In Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Italian carpenter Geppetto is struggling to move forward, following the death of his 10-year-old son, Carlo. Carlo died during World War I, and since his passing, the grief has consumed Geppetto’s every waking thought.

One night, after getting drunk by Carlo’s graveside, Geppetto comes up with a plan to carve a puppet in Carlo’s image. He chops down a tree, drags some of the wood home, and pieces together the puppet, before promptly passing out.

While he is asleep, Geppetto is visited by a spirit, who looks kindly on the lost carpenter. She understands his pain, and keen to ease his suffering she grants his puppet the gift of life and names him Pinocchio.

The next morning, Geppetto wakes to discover his creation is now walking and talking. At first he is shocked by the sight of Pinocchio, but he quickly comes to love the puppet, and cares for him as he would a son.

But with Pinocchio being very different from every other boy, he soon catches the attention of carnival showman, Conte Volpe. Volpe sees the profitability in a puppet such as Pinocchio, and it isn’t long before the wooden boy is getting caught up in a whole heap of trouble.

Image: ©Netflix
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You know, Pinocchio movies are like buses. You wait ages for one, and then two come along at once.

Back in September, you will recall that Disney+ unveiled its live-action Pinocchio movie from director Robert Zemeckis. The film – which starred Tom Hanks – was a remake of the classic Disney animated movie of the same name.

Today, Netflix debuts its own Pinocchio movie, this time from directors Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson. The movie retells the classic Pinocchio story once again, only this time it is repackaged as a stop-motion musical, created in association with The Jim Henson Company.

Both films are inspired by the original Pinocchio book by Carlo Collodi, and both follow a similar story. However, the main difference between the two is that while the former was largely a disappointing re-tread, devoid of any soul, the latter is bloody marvellous.

Image: ©Netflix
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Featuring a voice cast that includes David Bradley, Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman, and Gregory Mann, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a masterclass in how to retell a well-worn story AND make it interesting. The film takes characters and ideas that everyone is familiar with, weaves them into a story about death and grief, brings it all to life with some stunning stop-motion, and delivers an imaginative and emotional picture.

Beautiful to look at, at times completely entrancing, and thoroughly enjoyable, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is an animated wonder. It delivers more heart and soul in its first ten minutes than Disney’s recent remake achieved in an entire film, and its creativity and narrative depth is something which makes it stand out from its peers.

Image: ©Netflix
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Image: ©Netflix

The film thrives on two very strong selling points: Its animation and its story. The animation is playful and showcases the high level of quality that is synonymous with Henson productions, while the story draws darkness and historical weight from its war-time setting, while still retaining little moments of comedy and joy.

Both the story and the animation are then backed up by a wonderful voice cast, with David Bradley bringing warmth to the role of Geppetto, Gregory Mann providing wide-eyed innocence as Pinocchio, and Ewan McGregor a sheer delight as the diminutive voice of reason, Sebastian J Cricket. Top this off with various recognisable names in support roles, and this is a film which gets everything right.

Image: ©Netflix
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When I became aware that two Pinocchio movies were being released during 2022, I must admit I was less-than enthused. As much as I adore the original Disney animated movie from 1940, Pinocchio has been told and re-told so many times over the years (through films and television), the thought of two new adaptations, arriving within months of each other, hardly filled me with excitement.

And then, when the Disney remake came along in September and it was underwhelming, this made me even less enthused to see more. So, sitting down to watch Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio I was not particularly thrilled about what lay ahead.

But boy, did I change my outlook within minutes of this film getting underway. It drew me in very quickly, held my interest with every passing frame, and had me in tears (more than once) by the end.

What Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson achieve with this movie is simply remarkable. It is a truly impressive picture, which like the little wooden boy in its story, has been brought to life with care, attention, and a great deal of love.

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