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Del Toro bullish on Disney ‘Wind’

Pic will likely have big budget, CG talking critters

Guillermo del Toro, who most recently directed “Blade II” for New Line, has signed on to write and is attached to direct a new live-action and CGI feature version of “The Wind in the Willows” for the Walt Disney Co.

Del Toro, repped by WMA and manager Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment, will pen “Willows” with Matthew Robbins, with whom he collaborated on his 1997 horror pic “Mimic” for Dimension Films.

“Willows” is being overseen at the Mouse House by Buena Vista Motion Picture Group veeps Jeff Clifford and Kristin Burr.

Pic will be produced by Neal Moritz; it was set up by two USC film grads, Corey May and Michael Wendschuh, who were mentored by Moritz through the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC.

The duo and their artist partner (Baruch Inbar) sold a treatment, art and related materials to a futuristically revamped version of the classic to Mouse House for mid-six figures in February (Daily Variety, Feb. 6).

Production’s budget is expected to be extensive, considering the amount of f/x the project will require. Pic’s talking animals will likely be computer-generated. Del Toro had been involved with supervising development prior to committing to pen and direct pic.

In addition to the numerous animated TV and film versions of Kenneth Grahame’s novel, the most recent feature version of “Willows” was a 1996 Sony-backed pic, “The Wind in the Willows” (aka “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”), written and directed by former Monty Python member Terry Jones. That pic had a very limited release.

“Willows,” which would be targeted toward a family viewership, appears an unusual pic for Del Toro, who has made a name for himself as a highly visual helmer of more horror or dark action fare.

Before “Willows,” Del Toro is in production on his long-in-the-works pet project “Hellboy,” an adaptation of the Dark Horse comic for producer Don Murphy and Sony-based Revolution Studios. That pic, which shoots in Prague, is skedded for release next year.

With Robbins he is also writing the epic horror pic “At the Mountains of Madness” for DreamWorks, based on the H.P. Lovecraft novel. He will also direct.