Producer, Henson Co. teaming for feature

Guillermo del Toro’s developing with the Jim Henson Co. a darker version of the “Pinocchio” fairy tale as a stop-motion feature.

Project will be produced by JHC co-toppers Brian Henson and Lisa Henson along with senior VP Jason Lust. Del Toro will exec produce.

Del Toro’s working on the screenplay with Gris Grimly, who illustrated a 2002 version of “Pinocchio.” Grimly and Adam Parrish King will co-direct the film.

Del Toro disclosed the project in an interview with the website Bloodydisgusting.com and said that it would take about three years to complete.

Pinocchio first appeared in the 19th century book “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi. Walt Disney produced the first feature version of the story with his animated “Pinocchio” in 1940.

Francis Ford Coppola tried producing “Pinocchio” in the early 1990s at Warner Bros., but the project stalled and led to his suit against the studio when he couldn’t set it up at Columbia. A jury awarded Coppola $80 million in damages, but that figure was cut to $20 million when a trial judge tossed out the punitive damages.

“Pinocchio” is the latest in a long list of projects to which del Toro’s attached. Top priority is New Line and MGM’s “The Hobbit,” the two-picture project to which he’s committed the next five years as director and as co-writer with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.

He also has a three-year first-look deal with Universal, where he’s setting up remakes of “Frankenstein,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Slaughterhouse-Five,” an adaptation of Dan Simmons novel “Drood” and several other projects (Daily Variety, Sept. 4).

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