Guillermo del Toro Casts Tilda Swinton, Finn Wolfhard in 'Pinocchio,' Signs Netflix Deal (Exclusive)

Guillermo del Toro- Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Netflix
Newcomer Gregory Mann will star as Pinocchio.

Cate Blanchett, Tim Blake Nelson and Finn Wolfhard are among the stars that have signed up for Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated musical feature, Pinocchio.

The casting for the Netflix project comes as del Toro, the filmmaker behind the multi-Oscar-winning romantic creature feature The Shape of Water, deepens his ties with the digital streamer, signing a multi-year agreement with the company.

Details of the deal were not revealed. It is, however, seen as a ticket for creative freedom to a filmmaker that Netflix views as a world builder and a creator who has proven to successfully work across genres, age brackets and mediums, from animation to live-action. The deal encompasses film and series, and will see del Toro engage in a combination of writing, directing and producing.

Del Toro already several projects lassoing him to Netflix, mostly in the animation space. The filmmaker created DreamWorks Animation’s Tales of Arcadia trilogy, with the latest installment of the series, Wizards, premiering to massive numbers earlier in August. A feature, Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, is now in the works and will hit in 2021. He is also the creator of the upcoming Netflix live action anthology series, Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight. His current live-action directing project is Nightmare Alley, which had halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. He is expected to restart production in Toronto this fall.

For Pinocchio, which has been shooting since fall 2019 at ShadowMachine’s Portland, Oregon-based studio, del Toro has cast McGregor as Cricket and David Bradley, a veteran actor who has appeared in the Harry Potter movies, Game of Thrones and lent his voice to del Toro’s Wizards, as Gepetto, the woodcarver who creates the puppet that comes to life.

Newcomer Gregory Mann will star as Pinocchio with Blanchett, John Turturro (The Plot Against America), del Toro stalwart Ron Perlman, Watchmen scene stealer Nelson, and Burn Gorman (Enola Holmes) also on the call sheet, along with Tilda Swinton, who plays the Turquoise Fairy, and Christoph Waltz.

Del Toro is taking a multi-shaded look at the Carlo Collodi tale, originally published in the 1880s. This version of the story is set during the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy and is described as a story of love and disobedience as Pinocchio struggles to live up to his father’s expectations.

“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. Production has continued uninterrupted during the pandemic, with the producers coming up with creative ways to take safety precautions on a stop-motion set.

The plan is for the movie to be released not only on the platform but in theatres, too.

The feature is being directed by del Toro and Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Del Toro and Patrick McHale wrote the script. The song lyrics are 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).

Pinocchio is being produced by del Toro, The Jim Henson Company’s Lisa Henson, ShadowMachine’s Alex Bulkley and Corey Campodonico, as well as Exile Entertainment’s Gary Ungar. It is co-produced by Blanca Lista of The Jim Henson Company and Grimly.

Del Toro is repped by WME, Exile Entertainment, and Hirsch Wallerstein.