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Everyone’s familiar with the story of the puppet who longs to be a real boy, or, the story of Pinocchio. The children’s story was brought to the screen first in 1911 as a silent film, and later by Disney as an animated film in 1940, though Disney’s didn’t experience success until 1945, upon a rerelease after WWII. Throughout the years, Pinocchio and his adventures have been told and told again both in live-action and animation projects, even making a popular appearance as a side character in the ‘Shrek’ franchise. Now it’s 2022, and Pinocchio will be a part of not one, not two, but three separate adaptations just this year alone.
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The first adaptation is a Russian direct-to-DVD animated film entitled, ‘Pinocchio: A True Story.’ The real competition lies between Disney and Netflix, as Robert Zemeckis versus Guillermo del Toro. Both works have enough differences and individuality to stand out on their own, but it never helps the film process to have two films following the same story and character be released within only months of one another. What are these differences? And how will the films compete with their similar basis?
Pinocchio – The Live-Action Version
Not everything should be a competition, but it is impossible to not compare given the circumstances. Coming to Disney Plus this September is the live-action take on the character. Disney has been popping out live-action remakes left and right over the years, from 2015’s ‘Cinderella’ to 2019’s ‘Aladdin.’ Each remake has been subjected to its own criticisms and praises, covering either its improvement or downgrade from the original animated film it is adapting. ‘Pinocchio’ is the next to take the hot seat. Directed and co-written by the acclaimed Robert Zemeckis (best known for his ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy and ‘Forrest Gump’), the film will be taking much of its inspiration from the 1940 animated version. Though not everyone is always on board with these live-action protocols, Disney has always pulled out all the stops when it comes to production value and casting.
Leading the cast is none other than Forrest Gump himself, Tom Hanks, portraying the lonely woodcarver, Geppetto. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (who audiences can recognize from ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’) will be voicing the titular character. Cynthia Erivo is the enchanting Blue Fairy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the conscientious Jiminy Cricket, and Luke Evans returns to play another Disney villain (following his entertaining turn as Gaston in the live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’), taking on the role of the Coachman. Keegan-Michael Key will be voicing John “Honest” Worthington Fellow, a sly fox, and multiple new characters will be seen for the first time in this adaptation. Since the film is releasing this month, we won’t have to wait too long to see how the final product turns out. Remakes are tricky, and controversial even, but it appears that this version has a lot going for it, and just might make the best addition for a family movie night.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Releasing in select theaters this November, and streaming on Netflix in December comes another animated adaptation from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. The director has found much success with his pieces, and has a talent for dark fairytales as exemplified by ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ in 2006, and ‘The Shape of Water’ in 2017, both of which went on to win Academy Awards for del Toro. It is expected that this depiction of the character will follow a potentially darker route, despite being animated. The story is explicitly set in 1930s Fascist Italy, and centers on the lessons Pinocchio learns as he experiences life.
David Bradley, known for his roles in ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Game of Thrones,’ will be voicing Master Geppetto. Newcomer Gregory Mann is voicing the excitable Pinocchio. Ewan McGregor is taking on the Jiminy Cricket counterpart, named Sebastian J. Cricket, while Christoph Waltz will be playing the antagonist, Count Volpe. Rounding out the cast is Tilda Swinton as the Turquoise Fairy, Finn Wolfhard as Candlewick, and Cate Blanchett as Sprezzatura the Monkey. Though many of these characters sound different or unfamiliar, they are taken directly from the Carlo Collodi fairytale, or are reimaginings of the characters from the fairytale. Though the Disney version is based on the same story, it is likely that Guillermo del Toro’s take will follow more closely to the children’s book itself, which will help the project create its own identity. The casting and concept feel promising, and though we have to wait a little longer for the release, this ‘Pinocchio’ will be gracing everyone’s screens in time for the holidays.
The Twin Effect
It’s actually common for Hollywood to experience similar releases within months of one another. It’s a phenomenon that stems from the current happenings and interests in the world, culminating in similar scripts being written, and eventually similar films being released. Some examples include two Snow White adaptations in 2012: ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman,’ though if you’ve seen those films you know they approach the same source material with different styles, aesthetics, and overall themes. Another, more recent, example is in 2019 when Hollywood saw the releases of ‘The Haunting of Sharon Tate,’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ though both films take the story of Sharon Tate in widely different directions and genres. Now we’ll be experiencing the phenomenon with these adaptations of Pinocchio. One reason why these films are being released within similar timelines is that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio lingered in production hell for years, pushing it back to be released now.
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From the looks of it, both films have enough individuality that they should not be tethered to their relation with one another. Every person who watches each film will likely have their own reasoning for picking one as their favorite over the other. It just depends on what appeals to each audience member. It’ll be interesting to see how each film turns out, and how the story of the puppet who longs to be a real boy gets to come to life (no pun intended) again in front of a modern audience.
By Rachel Beltowski
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Rachel Beltowski is a screenwriter and film critic, with a passion for character-driven stories and thought-provoking themes. From adventure to horror, Rachel enjoys stories which take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster and allow for personal expression that would otherwise go silent. Rachel was drawn to The Hollywood Insider’s dedication to individual perspectives and positive world impacts. The Hollywood Insider has provided a foundation for Rachel to share her insights and leap into the center of the entertainment industry. Rachel hopes to bring a fresh voice into the world of film and television, and share her love of stories with others.