“It’s a story you think you know, but you don’t” is a tagline from the newest film version of Pinocchio by acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro and co-produced by Netflix. Indeed, it’s true, as Del Toro gives it his own artistic interpretation – stop-motion wooden characters and a somewhat darker telling than previous incarnations. The film’s setting is in war-torn Italy during Mussolini’s time. Del Toro’s version also attempts to push animation to new levels.
Pinocchio has been in world culture since 1883 when Italian writer Carlo Collodi of Tuscany introduced the tale of a wood carver who creates a wooden puppet that he wishes would become a real boy – long nose and all. The Blue Fairy grants that wish, and Pinocchio must figure out what the world is really about. The reason the story is timeless is because of such enduring themes as child rearing, middle class virtues, appeal to both sexes, morality and capitalism. No wonder there have been so many remakes and Del Toro had been contemplating his for years.
There have been countless screen and TV adaptations, live-action and animated, of Pinocchio. Most notable, however, is the 1940 animated version by Walt Disney. It is still considered one of the greatest animated movies ever made. It has the distinction of being the first animated feature to win an Academy Award. It won for Best Original Song (“When You Wish Upon A Star”) and Best Original Score. The animation effects were said to be groundbreaking at the time by giving a sense of realistic motion to machinery and cars as well as to natural elements like rain and lightning. Legendary artist Josh Meador led the effects animation team and became Director of Animation Effects at Walt Disney Studios.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio was its artistic ambition. It employed methods still followed today in both hand-drawn and CG animation. No detail was too small to be left untouched by the dedicated animator’s hand. Pinocchio established Disney Feature Animation as an artistic and commercial force. Now it’s Guillermo del Toro’s turn to take it to the next level.