The Guillermo Del Toro ‘Pinocchio’ Is Taking A, Shall We Say, Much Darker Approach Than The Tom Hanks/Robert Zemeckis Version

Hollywood is no stranger to having two competing productions about basically the same thing. There’ve been dueling asteroid movies (Deep Impact vs. Armageddon), dueling animated ant movies (Antz vs. A Bug’s Life), dueling CGI Jungle Book movies (Disney’s The Jungle Book vs. Netflix’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle). Now there’s dueling Pinocchio movies. In September, Disney will release Pinocchio, their latest live-action-plus-CGI redo of their animated classic, with Tom Hanks as lovable, white-haired Gepetto. In December, Netflix has their own take on Carlo Collodi’s classic tale, directed by Guillermo del Toro. But del Toro’s version will stand out in at least two ways: It’s all animated, and it sounds really, really, really dark.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker talked to Vanity Fair about what’s in store with his version of the tale of a wooden boy with an ever-growing nose. It was revealed long ago that it would be one of those renegade versions of a classic story, like Maleficent or Pan. But clearly we had no idea how far del Toro would go.

Indeed, this version is set not in a quaint fairy tale past but in Italy between World Wars I and II. Gepetto has a dead son; Pinocchio was carved from a tree that grew over his grave. Jiminy Cricket, now named Sebastian, literally lives inside Pinocchio. And del Toro found something even more disturbing than his trip to Pleasure Island, which may be the most traumatic stretch of any classic Disney animated feature.

“He is recruited into the village military camp, because the fascist official in town thinks if this puppet cannot die, it would make the perfect soldier,” del Toro told VF. Oh, and that official with an “ominous armband” who recruits him? He’s voiced by del Toro regular Ron Perlman.

This all sounds pretty nightmarish, but del Toro has one more optimistic spin on the source. Usually Pinocchio, especially its Paradise Island section, is treated as a warning to kids about the dangers of rebelling against one’s parents. (That’s especially how it is in the 1941 Disney take.) But del Toro wants to avoid that.

“It’s counter to the book, because the book is seeking the domestication of the child’s spirit in a strange way,” he explained. “It’s a book full of great invention, but it’s also in favor of obeying your parents and being ‘a good boy’ and all that. This [movie] is about finding yourself, and finding your way in the world—not just obeying the commandments that are given to you, but figuring out when they are okay or not.”

Del Toro’s Pinocchio — which again is not to be confused with the Pinocchio arriving in September, nor with the recent Italian version featuring Roberto Benigni as Gepetto (which itself is not to be confused with his near-career-killing version from 20 years ago) — is due on Netflix in December. You can watch the teaser in the video above.

(Via Vanity Fair)