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How Guillermo del Toro and Disney’s 2022 remake compare

How Guillermo del Toro and Disney’s 2022 remake compare
How Guillermo del Toro and Disney’s 2022 remake compare

There is often a lot of talk about “twin films”, which are films with essentially the same concept produced by different studios, released around the same time, and then pitted against each other to see which comes out on top. Some of the most famous examples of this are Presumably vs An insect’s life, The prestige vs The illusionist and Deep impact vs Armageddon. Well, in 2022, the idea of ​​”twin movies” reached a new high, with three different adaptations of the classic Italian children’s story Pinocchio published during the year. True enough, one of these films was an animated film from Russia, entitled Pinocchio: A True Story, which featured the voice of Pauly Shore and had almost zero impact beyond the initial absurdity of the trailer. However, the other two adaptations of Pinocchio were, for very different reasons, some of the most talked about films of the year.

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The first of these two versions of the Pinocchio that was released was Disney’s live-action adaptation for Disney+. That iteration, directed by Robert Zemeckis, was a remake of the classic 1940 Disney animated film. It took huge inspiration from the 1940 version and attempted to update some of the material for a modern audience. It has an amazing cast, starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto, along with the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Keegan-Michael Key as Jiminy Cricket and Honest John respectively. The film also stars Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy and Luke Evans as a coachman. This live action Pinocchio was originally intended to be a theatrical release, but in late 2020 it was announced that the film’s release would transition to a Disney+ Original.

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The other major Pinocchio released in 2022 was the stop-motion animated version directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson. Guillermo del Toro Pinocchio arrived a few months after Disney’s, with a short run in theaters before being released as a Netflix Original in early December. Pinocchio has been a passion project for Del Toro for some time, with the director talking about the film as far back as 2008. Gustafson, on the other hand, is a stop-motion pro who had previously worked on the 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox. The voice cast in the film is just as impressive as the Disney film, with David Bradley voicing Geppetto, Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J. Cricket, and the rest of the cast is rounded out by the likes of Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, Christoph Waltz, Ron Perlman, John Turturro, Finn Wolfhard, Tim Blake Nelson and Tom Kenny (who also happened to be part of the English-language cast of the aforementioned Russian adaptation).

Considering both of these versions of Pinocchio were released just a few months apart, it’s only natural to want to compare the two. Fortunately, these two stories could not be more separate. They are vastly different films that serve as an excellent example of how much a story can be shaped by the tone and approach taken by the creative team behind the project. Now like both of these Pinocchio customizations are available to watch whenever you want, here’s how the two stack up against each other.

Related: Guillermo del Toro says his Pinocchio isn’t made for kids

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Visual presentation

Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy in Disney's Pinocchio
Disney+

The first and most noticeable difference between these two versions of the Pinocchio is the way the story is presented visually. The new Disney film tells the story in live-action while taking a lot of visual inspiration from the look and feel of the 1940 animated film. The design of the titular catwalk is almost identical to that of the original cartoon, and many of the sets also recreate those in it the movie. Despite this being a “live-action” film, a significant amount of the film was created digitally. A significant part of the characters and environments of Disney’s 2022 Pinocchio was created entirely on a computer, taking much of the tangibility out of the film.

It’s no wonder why this was the case, as that seems to be the approach Disney takes to almost all of their movies these days. The actors shoot on a basic set and then 90% of what actually ends up on screen is added digitally during post-production. It makes sense in some situations, but in others it’s a bit confusing. This mainly applies to Geppetto’s cat and goldfish, which for some reason were not real. Instead, they were poor CGI creatures that somehow felt even more cartoonish than the talking doll in the middle of the film. If it’s meant to be a “live-action” adaptation of the story, you’d think they’d want to include as many tangible and real-life elements as possible, but that’s clearly not the case. This leads to this Pinocchio the feeling that it was created almost entirely in a machine, as it was digitally created, assembled and packaged. While the film is technically “live-action,” it feels about as lifeless as any poorly animated direct-to-DVD Disney sequel.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, on the other hand, is full to the brim with energy, charm and colour. It’s almost ironic, since this version of the movie, which is actually animated, has so much more personality and feels so much more real than the Disney live-action version. Stop-motion animation can be tricky to get right, but this film has some of the most beautiful uses to ever grace the screen. Whether it’s the immense detail etched into the texture of everything, the elaborate movements of the characters or the intricate emotions on the characters’ faces, every aspect of the animation is truly impressive. The film is so meticulously made that you can’t help but be impressed by it all. The stunning cinematography and lighting only help to highlight how beautiful the film is. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is not only infinitely more visually interesting than the live-action Disney film; it is one of the year’s most striking and well-made films.

Related: What Disney Can Learn From Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Approach to history

Guillermo del Toro Pinocchio movie
Netflix

The new Disney film is one of a number of modern live-action retellings of the Mouse House’s most recognizable and classic animated films. The film was preceded by the likes of The Jungle Book, The beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mulan, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, Aladdin, and more. While some of these adaptations have been good, they’ve mostly been uninspired attempts to capitalize on nostalgia. The same can be said about live action Pinocchio.

When you watch Disney’s 2022 version of Pinocchio, it’s painfully clear that the film wasn’t produced because someone had a singular love for the original story or film. It was produced simply because it could be, and Disney was just looking for another entry in their live-action remake canon. They were trying to cash in on the love people have for the movie they made 80 years ago. It smacks of a studio executive’s decision to throw money at the wall, rather than someone’s genuine artistic desire to tell a story they’re passionate about. The result is a bad script that caters to the audience by throwing as many references at them as possible in the hope that they won’t notice the flimsiness and lack of depth of the story that’s actually being told. There’s a reason why the 1940 film is one of Disney’s all-time classics. There is actually heart, creativity and passion poured into it. The same cannot be said for this live-action iteration, which is little more than a failed attempt to copy off someone else’s homework.

When it comes to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, the approach to history is essentially the exact opposite. First, there is a clear passion for the material in it. Care and effort is put into the script as it is crafted into an emotionally resonant and complex story. It respects the source material from Carlo Collodi, while giving it new life and new ideas. One of the story threads that stands out as a major change is the decision to set the story in the middle of the rise of fascism in Europe on the eve of World War II. The team behind the film knew that the heart of Pinocchio the story is a conversation about what it means to be human, and by including the fascist regime of Mussolini in the film, they are able to play even further into these themes with a real sensibility.

Some people have said that this approach to Pinocchio makes Del Toro’s version not a children’s film, and they are correct. As the director has been saying all year, the medium of animation can be used for so much more than just children’s stories. Serious stories can be, and have been, told through animation. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is one of the best recent examples of this. That is not to say that the film cannot be watched by children; it certainly can be. But it does not shy away from some rather big ideas and conversations, such as the fragility of life and the evil of prejudice. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is one of the most finely crafted, well-written and satisfying cinematic experiences that 2022 had to offer. It’s the kind of thing that can only be achieved through a true passion and love for filmmaking and storytelling.