Pretty much everyone involved with screenwriter Lucy Alibar‘s first film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, was a virtual or total unknown. That won’t be the case for her next project, however. Alibar is set to team with Guillermo del Toro on The Secret Garden, Universal’s adaptation of the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett novel.

While the pair are coming from different levels of the Hollywood hierarchy, they should make for a good match. Both have previously explored heavy, bittersweet themes through tales about young people navigating fantasy worlds — Alibar with Beasts, del Toro with Pan’s Labyrinth. Plus, the involvement of del Toro makes just about any film better. Hit the jump to keep reading.

Deadline reports that Universal beat out four other studios to acquire the pitch in a mid-six-figure deal. Burnett’s novel has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times since its publication a century ago, but it’s been twenty years now since the last major feature adaptation by Agnieska Holland for Warner Bros. so the material was due for a revival. The story follows a young orphan sent to live with her reclusive uncle, at whose home she discovers a hidden garden.

The new project will see del Toro and Alibar taking Burnett’s story in a new direction, moving the action from England to the American South at the turn of the 20th century. Considering the talent involved, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the pair playing up the garden’s “magical” qualities. If memory serves, Burnett’s original book was fairly light on fantasy.

Who’ll direct or star remains unclear at the moment. While del Toro looked like a potential to helm at one point, his schedule is overstuffed as it is. He has Pacific Rim due out this summer and is starting work on Crimson Peak, and is set to direct the FX pilot The Strain, based on a novel he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan. Instead, del Toro will serve as producer with Mark Johnson, who also worked on the 1995 Burnett adaptation A Little Princess directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

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