Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio


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A classic tale is reborn through the inspired imagination of cinematic dream-weaver Guillermo del Toro, directing alongside Mark Gustafson. Realized through boundary-pushing, breathtakingly intricate stop-motion animation, this dark rendering of the fable of the puppet boy and his maker—which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature—daringly transfers the story to Fascist Italy, where the irrepressible Pinocchio gradually learns what it means to be human through his experiences of war, death, and sacrifice. Featuring the voices of Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, and Christoph Waltz, this Pinocchio imbues the oft-told tale with a bold new resonance about living with courage and compassion.

Picture 9/10

The Criterion Collection presents Guillermo del Toro’s and Mark Gustafson’s adaptation of Pinocchio on 4K UHD, delivered in Dolby Vision on a triple-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Netflix has provided the ultra-high-definition 2160p/24hz master.

Ultimately, the outcome is unsurprising, but the 4K presentation looks terrific. The intricate and rugged details of the puppets and the elaborate sets are richly rendered on screen, capturing even the most minor scratches, threads, and elaborate patterns found in various outfits. Since the movie was digitally shot, there are no instances of print damage, and the digital source appears clean for the most part. Upon closer inspection of screen captures, some slight banding is noticeable in a few backgrounds. However, it’s worth noting (as mentioned in the supplementary materials) that several backgrounds, particularly those depicting the sky, were digitally created. As a result, the minor artifact may be inherent in the source material. Nevertheless, this is hardly discernible during playback, especially with the assistance of Dolby Vision, which effectively mitigates it.

Moreover, HDR and Dolby Vision greatly enhance the presentation by refining shadows and intensifying the colors, especially the scattered reds and oranges throughout the film. Even the variations in the blues—notably within the two sprites—are striking. Impressively rendered shadows maintain intricate details as light seamlessly disperses through them. I am still unsure what to make of HDR and Dolby Vision in digital photography since I sometimes find certain bright spots excessively intense, potentially causing a loss of detail. While this seems to be the case here through various light sources (such as fire or lamps), other aspects of the image are strong, especially when rendering smooth and clean gradations through the shadows. Additionally, the reflection of light on different surfaces, like the water at the end, which features an enhanced gelatin appearance intended by the animators. Despite the majority of the film being created practically, this CGI effect seamlessly mixes with the film's otherwise organic aesthetic.

Ultimately, the visual quality is stunning, surpassing the Netflix stream.

Audio 9/10

Criterion includes the film’s original Dolby Atmos soundtrack. It’s very sharp with superb fidelity and range, though I may have been slightly disappointed with the mix. Granted, my configuration is 5.1.2, with the Atmos speakers in the front, so I may not receive the full effect, but I’ve heard some spectacular Atmos presentations, and this isn’t one of them. But based on what I experienced, there are some solid moments, like when Spazzatura the monkey (hilariously “voiced” by Cate Blanchett, I should add) maneuvers through the carnival in an early scene (an impressive single-shot for stop motion), the effects are doled out wonderfully around the viewer, with the same being true from some of more action-centric sequences. Outside of those moments, though, I came away a little disappointed.

Extras 9/10

Criterion throws together a relatively comprehensive set of features (all found on the included standard Blu-ray, not the 4K disc) and doesn’t settle with reusing using Netflix’s produced material, creating their own, or at least reworking and expanding what Netflix made themselves. Things start with a 45-minute making-of documentary, Hand Carved Cinema, featuring interviews with del Toro and cast and crew members. There’s a little about the origins of the film, but the focus is more on the technical details, from scene development (through storyboards and animatics) to character designs and puppet constructions (interestingly, one puppet that was designed originally to be the villain was demoted to a background character). There’s even a deep dive into the sets, which had to be aged and look lived in. The documentary is also filled with plenty of time-lapse videos showing the animators at work, alongside test footage and videos animators recorded of themselves acting out the motions of the puppets, including Geppetto’s falling-down-the-stairs.

It's a fascinating documentary but doesn’t delve all that deeply into adapting Carlo Collodi’s novel to del Toro’s sensibilities or his interest in the material, and to fill that gap, Criterion films an all-new 26-minute interview featuring directors del Toro and Mark Gustafson. I was surprised to learn this has been a project del Toro had been trying to get off the ground for over two decades, having always been interested in the story after seeing the Disney version (he would read the original story much later). It sounds like an early attempt in the 90’s literally fell apart, crushing him and pushing him toward other projects (he jokes it’s what made him give up and decide to go to Miramax) until he was finally able to take it up again. He would bring on Gustafson to help direct, and it’s here where the two get a bit more into development. It sounds like production started before COVID, and I’m guessing they had to adapt because eventually, they would do meetings through Zoom, with animators showing the work they could accomplish. In a nice touch, we get excerpts from some of these meetings, showing the team dynamics. Gustafson expands on this, explaining that they allowed the animators to essentially “own” their scenes, meaning they could come back to the film, see the section they worked on, and know it was all them in that sequence. This includes one sequence del Toro calls his “Robert Altman shot,” which called for bringing another animator to work solely on that sequence. The two also talk about the digital work done, a topic the other documentary doesn’t touch on. To my surprise, the CGI work is minimal, the two explaining they only wanted to use it where it was genuinely impossible to accomplish what they wanted organically. Despite this being more of a talking-heads feature, I found it more fascinating than the making-of documentary.

Following that is an 8-minute featurette about the eight rules of animation that the two directors laid out, which included animating the characters, performing little gestures and mistakes, acting their age, adding life, and so on. These rules are presented alongside examples from the film and excerpts from Zoom meetings. There’s also a fun 8-minute presentation about the film’s exhibit at MOMA, featuring curator Ron Magliozzi talking about finding materials from the set to add to the exhibition, which included little scotch tape maquettes that almost got thrown away. The exhibit debuted around the time the film was released on Netflix, meaning it was being put together while the film was still being made.

Criterion has also recorded a new discussion between del Toro and critic Farran Smith Nehme, the two going over his career and touching on the common themes between his films and the influence of Mexican melodrama. They also discuss his fascination with Pinocchio and the film’s Catholic imagery.

The features then end with the film’s trailer and footage from two Q&As following a film screening, one hosted by author Neil Gaiman and the other by James Cameron. Not surprisingly, each focuses on different aspects of the production, with Cameron looking more at the film’s technical qualities. Interestingly, we learn that del Toro got to witness Cameron work on the audio remaster for the LaserDisc edition of The Abyss, and this experience influenced del Toro in how he mixes the audio around water effects in his films.

Criterion then includes a booklet featuring an essay on the film by Matt Zoeller Seitz (first recalling its premiere at a festival alongside a few “bigger” movies), followed by an essay on this adaptation of Collodi’s story, written by Cornelia Funke. The booklet also features artwork and designs from the film.

Overall, it ends up being a relatively comprehensive look into the film’s lengthy history and the complicated technical challenges it faced. It’s one of the more robust editions Criterion has put together recently.


It is a very satisfying release from Criterion, featuring an in-depth collection of features and a terrific 4K presentation of the film.


Year: 2022
Time: 117 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1201
Licensor: Netflix
Release Date: December 12 2023
MSRP: $49.95
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-100
1.85:1 ratio
English 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos
Subtitles: English
Regions A/None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 Handcarved Cinema, a new documentary featuring Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, and cast and crew, including the film’s puppet creators, production designers, and animation supervisor   Directing Stop-Motion, a new program featuring Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson   New conversation between Guillermo del Toro and film critic Farran Smith Nehme   New interview with curator Ron Magliozzi on The Museum of Modern Art’s 2022 exhibition devoted to the film   New program on the eight rules of animation that informed the film's production   Panel discussion featuring Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, production designer Guy Davis, composer Alexandre Desplat, and sound designer Scott Martin Gershin, moderated by filmmaker James Cameron   Conversation among Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, and author Neil Gaiman   Essays by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz and author Cornelia Funke