Facist Italy, a tragedy stricken father wishes for his son to be brought back to him. The evangelical spirits seek to provide comfort to the father by giving him a living puppet. To the puppet they charge a wandering writer by the name of Sebastian Cricket to guide him to being a good and moral person. It’s the classic Disney tale many of us will know from our youth, given a significant del Toro twist for the modern age.
I must admit, there was a fair bit of nostalgia bias looming in the air as I sat down for Pinocchio. I knew to expect del Toro to do the story his way but part of me wanted it to hit all the familiar beats, I was even shocked by the exclusion of Figaro so that should tell you everything about my affection for the classic Disney version of this tale. But del Toro was clearly holding back no punches, he truly took this story and made his own.
The most striking was, in typical, del Toro fashion, was to layer the tale with real human tragedy, Geppetto is not some humorous kindly old man here. He is a father who has truly lost the will to live. If that sounds almost shocking for the typical fairly comfortable Pinocchio story, well I hate to break it to you as I had to do myself. But you may need to remove the rose tinted glasses you have for the Disney classic because that tale is not so clean and comfortable as you might remember. Still, however, I do believe del Toro gives Pinnochio a real human beating heart this time around, metaphorically speaking. Characters feel densely real and relatable and while Pinnochio isn’t a telling of the warning o indulging in your vices this time around, he is telling the tale of being swept up in the pursuit of fame and political ideology.
If that sounds quite adult, well, it’s because it is. Del Toro masterfully gives the moral telling of Pinocchio a multi-faceted attack; for children, for parents, for children to their parents and parents to their children. Then on top of all of that at its heart, Pinocchio is about life and savouring the time we spend together. There’s something there in the choice of creating this in stop motion which also lends a beautiful symbolical symmetry about the story of a wooden boy who wants to capture being real.
Admittedly not many of the songs are as catchy as anything you might expect out of a musically inspired feature but the songs here I feel are more in the aid of the story telling, they feel like deep expressions of feelings and mood rather than a jingle to catch your ear. There’s so much to unpack with Pinocchio and del Toro really has given the fable his own unique telling that feels just as if not more poignant than the original.