Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio tells this truth about its otherworldly title character: he can be a little unsettling, or even scary, before you get to know him. In the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s upcoming stop-motion animated movie from Netflix, even Geppetto gets the willies when he first encounters the cheerful wooden boy clamoring around his workshop. A hallmark of del Toro’s storytelling, from Pan’s Labyrinth to Hellboy to his best-picture-winning The Shape of Water, is that beings who are initially seen as freakish, or frightening or unnatural, are often even more humane and sympathetic than the seemingly normal people who fear or scorn them.
The director always brings a slight chill before warming the heart, so his take on the living puppet comes from a gothic direction. “I’ve always been very intrigued by the links between Pinocchio and Frankenstein,” del Toro tells Vanity Fair for this exclusive first look. “They are both about a child that is thrown into the world. They are both created by a father who then expects them to figure out what’s good, what’s bad, the ethics, the morals, love, life, and essentials, on their own. I think that was, for me, childhood. You had to figure it out with your very limited experience.”
Despite that monstrous inspiration, del Toro’s movie was crafted to be family friendly. He knows it will be challenging, but hopes his Pinocchio connects across generations and brings out a sense of compassion. “These are times that demand from kids a complexity that is tremendous. Far more daunting, I think, than when I was a child. Kids need answers and reassurances.… For me, this is for both children and adults that talk to each other. It tackles very deep ideas about what makes us human.”
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