Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022) Review

With epic, heart-mending, and beautiful landscapes, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio might just be one of the best stop-motion films of the decade. In addition, the longest-ever stop-motion film too.

Pinocchio is a children’s tale woven by parents and mentors alike to teach lessons on deceptive behavior and its consequences. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio teaches us about trauma, expectations, war, and more. All while maintaining the child-like atmosphere of its source.

The fact that the film is in stop-motion makes it so much better. The landscapes, background, and the characters’ movements give them Pinocchio-like traits.

Fathers and Sons

Gepetto and Pinocchio

The relationship between Gepetto and Pinocchio stems originally from his son, Carlo. While struck by the sudden death of Carlo, Gepetto, in a rage against death, builds himself a wooden boy from the tree Carlo planted. The scene is reminiscent of Frankenstein movies and, in essence, is almost the same, with different motives behind the reconstruction of life. While Victor Frankenstein was created from curiosity, Gepetto sought grief as his muse.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio an father Gepetto
The Ideal

Throughout the film, we see the phases of the ideal child-parent relationship. While Gepetto has his faults, and Pinocchio is unaware of his, both reconcile due to the love they have for each other. Gepetto’s burden of Carlo’s death is put upon Pinocchio, and ‘burden’ becomes a key of the film, as the meaning is repeatedly visualized through various characters.

Carlo is obedient, polite, well-behaved, and the ideal son. Pinocchio is free and unpredictable, curious and eager to discover. Both of them have contrasting personalities. What binds them is their own fatherly love, which, for Pinocchio, could be assumed to stem from Carlo’s soul. However, that is a cruel assumption.

Podesta and Candlewick – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

While Pinocchio and Gepetto are ideal, Podesta’s relationship with his son is rather more common in the world. Buried in expectations, Candlewick tries his best to fulfill expectations.

The ideal fascist’s son, filled with nothing but patriotism. Sent to the prison-like institution, Candlewick’s experience shows that being on the frontline of war is not the only product of trauma. The mind games that play out during war lead to generations of humans spilling their blood.

Guillermo del Toro's Podesta and Candlewick
The real

What takes Candlewick out of his father’s shadow is the wooden boy himself. Pained by the brotherly love shown between Candlewick and Pinocchio, Podesta fails where Gepetto shines, compromises, and realizes. This leads to his son technically killing Podesta. Struck by the blast, Podesta’s death is treated as nothing in the film, as Candlewick’s future is left unsaid.

Count Volpe and Spazzatura

This one is a wide swing, but since we have both the ideal and the real, why not the other side of the spectrum?

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio death of Count Volpe
The fuck-up

The relationship between Volpe and Spazzatura is simply abusive. Spazzatura, having no one else in the world as his relation, clings on to Volpe. Feeling left out of Volpe’s life, Spazzatura feels that Pinocchio will replace him as Volpe’s partner and spews some of his intrusive thoughts to Pinocchio.

The result of this is Spazzatura’s abuse by his master. Pinocchio, witnessing this, protects Spazzatura, and this event leads to the ape betraying his master, ultimately killing him.

These events lead to Spazzatura eventually discovering his own family in Pinocchio, Cricket, and Gepetto.

Price of Life – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Present through Pinocchio’s short-lived immortality, the price of life was also introduced during Gepetto’s alcoholic spree. Not wanting to see Gepetto in grief, the wood sprite essentially gave him a new life in the form of Pinocchio.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio Gepetto drinking
Not Gepetto’s greatest moment

This element of the film is simply present for plot purposes. No logic, pure emotions. However, the depiction of the wood sprite and her sister, Death, is a close depiction of biblically accurate angels. The aesthetic surrounding the two sisters is both gorgeous and eerie.

The war

Set in the pre-World War 2 timeline, Italy’s term with fascism is depicted as caricatures. Mussolini is depicted as stubby, taciturn, and morose. We do not see him often in the film, but his propaganda is seen everywhere in the film. Posters, in the small village where Gepetto lives, and even in the entertainment industry where Pinocchio worked for a while.

In the film, Pinocchio appears to be the literal stick between the meat. His presence reduces sadness and weight, and he even seeks to defy the system. In his act, the small man mocks Mussolini and permanently ends Volpe’s performance. This leads us to the vengeance scene in which Volpe dies.

In small but obvious hints, we see how fascist propaganda spread through Italy, as Volpe recalls Mussolini being good friends. A sign of a para-social relationship is obvious once he shows Pinocchio a selfie of him among the thousands in the crowd with Mussolini on stage.

The perfect soldier

The reason Pinocchio ends up at the institution is due to his immortal state. Podesta sees the ultimate soldier in Pinocchio – as undying. This leads him to recover Pinocchio’s body after Mussolini’s guard shoots him after his circus act. However, what looked like a boarding school during the early scenes of the film, turns into a horrific realization of the Italians using children as soldiers.

scene of child soldier institution
End of the cycle

They are trained in the way of war. Military exercises and simulations are played out. While the exercises seem fun in the beginning and give birth to the friendship between Candlewick and Pinocchio, the sudden bombing brings reality back into place. Not ready at all, children are given guns and wear gas masks. The bomb drops on the institution, killing Podesta and probably a lot more children than what is shown in the film.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio tunes down the original character of Pinocchio. Meanwhile, it amplifies the haunting experience of the world in which it is set.


The whale – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Lovecraftian and totally out of place in the world of Pinocchio, the whale creature shows Toro’s willingness to stand out from the questionable Pinocchio films, which were released in 2022.

The whale from the trailer

While the whale serves as a point to connect the son and father, its depiction is not family-friendly.

The two sisters

While the whale might be ugly, the two sisters are too shaded in everything to even think of a concept.

wood sprite
The wood sprite

Masked, winged, and unknown! While the first sister’s figure is human-like and angelic, her legs are missing. Instead, a pinecone is present. Maybe a slight exposition, as the pinecone is related to Carlo, and even after his death, the pinecone serves as the birth of Pinocchio. While the first sister’s design is simple and angelic, the other feels more complex.

death sister

The second sister has a quadruped figure, with her tail similar to a pinecone, but a closed one, with two snakes. Maybe signifying the intimacy of death and how one’s experience with it is completely exclusive of everything in the world. Bison-like horns and the strange body of the second sister are quite special to look at, even from limbo itself.

Rabbits, Jesus, and Limbo – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

The depiction of limbo is more beautiful than haunting. The dim navy blue lighting of the scenes, the room where Death lies! Sand reflecting the light in its full blueness, and the rabbits!

Rabbits carrrying Pinocchio

Shown as employees of death, the depiction of rabbits as undertakers seems to stem from its source and Hollywood’s troupe of using rabbits in horror films. However, rabbits are also signified as rebirth due to the Easter Bunny and Jesus’ rebirth. The rabbits lead Pinocchio towards death but also rebirth.

Christianity as a major religion seeps throughout the film. The prayer service Gepetto and Carlo go to is his commission for the wooden Jesus on the cross. Finally, Count Volpe crucified Pinocchio and nearly burned him at the stake.

Pinocchio getting crucified?
Seems familiar

The End?

In contrast to other children’s films, Pinocchio has a coherent ending. After he receives immortality again, he lives through the deaths of his family. We do not know what happens to Pinocchio as he is still living, but we do know that Sebastian J. Cricket narrates the story of the rabbits we encounter during one of Pinocchio’s many deaths.

ending scene
Ending scene

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio shows us grief and how one; hopelessly turns from rage to hope. It shows us how to love is to compromise. How compassion always takes priority before your well-being.

It also illustrates a specific system and how, in its early stages, it takes away the simple lives of many country residents. They live alone to feed their families, yet meticulously exploited. And there is no end in sight. The life cycle is like a perfectly formed pinecone.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Anuskha

    Very nice review.

    Want to read more from this author,
    Can you do “Kwaidan (1964)” review as well sensei ?

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