Adaptations of works in the public domain can get a little confusing, since no single studio can hold exclusive rights to them and therefore there can be multiple movie versions of the same story in development at the same time. Combine this with the industry’s love of dueling and the end result is situations like the 2012 face-off between Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman (a competition that the latter film won by quite a significant margin).
Another such parallel may soon be occurring with the two separate adaptations of the classic Carlo Collodi children’s novel Pinocchio. Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) is planning a stop-motion animation of Pinocchio based on Gris Grimly’s illustrated version of the book, though that will have to wait until after del Toro finishes directing his new horror movie Crimson Peak. Tim Burton was also attached to direct an adaptation for Warner Bros., with Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role, but he has since left the project and has (as-yet) unofficially been replaced by Ben Stiller. There is also a third film, titled The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto, which was acquired by Real Steel director Shawn Levy on spec a couple of years ago but has not seen any development since then.
Bleeding Cool has learned a few new details about Stiller’s project, the most interesting of which is that Downey is currently planning to play both Geppetto and Pinocchio, which would probably make for quite an intense shooting and recording schedule. Though the woodcarver is depicted in the original story, and in most adaptations of it, as an elderly man who becomes the father of a wooden son at a late age, Downey’s Geppetto is scripted a little younger, meaning that there probably won’t be much need for the make-up team to artificially age him.
One of the questions that remains is whether Pinocchio will be animated, perhaps using performance capture, or whether he will have a physical body that Downey can interact with even as he provides the voice acting for it. The latter honestly sounds more appealing – after all, there are few movies where it would more appropriate to use puppetry to animate a character.
The script, which was originally written by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), has undergone rewrites already from Jane Goldman, and wil undergo further changes and polishing before production begins. The most likely target audience is naturally younger children, but there’s no reason that the film can’t be geared to a more general audience in the way that Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are was. Some of the darker and more frightening scenes were already brought to life very effectively in the 1940 Disney film, but sadly that version left out the part where Pinocchio gets bored of hearing about morality, picks up a hammer and squishes his poor cricket friend.