Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

A darker version of the classic children’s fairy tale of a wooden puppet that transforms into a real living boy.

Guillermo del Toro co-directed a new stop-motion version of the classic story with Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio. Distraught over the death of his young son Carlo, wood-carver Geppetto () carves a pine tree into a puppet made in Carlo's likeness before collapsing into a drunken stupor. Feeling sympathy for the grieving man, a Wood Sprite () decides to give life to the puppet named Pinocchio () and tasks Sebastian J. Cricket (), who lives in the heart of the wooden boy, to lead Pinocchio in living a good life. However, the Podesta () wants to recruit Pinocchio into the Fascist Italian army, while shady carnival owner Count Volpe () plans to exploit Pinocchio as his star.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio sees co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro team up with legendary stop-motion animator Mark Gustafson (The Fantastic Mr. Fox), receiving his first co-director credit, to make a new adaptation of the 1883 Italian novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi, which has already been the source of multiple film adaptations, most notably the 1940 Walt Disney film and its live-action remake from earlier this year. Not surprisingly, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is a much darker adaptation than the others, particularly since del Toro moves the story's time period from an undetermined period in the 1800s to the Italian fascist regime of Benito Mussolini from the early 20th century.

The darker tone of Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is exemplified by the film's heartbreaking prologue, where Geppetto's young son Carlo, also voiced by Gregory Mann, tragically dies from an errant bomb from a First World War plane. This results in Geppetto becoming an alcoholic. who spends years mourning by Carlo's grave as a pine tree grows on the site. This eventually results in Geppetto desperately cutting down the tree and creating the puppet Pinocchio in a desperate attempt to bring his son back.

Those familiar with the original story or previous adaptations will find that Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio doesn't stray too much from the formula of the story and is still a relatively family-friendly film, despite the darker themes involving Italian fascism present within the story. The film is also partially a musical, with songs written by Guillermo del Toro and Patrick McHale and scored by composer Alexandre Desplat. This includes a recurring gag throughout the film of Sebastian J. Cricket starting to sing, only to be interrupted by some new treat.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio features an all-star voice cast, many of whom worked with Guillermo del Toro in the past, including David Bradley (The Strain), Ron Pearlman (Cronos, Hellboy), Burn Gorman (Pacific Rim), and (Nightmare Alley), the latter of whom has probably the most surprising role in the film as Spazzatura, the monkey sidekick of the film's antagonist Count Volpe, voiced by Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz. The cast of Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is rounded out by Ewan McGreggor as Sebastian J. Cricket, (Stranger Things) as Podesta's son Candlewick, and Tilda Swinton in the dual role of the Wood Sprite and her sister Death, both of whom of reimaginings of the original story's Blue Fairy.

There has been no shortage of adaptations of this story, at least three from this year alone, but Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is undoubtedly one of the more unique. While the darker themes of the film make the film not that appropriate for very young children, this is an adaptation of the story that I still recommend.

Trailer for Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.