As movie theaters across the US prepare to screen new 35mm black-and-white cuts of his latest project, Mexican fabulist Guillermo del Toro has wasted no time in teasing the next one: a Portland-made stop-motion adaptation of Pinocchio, starring Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, and Christoph Waltz, which del Toro is codirecting with former Will Vinton collaborator Mark Gustafson.
Since 2008, del Toro has been gestating a stop-motion Pinocchio set during Mussolini's rise to power. (The man knows a thing or two about fascism's intersection with fairy tales.) Unable to find a home, the project was shelved for much of the 2010s, but in 2019, ShadowMachine's new Portland office took it up, and production began in earnest. Today, the project's first teaser trailer finally dropped.
It's exceedingly brief—alas, no footage of the wooden boy, nor any real nods to the period setting—but we do get a healthy glimpse of Sebastian J. Cricket, voiced by McGregor and mustached like Christopher Plummer in Knives Out. We learn that in del Toro's version, Mr. Cricket lives inside Pinocchio's heart, and also that ShadowMachine's animators seem to have stricken an intriguing visual balance between creepiness and family-friendliness that's key to any Pinocchio worth its wood.
The 30-second clip (Netflix will release the film this coming December, and nearly half of the 54-second teaser is dedicated to the company's logo) marks the first bit of footage we've seen from the three high-profile stop-motion projects currently in production in the Rose City. In addition to Pinocchio, Netflix is producing the Key and Peele vehicle Wendell and Wild, helmed by Coraline director Henry Selick, and Laika is at work on an adaptation of Colin Meloy's YA Wildwood novels. Wendell and Wild is also slated for a 2022 release; Wildwood is expected in 2023.
As for Pinocchio, we're grateful for the peek into the workshop, but questions remain: Is Nick Cave still doing the music? Is Cate Blanchett genuinely playing a character named Sprezzatura the Monkey? Does the fact that del Toro recently married former Willamette Week and Oregonian film critic Kim Morgan, with whom he cowrote Nightmare Alley, mean he's definitively in his Portland era? Only time will tell.
While you wait for answers, check out the Pinocchio teaser below: