Set at the start of World War II in Mussolini’s Italy, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a retelling of the classic story of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. The tale is told by Sebastian J. Cricket (voice of Ewan McGregor) at a time when fascism is on the rise and the local town where Geppetto (David Bradley), a carpenter, lives with his son, Carlo, is ruled by the Podestà (Ron Perlman), a loyal Nazi. Tragedy occurs when the church that Carlo is in is hit by a bomb and he is killed. Geppetto never recovers from the loss of his son and lives his life in grief and in a drunken state.
Many years later, Geppetto carves out a wooden boy from a tree that grew next to Carlo’s grave. A wood sprite (Tilda Swinton) takes pity on Geppetto when she sees him still weeping over Carlo’s grave, and gives life to the wooden boy. Geppetto calls him Pinocchio and is both afraid and joyful when Pinocchio comes to life. Pinocchio, however, is full of mischief, curiosity and disobedience, unlike Carlo who was always an obedient boy. Pinocchio’s nose also grows longer if he tells a lie, which makes Geppetto angry. The Podestà wants Pinocchio to join the Nazi Youth Party and learn how to become a soldier. Instead, Pinocchio joins a touring carnival led by the wicked Count Volpe (Christopher Waltz) and his cat, Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett). Pinocchio is accidentally killed when a vehicle runs him over and he finds himself in a dark place where black rabbits are playing cards. The wood sprite’s sister, Death, tells Pinocchio that he has many lives to live and sends him back to Geppetto.
On his return to life, Pinocchio is sent to the Nazi Youth camp where he befriends the Podestà’s son, Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard), who had previously tormented him. There, both boys learn invaluable lessons about questioning authority. When the camp is destroyed by enemy bombing, Pinocchio continues his adventures to rescue Geppetto who has been swallowed by a gigantic whale. In order to save his papa, Pinocchio has to do something most courageous.
Life and Death; Grief and Loss; Mortality and Immortality; Fantasy; War; Oppression; Disobedience; Father-son relationships.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio has some violence. For example:
- A bomb hits the church that Carlo is in. The church explodes and is on fire. Geppetto is thrown from the doorsteps of the church, onto the street.
- Geppetto falls down a ladder when drunk.
- Pinocchio smashes several objects with a hammer and throws knives. He also hits Geppetto with a pot.
- Sebastian is squashed underfoot or by other means on several occasions.
- Pinocchio’s feet catch fire when he sits too close to a fire.
- Geppetto and Count Volpe fight over Pinocchio, pulling him from each end. He falls to the ground and is run over by a truck and dies.
- Sea mines are seen scattered in the ocean and one explodes.
- Count Volpe beats Spazzatura with a stick. Pinocchio tries to intervene and Volpe threatens him with a sword.
- Pinocchio performs a parody of the show for Mussolini who orders his soldiers to shoot Pinocchio. Pinocchio dies again.
- The boys at the Nazi Youth camp are given grenades and rifles that shoot paint. Pinocchio and Candlewick are on separate teams that have to compete to reach the tower first. When they both arrive together, they raise both flags. The Podestà, however, is angry that they agreed to tie and orders Candlewick to shoot Pinocchio with a real gun.
- More bombs are dropped, which send Pinocchio flying up into the air. When he lands, he finds Count Volpe has tied him to a cross. Volpe then sets fire to a pyre underneath him.
- Spazzatura attacks Volpe and saves Pinocchio. Volpe falls off a cliff into the ocean.
- Pinocchio sets off a sea mine to kill the whale.
There are no sexual references in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio has some substance use. For example:
- A sea captain smokes a cigarette.
- Geppetto turns to alcohol after Carlo dies and is seen drinking from bottles. Broken bottles are seen lying around his house.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity and sexual activity in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
There’s no product placement in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a stop-motion animated, musical fantasy. It’s beautifully crafted and visually stunning. The film focuses on many philosophical subjects, including father-son relationships; life, death and immortality; and war and its consequences. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is too intense for younger viewers because of these mature themes. It is also quite scary and violent in places and is therefore not recommended for children under 12 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 12–14 years.
These are the main messages from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio:
- Sometimes it’s necessary to disobey those in authority.
- Trying your best is the best anyone can do.
Values in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio that you could reinforce with your children include courage, bravery, selflessness and self-sacrifice, loyalty, friendship, standing up to brutes and bullies,
supporting your friends, and standing up for what you believe in.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of some attitudes and behaviours. For example:
- Disobedience is a theme of this movie, as is the message that sometimes it’s necessary to disobey those in authority when you know that what they are saying is wrong. You could discuss with your children when it’s right to question those who hold power over you rather than follow in blind obedience.
- War is the background to this movie and Geppetto knows it never brings any good as it killed his son. It could be an opportunity to discuss why countries go to war.