As a dad, I have experienced many, many hours in front of the television watching cartoons. My kiddo loves modern stories like Frozen, Pokemon and Big Hero 6. But every now and then, I get her to watch some of the classic cartoons of my childhood.
She has grown to appreciate movies like Snow White, Beauty & the Beast and Alice in Wonderland, but I think her choices in entertainment have little to do with their stories. She loves the stories of older films. It really has to do with the artistic styling of those classics. They were made before computers could fit in the palm of your hand. The drawings do not have the crisp, digital look and feel of today’s standards. Because of this, those films don’t hold her attention as well as today’s beautifully rendered masterpieces.
The Disney Pinocchio film was actually one of the first cartoons I remember. It’s like a faint memory… one of those glimpses from your childhood that pops into your head from time to time. I can remember our living room with the ugliest sofa you have ever seen. The orange shag carpeting that adorned the floor blazes in the visuals of my mind’s eye. And in the corner of the room, playing on a slightly blurry box TV is Jiminy Cricket, singing his iconic song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
While the art of Disney’s Pinocchio is not exactly perfect, my daughter still took time out of her busy schedule of playing with toys, watching YouTube Kids and chasing the cat around the house to watch some of it with me. She was not really into it, so I asked her why not. Her answer was simple and expected, “Daddy, it just doesn’t look good to me.”
I didn’t dig any deeper. Now, could she have been saying the story was not compelling enough to keep her attention? Possibly. But I think it is way simpler: The Disney cartoon just isn’t modern enough for her tastes.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio may be the remedy for that.
This retelling of the fantasy story is done entirely via stop-motion animation. Master Geppetto (David Bradley) mourns the loss of his son, Carlo. Feeling his sadness, the Wood Sprite (Tilda Swinton) gives one of his puppets life, bestowing the creation named Pinocchio (Gregory Mann).
Knowing the wooden boy would need guidance, the Wood Sprite offers a traveling cricket named Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) a single wish if he will guide the child and help him develop a conscious. Initially, Geppetto is not very fatherly to his new son, leading to a discourse between them, but when Pinocchio goes missing, Geppetto will stop at nothing to save his child.
As you can tell, the story is more or less along the same lines as the preceding Pinocchio films. Stop-motion animation was the master touch of this film. Pinocchio actually feels like a wooden boy and not a cartoonish rendering of a child. All in all, I think Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is visually one of the best films I have seen this year.
However, that is all I can say about it.
The story is exactly the same as those before. I would think that a director as renowned as Guillermo would have added his touch to the storyline. While I am normally against directors taking liberties with stories, I trust in del Toro’s abilities. Everything that he has touched before this has been magical. Maybe it’s because I have seen the same song and dance many times before with this property. Yet, this version just falls flat.
For this, I have to give Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio three out of five stars. The art is the saving grace of the film. It truly makes up for a flat, stale and regurgitated story. I really expected more from such a talented director. I wanted an amazing gift from him this holiday season. Instead, what we get is a stale slice of fruitcake, wrapped in a beautifully wrapped box.