With typical dark vibes set against the spectre of war and fascism, this stop-motion animated take on ‘Pinocchio’ from Del Toro impresses most with its strong writing and characterisations.
Dir. Guillermo Del Toro & Mark Gustafson
2022 | USA/Mexico | Animation/Adventure/Drama | 114 min | 1.85:1 | English
PG (Netflix rating) for dark thematic material, violence, peril, some rude humor and brief smoking
Cast: Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton
Plot: During the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy, a wooden boy brought magically to life struggles to live up to his father’s expectations.
Awards: Nom. for 3 Golden Globes – Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, Best Original Song
Subject Matter: Moderate – Father & Son; War & Fascism; Death & Mortality
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Mainstream
Disney’s Pinocchio from 1940 remains one of my all-time favourites, a movie I grew up with and still admire so much. In recent times, Italian director Matteo Garrone made a version in 2019 with Roberto Benigni which was lukewarmly received, but you can’t get any more disastrous than Robert Zemeckis’ 2022 update that went straight to
As such, we must be thankful that we have yet another Pinocchio movie, this time from Netflix, with Guillermo Del Toro’s name prominently attached. Suffice to say, this is the finest Pinocchio picture in a long while, painstakingly and lovingly animated using stop-motion, a technique that perfectly aligns with the idea of making a wooden boy come to life.
In true Del Toro fashion, Pinocchio has dark vibes all around and may not be suitable for younger kids. While the animation is top-notch, I’m most impressed by its strong writing and characterisations.
“His nose didn’t grow when he called me a burden.”
There is a genuine attempt to avoid following the same footsteps of the original story; instead, it makes use of existing tropes of ‘Pinocchio’ and refashions them into something more worldly. Del Toro sets his version against the spectre of war and fascism in Italy during the early 20th century.
As Pinocchio becomes tricked into working for a traveling circus, and leaves his father, Geppetto, alone, other boys are being sent to boot camps to learn how to fight for their ‘fatherland’.
The seemingly heartwarming song, ‘Ciao Papa’, that comes on mid-film becomes tinged with melancholic double-meaning—it is at once a simple farewell from a son to a father and also a foreshadowing of a generation led to the altar of sacrifice.
Death and mortality are key themes of Pinocchio, if only to remind us that we have essentially two lives, the second one beginning when we have finally realised that we have grown up.