Ahead of the Netflix release (December 9) of the stop-motion musical based on the Italian classic — directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson — charting the journey of the puppet who magically transforms into a boy
“Once upon a time… ‘A king!’ my little readers will immediately say. No, children, you are wrong. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood. So begins the Tuscan writer Carlo Lorenzini (1826-1890), who published under the pseudonym of Carlo Collodi The Adventures of Pinocchio — the first Italian fantasy novel, featuring the beloved character of children’s literature, the long-nosed puppet who magically transforms into a boy.
Today, children’s fantasy fiction has become the preserve of modern writers like Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Rick Riordan and dozens of others, but the classic fable has continued to fascinate children and adults alike for a century and a. half after its first publication over several months (between 1881 and 1883) in Giornale dei bambini (‘Magazine for children‘), which was popular in 19th century Italy.
The story of a sentient puppet carved from a piece of wood, who yearns to be a real boy, continues to enjoy a protean afterlife and has been discovered and rediscovered by generations of readers and moviegoers over the years. decades. Pinocchio is part of both global popular culture and high literary culture; a contemporary archetype, he continues to be among the most recognizable literary characters.
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The morality tale, translated into almost every language in the world, has spawned countless Pinocchio puppets, toys, statues, cartoons and whatnot. The many misdeeds and misadventures of the puppeteer whose nose grows when he lies and who is ultimately rewarded for his good deeds charmed the children as much as other characters who populate the story: the woodcutter Geppetto, the fairy with turquoise hair, Jimmy the Talking Cricket (Pinocchio’s assigned conscience), the Fox, the Cat, Mangiafuoco and others.
There have also been several reworkings of Pinocchio in the films: some retained the dark material of the original source material, but most versions were watered down and innocuous. 2022 saw Disney and Netflix release their separate Pinocchio movies. Disney’s live-action version, a remake of its 1940 adaptation that stays true to the classic original, was released on September 8.
The film marked the collaboration between Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks, following films like Forrest Gump (1994) and Castaway (2000). However, while Hanks does his best as Geppetto, the film is, overall, soulless: it lacks the sparkle and it’s no wonder it fizzled.
Mexican Maverick Guillermo del Toro Pinocchio, which hit select theaters on November 9 and will stream on Netflix from December 9, is the real deal, I bet. If Zemeckis’ film did any injustice to the sense of wonder associated with the tale, undoing what Walt Disney’s iconic 1940 animated version had done – making the mischievous puppet a part of the cinematic consciousness of people around the world – del Toro’s dark stop-motion animation, co-directed by Mark Gustafson, redeems it.
A parody of fascism
Set in Fascist Italy (1922-1943), del Toro’s first animated feature departs dramatically from the original tale. In the subversive tale he revels in, he transforms Pinocchio from the adorable wooden boy from the Disney movies into a (temporary) boy soldier, who is the “real” son of Geppetto and is recruited from a military camp in a village in before the Second World War. Italy because the fascist official who controls the region thinks the puppet, who cannot die, would make the perfect soldier.
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Several versions of Pinocchio, including Disney’s 1940 adaptation and the last starring Tom Hanks, are set in a dreamlike world, del Toro chose to root the story in reality. Its whimsical story is set “in an environment in which the citizens behave with obedient fidelity, almost like a puppet,” del Toro said in an interview.
Del Toro aims to make connections between Pinocchio and the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “They are both about a child thrown into the world. They are both created by a father who then expects them to discover what is right, what is wrong, ethics, morals , love, life and the essentials, on their own. I think it was, for me, childhood. You had to figure it out with your very limited experience,” del Toro told Vanity Fair. .
The shape of water (2017) uses stop-motion animation, a style marked by jerky movements and exaggerated character traits, to execute his outlandish and unnerving shot. The implied creepiness endemic to the animation style evokes the darkness of the original fable. It’s similar to what Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone did with his 2019 adaptation even though those two versions differ significantly.
The story of Pinocchio the puppet, which we don’t discover until adulthood, is much more complex than a simplistic story that tells us about the rewards of conformity and obedience. It addresses larger questions like what we human beings are created for and what shapes us.