[Article] Guillermo del Toro's PINOCCHIO - A Tale of Disobedience
In Guillermo del Toro’s PINOCCHIO, the classic Carlo Collodi tale of the fabled wooden boy is reimagined in a whimsical tour de force that finds Pinocchio on an enchanted adventure that transcends worlds and reveals the life-giving power of love.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings took part in Netflix‘s Long Lead Day in preparation for the December release of PINOCCHIO. Moderating the conference was Rebecca Keegan from The Hollywood Reporter. On hand were directors Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson as well as Production Designers Guy Davis and Curt Enderle, and Art Director Robert DeSue.

Since Carlo Collodi first published “The Adventures of Pinocchio” in 1883, the legacy of Pinocchio has lived on in numerous types of media, the most well-known being Walt Disney Studios’ second animated film, Pinocchio (1940). Now in 2022, we are getting two Pinocchio films, the first being a Walt Disney animated film from Robert Zemeckis, starring Tom Hanks, and the other being a stop-motion animated film from co-directors Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson.

With so many renditions out there, it begged the question of why do another Pinocchio? In discussing why he decided to pursue the story of the fabled wooden boy, del Toro gave an explanation.

‘Metaphors for science’

[Article] Guillermo del Toro's PINOCCHIO - A Tale of Disobedience
Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann). Cr: Netflix © 2022
“The two essential fables that defined my childhood and teenage years were Pinocchio and Frankenstein. And this may tell you something about my relationship with my dad [Laughs]. But it’s this idea that you’re thrown into a world that you barely understand and you try to make sense of it as you grow. I always felt Pinocchio is one of those handful of characters. There are maybe 10 characters in the history of human storytelling that are capable of being universal and completely adaptable to anything. There’s Frankenstein, Pinocchio, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes. These are characters that even if you haven’t read the story, you know the story, or you think you know the story. Therefore, you can use them as metaphors for science, for human emotions, for many, many things.”

And Pinocchio, I thought… I’m 58 and when we started this process, it’s about 15 years ago or more, I thought it could be a great tool to talk about how precious and fragile we are as humans, and how much we need each other. And how could I find a way to tell that story in a way that was new? Mark came up with that idea. It’s a story you think you know, but you don’t. And I think we endeavored to create in a way where you will see some of the beats, but many of them are reversed. Many of them are reversed very pointedly and poignantly. And others are recognizable and keep the pace. If we did our job right, this should be flowing like that.”

With such a well-known story at the heart of this, it can sometimes be difficult to set oneself apart from the films that came before. But if there’s one thing fans of del Toro know it’s that his imagination stretches beyond the confines of what’s possible. So, how does this PINOCCHIO differ from its contemporary counterpart?

Pinocchio & Disobedience

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio – Visual development by Guy Davis. Cr: Netflix © 2022

“I would say most every other Pinocchio story is about obedience. Ours is about disobedience. Disobedience being a primal factor in becoming human and how becoming human doesn’t mean changing yourself or others, but understanding. I think the first step towards a conscience and the soul, for me, is disobedience. It’s the difference between ideas and ideology,” del Toro explained. “An idea is an idea that you construct from experience and compassion and understanding. And an ideology is something that is given to you and you’re told to obey it blindly. And those are things that help us craft the tale. And it’s different, also, in the fact that it’s, again, a very different backdrop that illuminates a different type of paternal structure. It’s a really different, very lethal form of control and paternity and so forth. And I think that it has a depth and a resonance that will be very much its own.”

After being shown early footage of the opening scene of PINOCCHIO, production designers Guy Davis and Curt Enderle along with Art Director Robert DeSue gave a presentation on the process of designing the characters and bringing the world of PINOCCHIO to life. Working alongside them was del Toro who helped bring insight into some of the concepts for the characters, ranging from Pinocchio to Gepetto to Cricket, and everything in-between. The biggest challenge they faced in filming a stop-motion film was taking two-dimensional sketches and turning those into three-dimensional figures. Additionally, it was important for them to build a place that was rooted in reality but was still a bit stylized and simplified.

Suffocation of totalitarian thought

(L-R) Gepetto (voiced by David Bradley) and Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann). Cr: Netflix © 2022

The tale of Pinocchio is one that involves bravery and truthfulness. And, as del Toro pointed out, obedience. For del Toro, it’s important to leave something behind and with PINOCCHIO it’s no different. In discussing what he hopes to leave behind with his version of PINOCCHIO, del Toro stated:

“This film, for me, the final lines in this movie are a summation of what I understand life is. But it is so urgent right now for me to realize that totalitarian thought is so suffocating and that we have each other for so briefly a time. You can choose between fear and love in the way you relate to people. And if you relate to people with trust, everything turns around if you look at it with love. And that’s, I think, one of the urgent messages of the film.”

Guillermo del Toro’s PINOCCHIO premieres on Netflix December 9, 2022.

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