Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a masterclass of animation and a strong contender as the best Pinocchio film.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio tells the classic story of the wooden marionette with added elements of mortality, war, and grief parcelled into this charming tale with talent including Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Finn Wolfhard, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022 where it had its world premiere. All words of this review were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore.
Guillermo del Toro is a name synonymous with darker fairytales, and creepy monsters tied around a clever concept, idea, or theme.
Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone and The Shape of Water all immediately come to mind as part of the Mexican director’s portfolio, but in recent years the Academy Award-winning filmmaker has partnered with Netflix to produce family-friendly content.
The Arcadia Trilogy ran for multiple years in partnership with the streaming site and DreamWorks and created content like Trollhunters, 3Below and Wizards, all originated by the fairytale fanatic.
It was likely therefore for Guillermo del Toro to be given freedom by Netflix to create a feature film with families at its heart.
Its stop motion animation in this Pinocchio adaptation is akin to those produced by Laika. Noticeable expert hand craftwork and manipulation of the stylised puppetry is on its own a visual delight, and as if thematic to Geppetto and the story of Pinocchio.
Addressing the large mouse-eared elephant in the room, audiences will undoubtedly compare Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio with the Walt Disney adaptation, not least because it tells the same story, but also because Disney released a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks months prior.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio however stands unchallenged in its original story, its thematics, and its unexpected dealings with death and mortality.
One notable difference between Guillermo del Toro’s version, and the House of Mouse’s, is Geppetto in the Netflix adaptation is given a backstory as to his fixation on crafting a woodwork son with early indicators as to the fascism which looms over the Italian lands in the early twentieth-century which remain an ever-present element of the stop motion.
The emotional weight this adds delivers a needed layer of heart and warmth to an at-times creepy and off-kilter story which borrows clear elements from the German Expressionist filmmaking produced at the same time as the film’s setting.
Further, the voice casting of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is outstandingly done. Ewan McGregor specifically lends himself to a charming comical pastiche as Sebastian J. Cricket, paying homage to his earlier days in Moulin Rouge, as well as Hugh Grant’s quirky villain in Paddington 2.
David Bradley similarly earnestly delivers a loss-stricken father in Gepetto, whose years of wisdom, grief and pain have crafted him into the man he is, whilst Gregory Mann voices the titular puppet in his first major leading role that balances uncomfortable unfamiliarity, with a childlike naivety.
Audiences will certainly resonate with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and hopefully, this will open doors for younger audiences to artistic animations which tackle maturer themes such as Klaus or Ma vie de Courgette.
If audiences can disassociate the story from being exclusive to the American entertainment powerhouse that is Disney, and enter into the world of Guillermo del Toro’s mind with zero expectations, they will be delighted and rewarded as this Pinocchio version is full of heart, charm and visual delights though, for many, including myself, it will take a while to fully disassociate.
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