Back in 2018 we had exclusively reported that Tom Hanks was in negotiations to star as Geppetto in a live-action Pinocchio remake for Disney. At the time Paddington director Paul King was helming the project, which was one of a constellation of live-action remakes of Disney’s beloved animated properties that were currently in development. Of course, that version never materialized and King left the project. Now, Deadline is reporting that Hanks is back in the picture, this time for this Forrest Gump/The Polar Express director Robert Zemeckis.
Apparently, Hanks is far from a done deal, but he has reached out to Zemeckis and said that he wants to do the movie. He would play the kindly woodcarver who creates a living puppet who longs to be a real boy. This new version will be produced by Andrew Miano and Chris Weitz, with Weitz also writing the screenplay (he previously co-wrote Disney’s live-action re-imagining of Cinderella).
Hanks, who was just nominated for another Oscar for his work in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, has Greyhound currently streaming on Apple+ and will resume work on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley in Australia in the fall. Hanks’ 2021 sci-fi drama Bios is produced by Zemeckis, who is still putting the finishing touches on his re-imagining of Roald Dahl’s The Witches (co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, who has his own version of Pinocchio in the works for Netflix) for Warner Bros for release sometime next year.
Zemeckis’ relationship with Disney through the years has been interesting. He initially tried to make Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with a completely different artistic team, in the early 1980s. But at the time the Disney Company wasn’t prepared for a live-action/animation hybrid of such complexity (both technologically and when it came to licensing agreements). Zemeckis returned to the project in the late 1980s, when a new management team had been installed at Disney and Steven Spielberg had agreed to help out. The resulting film was one of the biggest movies of the decade and proved that the new leadership at the company could tackle challenging, edgy material. Zemeckis, for his part, vowed to never work for the studio again, mostly due to the micromanagement and penny-pinching of executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. This, in part, led to the development on a sequel stalling out on a number of occasions.
The filmmaker almost kept his word, too, until Disney signed a multi-picture deal with Zemeckis’ ImageMovers Digital to release a series of movies utilizing then-groundbreaking motion-capture technology. But after the second film in the deal Mars Needs Moms, which Zemeckis didn’t direct, resulted in one of the costliest bombs in Disney history, the company severed ties with Zemeckis, canceling a nifty-sounding Yellow Submarine mo-cap remake in the process.
It’s unclear how Zemeckis is going to pull off Pinocchio, but we imagine there will be some mo-cap shenanigans involved for sure. It’ll be interesting to see if audiences warm to this new Pinocchio, largely considered to be the crown jewel of the animated films Walt Disney himself worked on. Dumbo didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But Dumbo also didn’t have Zemeckis and Hanks, together again.