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Fan-Casting Disney’s Live-Action Pinocchio

Fan-Casting Disney’s Live-Action Pinocchio

It was inevitable. What with The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast making mucho moolah in photorealistic adaptations (“live-action” seems an odd thing to say when most of Jungle Book besides the lead was in fact animation), you had to know all Disney animation classics are fair game for rebooting now. And it looks like Pinocchio is next up, with Skyfall director Sam Mendes being courted to direct. Considering most of the adaptations so far have been able to nab all the top-dollar actors they want, we figured we might as well put our wildest wish list out there.

Bear in mind that we are specifically fan-casting Disney’s Pinocchio, not Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, so you’re not going to see our choices for book-only characters like the Green Fisherman or Alidoro the mastiff. (We can get into those another time.)

PINOCCHIO – JACOB TREMBLAY

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The kid from Room has proved he can carry a film and assist his adult costar to an Oscar. Why would you not want him onboard? As a bonus, he does bear a slight resemblance to Disney’s take on Li’l Woodenhead. Disney’s version of Pinocchio has to be endearing enough that you forgive him his mistakes, and not a total brat as originally written. Tremblay can absolutely do that; plus, since he’s working right now on The Predator, he’ll presumably have the necessary experience with special effects and puppets.

JIMINY CRICKET – BOB BALABAN

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People remember Jiminy Cricket as a figure of gravitas, probably because of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” But he’s actually a bit of a bumbler, and tends to only figure out how to help Pinocchio when it’s nearly too late. He earns the conscience status like Pinocchio earns real boyhood–only at the end of the story. Still, he has a good heart throughout. Bob Balaban not only looks a bit like the insightful insect, but he also has that stammering, indecisive-yet-well-meaning manner down.

GEPETTO – GIANCARLO GIANNINI

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There aren’t a lot of Hollywood roles for old Italian men not named Pacino or De Niro, but neither of those would be right for Pinocchio’s father. A real Italian actor–and like Mendes, a fellow who’s been involved with two recent Bond movies (though not the same two)–Giannini has the perfect hair, face, and heritage to pull off the iconic, long-suffering dad. Maybe Daniel Craig can put in a good word.

THE BLUE FAIRY – CHRISTINA APPLEGATE

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Hollywood may be tempted to go for whoever’s youngest and most glamorous for the Fairy, but while she’s meant to be a beauty, she’s also a mother figure, and she needs a voice and presence that can convey experience and make us instantly trust her. Christina Applegate, recently seen as the faux-perfect mother in Bad Moms, could easily pull off an air of genuine perfection, and as a bonus, she looks like some of the original drawings too.

LAMPWICK – BEN CAROLAN

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The red-headed kid from Sing Street is just too perfect. Look at him! The best friend with the worst advice may have talked like a New York street tough, but that outfit of his is obviously coded Irish, so Carolan’s accent would be no problem. He’s also likable enough that when he becomes a donkey and gets sold into slavery forever, you will cry.

HONEST JOHN – NEIL PATRICK HARRIS

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Harris’ recent turn as Count Olaf proved that “Bombastic, untalented actor who exploits children” might just be the specific type he was born to play. Now imagine him busting out “Hi Diddle De Dee”–one of the most underrated songs in the Disney canon, perhaps because it’s unironically about industry greed–which you know he’d rock even harder than Christopher Walken doing “I Wanna Be Like You” (no small feat, by the way). We can’t think of anybody else in this role any more.

GIDEON – JACKIE CHAN

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Honest John’s bibulous feline sidekick never speaks any lines, but has a unique, intoxicated physicality that the right actor needs to motion-capture. We thought about Johnny Depp, but he’s a bit played out in these things; besides, Chan is the original Drunken Master. Motion capture that lets him be crazy with his body minus the risk of serious injury seems like it’d be just his speed these days.

STROMBOLI – DWAYNE JOHNSON

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By modern standards, cartoon Stromboli is problematic–the money-grubbing puppet master is drawn as a dark-skinned Mediterranean, and referred to derisively as a gypsy. We hope and trust that Mendes’ Pinocchio will feature a more acceptable version of the character, and the casting of the endlessly charismatic Dwayne Johnson would be a good means to that end. Stromboli’s a villain, but only barely. He’s selfish and short-sighted, but not really evil; as The Rock, Johnson was able to be a comedic and threatening heel while still having the fans like him, which is perfect. Plus, we kinda just want to see him with a huge fake beard.

THE COACHMAN – LOUIE ANDERSON

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Again, just look at him. Louie might make the evil, two-faced coachman more sarcastic than menacing, but put a “Black Hole Sun” CGI smile on his face and just wait for the youngsters in the audience to scream.

CLEO THE FISH – ZOE SALDANA

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While Figaro the cat should probably just be a CG character modeled on real cats, Cleo the fish has a lot of weirdly human attributes. To avoid having those be totally creepy, motion-capture might be the way to go, and Saldana, who made us all feel deeply connected with a blue cat giant, has the right résumé for the job.

Are we crazy? Who would you cast? Let us know in comments!

Images: Disney, Sony/MGM, The Weinstein Company, 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema/WB, Paramount, FX, Dimension Films, A24

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