Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Parent Guide
Netflix is aiming for an Academy Award with Guillermo del Toro's eccentric yet compelling version of the familiar tale.
Parent Movie Review
Gepetto (David Bradley) has two loves in his quiet life: woodcarving and his son, Carlo. In their small Italian town, Gepetto takes Carlo with him everywhere he goes, working on decorations for local shops, cutting lumber, even building a large crucifix for the church. But the Great War is raging, and the front is closer to town than it used to be. Carlo is tragically killed by a stray bomb, and Geppetto almost loses himself in his grief. After years of unanswered prayers and a morose night of heavy drinking, he decides that he will have his son back, no matter the cost.
Fired up with determination, Geppetto sets to hacking, sawing, and carving a boy from wood before the drink catches up with him and he passes out on his floor. When he wakes in the morning, he finds that a Wood Sprite (Tilda Swinton) has magically brought the puppet to life. Pinocchio (Gregory Mann), as Geppetto names him, is a spirited, unruly, and generally chaotic creature. The wooden boy quickly draws the ire of the authoritarian Podesta (Ron Perlman), a sort of town mayor, who insists that Pinocchio attend school…but Pinocchio has other plans.
I’ve never particularly liked Pinocchio, and especially not the absolute nightmare fuel that is the 1940 Disney film. That movie is insane from start to finish, and a deeply unpleasant viewing experience to boot. The moral lessons are all over the place and all the characters are some combination of weird and aggravating. Thankfully, Guillermo Del Toro is a genius. Somehow, he’s managed to make this story not only tolerable, but actively engaging and enjoyable – especially for older viewers.
Now, being made by Guillermo Del Toro, the film is a little creepier and a little more complicated than most parents will expect from an animated production. Instead of just being a morality play about listening to your parents and being honest, Del Toro’s version focuses more on personal responsibility, making amends, learning from your experiences, and the rise of fascism in Italy. Trust me, the last theme is better incorporated into the story than it sounds.
However, like the Disney animated original, this film might prove disturbing to young viewers. Geppetto doesn’t lovingly craft Pinocchio: he sort of hacks him into being in a drunken Frankenstein-ian fit of madness after slamming a bottle of liquor down at his son’s grave. It’s a fascinating take on the story, offering a very different analytical lens for viewing the tale, but it’s also pretty intense. Pinocchio’s character design is also a tough one for kids. At least to start with, he’s a deeply unsettling, scuttling little homunculus, but I will admit that he grows on you. Kids are also unlikely to understand who Benito Mussolini is, or why Pinocchio is singing at him that he should eat his own feces – even if it makes a bit more sense in the historical context.
I’ve always liked Del Toro’s style, but I was a little hesitant about this project based on my own dislike of the source material. I shouldn’t have doubted him. Who else could work a biblically accurate angel (think lots of wings and eyes) into a kids’ story, and get away with it? Older kids will probably enjoy the slapstick antics and adventurous excitement, but adults are going to have a heck of a time exploring symbols and themes across the film. I’d say this has a solid shot at the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture – something I think Netflix is counting on.Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson. Starring Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman. Running time: 117 minutes. Theatrical release December 9, 2022. Updated January 20, 2024
Watch the trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Rating & Content Info
Why is Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio rated PG? Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is rated PG by the MPAA for dark thematic material, violence, peril, some rude humor and brief smoking,
Violence: Adults and children are killed in explosions. Pinocchio is, at varying times, struck, set alight, shot, drowned, hit by a truck, and blown up. A character is killed after falling from a great height onto a rock. Non-human characters are occasionally subjected to slapstick violence which leaves them uninjured.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are several terms of deity in the script.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An adult character is seen drinking heavily to cope with grief. Other adults are briefly seen smoking tobacco.
Page last updated January 20, 2024
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Parents' Guide
Pinocchio struggles with the concept of obedience. How does he learn to respect others’ wishes and boundaries? Are there times when disobedience is appropriate? What does Geppetto learn about empathy? How do his priorities change throughout the story? What do you think he expected Pinocchio to be like?
What are Podestas? How did fascism develop in Italy in the aftermath of WWI?
National Geographic: How Mussolini led Italy to fascism – and why his legacy looms today
Loved this movie? Try these books…
The book that inspired the movie is Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Parents should be aware that this is darker than the film with a protagonist who sometimes behaves badly. Don’t read it to your kids without reviewing it first.
This film has a very distinctive visual design. If you want to learn more about the art, character design, puppet building, and animation process, you will want to read Guillermo del Toro’s Pinnochio: A Timeless Tale Told Anew, written by Gina McIntyre.
If you want a safer bet, you can read Walt Disney’s classic version of Pinocchio, as written by Steffi Fletcher and Al Dempster.
For an interactive version of the story, you can try The Adventures of Pinocchio as illustrated by Minalima. Thomas Berger has also done original painting for The Illustrated Pinocchio.
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Guillermo del Toro also approached incipient fascism with fantasy elements in Pan’s Labyrinth. Other eerie stop-motion animated films include Coralineand Kubo and the Two Strings. Fans of a different take on familiar fairy tales might enjoy Hoodwinked, Ella Enchanted, Maleficent, or Snow White and the Huntsman.