awards this year, including best director and best picture. It’s also further confirmation of Netflix’s savvy approach to animation, whereby they fund fresh and surefire projects that can’t find a home at other major studios because the films don’t have obvious sequel/franchise potential, or they go a little outside of Hollywood animation boundaries.

Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro. Photo by Margaret Malandruccolo.

Del Toro has set his retelling of the classic tale of Pinocchio in Italy during the 1930s. “In our story, Pinocchio is an innocent soul with an uncaring father who gets lost in a world he cannot comprehend,” del Toro said in statement. “He embarks on an extraordinary journey that leaves him with a deep understanding of his father and the real world.”

Adds del Toro:

“No art form has influenced my life and my work more than animation and no single character in history has had as deep of a personal connection to me as Pinocchio…I’ve wanted to make this movie for as long as I can remember. After the incredible experience we have had on Trollhunters, I am grateful that the talented team at Netflix is giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to introduce audiences everywhere to my version of this strange puppet-turned-real-boy.”

Here’s some of the other talent involved in the project: Patrick McHale (creator, Over The Garden Wall) will co-write the script, Mark Gustafson (animation director, Fantastic Mr. Fox) will co-direct, and Guy Davis (concept designer, The Shape of Water) will serve as co-production designer, taking inspiration from Gris Grimly’s original design for the Pinocchio character. The film’s puppets will be built by U.K. studio Mackinnon & Saunders (Corpse Bride).

The film is set up as a production between Guillermo del Toro, The Jim Henson Company, and Shadowmachine (Bojack Horseman, The Shivering Truth), which will house the stop-motion animation production. Alongside del Toro, Lisa Henson, ShadowMachine’s Alex Bulkley, Corey Campodonico, and Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment will produce. Blanca Lista will co-produce.

Pinocchio marks an expansion of Netflix’s existing relationship with del Toro, who created their Emmy Award-winning television series Trollhunters, the first installment of the DreamWorks’ Tales of Arcadia trilogy. The next chapter, 3Below, is set to debut on December 21, 2018, followed by Wizards in 2019. He is also the creator of the upcoming Netflix series, Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Guillermo has exhibited mastery in inspiring people through his magical worlds filled with unforgettable and magnificent characters, from the monsters in Pan’s Labyrinth to the aquatic beast in The Shape of Water, said Melissa Cobb, vice president of kids and family at Netflix. “We are incredibly excited to expand our relationship with Guillermo and we know that his deeply touching vision for bringing Pinocchio to life on Netflix will be embraced by audiences the world over.”

Netflix’s budget for the project is not known, but del Toro had previously stated that he needed $35 million to produce the film, a relatively modest sum for a visually ambitious stop-motion feature.

Netflix expects production on Pinocchio to begin this fall.

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