For GDT, there is no rest for the wicked.
Wasn’t Guillermo del Toro supposed to be taking a break? Having just won Best Director and Best Picture for The Shape of Water, the filmmaker had pondered dreams of rest and relaxation for at least a year. For a workaholic like del Toro, with so many irons in the fire, the concept of vacation is an impossible one. He’s already signed one first-look deal with Fox Searchlight, and more studios are nipping for his attention. Aren’t we all the happier for it?
Word from The Hollywood Reporter indicates that the auteur has just signed an exclusive deal with DreamWorks Animation to write, produce, and direct family films for the studio. This multiyear contract requires del Toro to set up shop on their campus, taking an office in their Glendale, California site. There he will continue to oversee the production of his Trollhunters series for Netflix, as well as conceptualizing new franchises.
Del Toro has been invested in DreamWorks for some time. He served as creative consultant on both Kung Fu Panda and Megamind. This led to an executive producer role on Rise of the Guardians, Puss in Boots, and Kung Fu Panda 3. However, this partnership solidified on the seemingly too-weird to succeed Trollhunters.
I really hope you fine folks are not sleeping on this cartoon series, a computer-animated adventure following a teenage boy who accidentally falls into the terrifying world of trolls. The first season features the voice talent of Anton Yelchin, Kelsey Grammer, Clancy Brown, and Ron Perlman. What begins as your basic hero quest story eventually escalates into an earnest coming-of-age fantasy with genuine stakes.
If you’ve followed del Toro’s career since the beginning, the influences of animation are obvious. The joy in which he discusses H.P. Lovecraft and James Whale are matched with his enthusiasm for Disney and anime. Sometimes the inspiration is obvious (Hellboy, Pacific Rim) while other times it is less so. The Shape of Water certainly owes a great debt to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but the trauma experienced by Sally Hawkins recalls the emotional state of Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Domu.” The director nearly lost himself in bringing that manga to screen years ago.
Del Toro seemingly lives and breathes every variation of art. This new venture with DreamWorks will only help him explore his craft with further dimension. He expressed his excitement in the press release announcing the partnership:
“Animation is an art form that has influenced my work greatly since childhood. To me, it’s the perfect medium to bring to life any and all ideas, no matter how outlandish or wild.”
Buried a little deeper in the news story is the mention that this deal will also allow del Toro to investigate the technical side of filmmaking. Working with DreamWorks Animation Film Group president Chris deFaria, del Toro is investigating the company’s technology pilot programs “that are developing groundbreaking techniques for advancing storytelling on multiple content platforms.” While this may not have the flash of an animated At the Mountains of Madness (one can dream, right?), del Toro’s work behind the scenes could have even greater impact on the medium.
Guillermo del Toro cannot help himself. He’s a shark, always swimming, always looking for that next project to snack on. His partnership with DreamWorks will give him the freedom to kick back, relax, and not worry about who is funding his next endeavor. At least in the world of animation. I’m sure he’ll still be fighting tooth and claw in the realm of live-action.