News just broke of Disney starting work on a live-action remake of Bambi, and now we’ve got yet another animated classic from the same era getting similar treatment. Only this one seems to be a little further along in the production process. Legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis officially signed up to direct a live-action remake of Pinocchio, according to a report from Deadline. Zemeckis will co-write the screenplay with Chris Weitz, who previously worked on Disney’s live-action Cinderella.
The Walt Disney Company
Experts expect production on Pinocchio to get underway as soon as this year, which means that Zemeckis may finish it in time for a 2022 release date. No casting decisions were announced in the report. A few years back, Disney began working on Pinocchio with Paddington 2 director Paul King after the sequel received great acclaim. But nothing ever came of that version, for one reason or the other. So it makes sense that Disney would enlist someone like Zemeckis, whose technical skills rank among the most accomplished in the industry after films like Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Around the same time Disney first revealed plans for a Pinocchio live-action film, Guillermo del Toro announced the development of his own version, but it never materialized. Also, Warner Brothers announced their own Pinocchio movie, with Robert Downey Jr. on board to play both Pinocchio and his father Geppetto for director Ron Howard. But that one also stalled. Given his relationship with the Mouse House, Robert Downey Jr. might want to try his hand at this Disney version. Especially after Dolittle massively flop at the domestic box office, this might be just what the doctor ordered.
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If Disney can’t bring in Downey, then it will be interesting to see who they get for the famous roles. Aside from the titular puppet who wishes to be a real boy, there’s Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, high-profile, recognizable characters who could create a more well-rounded ensemble with the casting of big names.
The original Pinocchio remains one of Walt Disney’s greatest achievements; the studio chose its famous song “When You Wish Upon a Star” as an anthem for the entire Disney company. But upon Pinocchio’s initial release in 1940, the film lost a lot of money for the studio. Although audiences in the United States flocked to see it, its very expensive production meant that Disney relied on European theaters to add significant coin to it box office, and the outbreak of World War II halted that. Nevertheless, due to multiple theatrical releases over the next several decades, Pinocchio would up making $85 million at the box office in the end. And doesn’t count its enormous merchandise sales.
Pinocchio follows the massive success of Disney’s live-action remakes of Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Maleficent. Almost all of their live-action remakes have made serious coin for the company, with rare exceptions like Dumbo. Undoubtedly, Disney hopes that the power of nostalgia will once again drive moviegoers to theaters when Pinocchio ultimately gets released.
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