By Staff Writer Samantha Wahl.
Guillermo del Toro is a man of substance. He’s also a man of he is also a man of history, and of fish-men, and of fantasy. Especially darkened takes on children’s tales.
Del Toro, a Mexican filmmaker, is an absolute juggernaut in the industry. Over the years he’s built an incredible body of work. In the English-speaking world, his best-known credits have been films like The Shape of Water, Hellboy, The Hobbit, and Pacific Rim.
Many critics agree that the crown jewel in del Toro’s work history is 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno in its original Spanish). Pan’s Labyrinth was a sort of historical-fiction-meets-fantasy film, taking place in 1940’s Spain.
The Spain of that era was in the clutches of dictator Francisco Franco, who imposed a nationalist, authoritarian regime on the country.
Needless to say, the backdrop for Pan’s Labyrinth is quite dark.
However, main character Ofelia is a small, sweet child who is caught in the middle of the conflict. In addition to its historical fiction component, the film plays with fantasy elements. Blending together gritty reality with a dangerous-but-fascinating fantasy world, del Toro used Labyrinth to explore the idea of innocence in a violent world.
I tell you all this because del Toro is back at his formula again. Netflix has announced that del Toro is onboard with them to direct a stop-motion, musical version of Pinocchio.
This version will be set in Italy, during Benito Mussolini’s regime. (Why Italy, you may ask, from a director who usually deals with the Spanish-speaking world? Pinocchio is originally an Italian story; in fact, the name “Pinocchio” is thought to come from the Italian word for “pine wood”.)
Also associated with the project are Mackinnon and Saunders, the same puppet-making/animation studio that brought Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride to life in 2005. The project is going to be classic del Toro: retrospective, dark, and exploring the boundaries between innocence and corruption.
The director himself said as much in a statement: “In our story, Pinocchio is an innocent soul with an uncaring father who gets lost in a world he cannot comprehend. He embarks on an extraordinary journey that leaves him with a deep understanding of his father and the real world.”
What will the “real world” mean for Pinocchio under del Toro’s direction? Sure, he usually has to face a creepy, cigar-smoking fox, but how will living in Mussolini-controlled Italy amp up his loss of innocence? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Pinocchio will be del Toro’s first stop-motion endeavor. It’s an intriguing choice for a story about creating life where there is usually none. Traditionally, Pinocchio the puppet is given life through the love and dedication of his father Gepetto. (The effect that del Toro’s switch to an “uncaring” Gepetto has on this part of the story will be interesting.)
Similarly, stop-motion animation is a labor of love that creates life where there is not any.
You could argue that any form of animation does that, but what makes stop-motion especially fitting is that it involves sculptures. Sculptures are moved painstakingly slowly, photographed thousands on thousands of times, and then those photographs are combined to create the illusion that the sculptures are alive, moving on their own.
A film made that way is a fitting tribute to the story of the ultimate labor of love, of Pinocchio, the original sculpture brought to life.
At the same time, between del Toro’s past works and the darkness of Mussolini’s Italy, it’s clear that Pinocchio will be a more twisted fantasy than fans of Disney’s classic adaptation may be expecting.
In short, this film is shaping up to be the most Guillermo del Toro thing that Guillermo del Toro has ever done. Strap in. It’ll be dark, and it it’ll probably be creepy, but if history is any indication, we are in for a dark, creepy treat.
Pinocchio is set to begin production by the end of 2018. Netflix has not announced a release date for it.
PHOTO COURTESY: GEEKTYRANT