“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” and Disney’s original “Pinocchio” movie are two sides of the same animated coin. For del Toro’s Pinocchio, the danger is not disobedience but rather blind obedience to authority. This gives the film a strong counterpoint, as if we’re hearing the opposing side of the argument Walt Disney made over eight decades later.
Leaving aside live-action, the real question, at the end of all our comparative Pinocchio studies, is: which is the better story in animation? In “Life of Pi,” that same question (minus the animation part) held a deeper meaning. It probed the very nature of the viewer’s belief system. Perhaps the same is true of Disney and del Toro’s animated “Pinocchio” films.
Disney tells the viewer, “Anything your heart desires will come to you.” It awakens one’s inner child, taking us back to when we were kids learning the difference between right and wrong. At the same time, it shows how it’s necessary for one to have agency and take the initiative to meet goals. To save Geppetto, Pinocchio ’40 proactively goes looking for Monstro underwater.
Del Toro’s Pinocchio sacrifices himself at the end, too, but after he reanimates again, we see his loved ones die so that he’s left to walk the earth alone. Even seagulls, like the one voiced by Lorraine Bracco in Disney’s live-action “Pinocchio,” fare poorly in del Toro’s version, as one lands on a naval mine, blowing itself to smithereens.
Disney’s “Pinocchio” contains a more comforting message, though parts of it may be corny by today’s standards. Make a wish upon a star, and it will come true. No ask is too big, but “always let your conscience be your guide.” That works for some people, but the truth is often sadder, even within Disney history.