How Guillermo del Toro & Mark Gustafson Carved Their Own ‘Pinocchio’ Using Lessons From Hollywood, And Fascism – Contenders LA3C

When Guillermo del Toro takes his shot at an animation classic, he doesn’t mess around. He and co-director Mark Gustafson took the Carlo Collodi creation Pinocchio, but made a version unrecognizable compared to the 1940 Disney classic. In the stop-motion animated film, Geppetto, the wood-carved boy and the cricket are there, but in a musical adventure that takes the tale in a direction all its own.

“Very early on, I knew I wanted to make a disobedient Pinocchio, against the backdrop of the rise of Mussolini,” del Toro said during a panel for the Netflix movie at Deadline’s Contenders LA3C event. “But I didn’t have a path until I saw the design of Pinocchio from Gus Grimly. I asked him, why does it look like that and he said, because he has the nails and the wood. Carlo Collodi had the faint echo of Jesus in Pinocchio, and I thought, this is a great opportunity to use the nails, and the wood to make him a messiah that resurrects. All these ideas start coming. I asked him, why does [the puppet] look like that? And he said, Geppetto was drunk. I thought, why is he drunk? I thought, Gepetto is drunk because he is in grief. Because he lost a son. Everything started falling into place. To me, it’s about disobedience and about fathers and sons, so it made sense to tell parallel stories about fathers and children. One of the structures that is totalitarian, but is based very much in a paternalistic corrosive father figure, is fascism.”

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The Pleasure Island scene from the original – naughty boys become donkeys shipped off to the salt mines – is replaced by a military training camp where children are groomed to become warriors. “The kids laughing and playing as they shoot at each other with paint guns, until the fascist father tells his son, now shoot the puppet. With a real gun,” del Toro said. “Instead of donkeys, they are transformed when given gas masks. That is one of the earlier images I had, going in.

“I thought, Pinocchio needs to be tempted by the pageantry of show business, a totalitarian step in line mentality of fascism, and he needs to rebel against both.”

There is an hilarious scatological song Pinocchio sings when Mussolini shows up for a performance, and del Toro was amused by a question of whether that was inspired by his first attempt at a claymation movie in Mexico.

“I was going to shoot a movie called Omnivore before I did Cronos, and we created all the puppets and sets we needed. We started shooting and left for dinner, and when we came back the studio had been burglarized and vandalized, and they had defecated and peed on the floor, which, by the way Mike, fully prepared me for Hollywood.”

What was worse, del Toro was asked, having vandals take a dump on his art, or later having Harvey Weinstein seize control of his film Mimic, and make his own cut?

“Basically, one prepared me for the other,” he said.

Check back Wednesday for the panel video.

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