Stop-motion animation is a lot like problem solving in the sense that the teams behind visual spectacles such as Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio are constantly facing unprecedented challenges during production in order to give the most detailed shot.
Nothing like this Pinocchio has ever been tackled before, especially for the big screen and the crew went through a remarkable journey in order to give one the most unique versions of one the most well-known stories in the world.
The way the crew managed to work with the Academy Award-winning del Toro in order to bring life to his creative vision was nothing short of extraordinary. Every detail had to be created from scratch. Each character and inanimate object have to be designed like it belonged in the world of Pinocchio, and they had to do it all using stop-motion technology instead of live action or even animation.
AwardsWatch was able to speak with Guy Davis and Curt Enderle, the production designers behind the cinematic achievement that is Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and we sure did learn a lot about the significant amount of detailed work these crews put into their work to give audiences a once in a lifetime experience.
Davis told us that this was an accomplishment that took years to pull off. “I started when Guillermo brought me on to do some redesigns in 2012 before this, this current version, and then that at the time was exciting,” Davis said.
He continued to speak about how the team managed to maintain excitement for the project for so long on its long production journey. “There’s the initial excitement but I think we never really lost that excitement over the whole time,” he claimed.
Davis explained, “They were shooting on stage for a thousand days, you know. So nearly two and a half, three years. So, over three years, I guess not quite three years. A long time to sort of maintain the both the quality level and the excitement and be consistent because you don’t want something to be like Oh that’s from the beginning of the process as opposed to the end.”
The two production designers also shed light on what they thought was the most unique element of the film. Enderle shared that the fact that it was Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio makes it so “distinctly his story that you know we are all in service to that vision.” He continued, “And I think if I can talk for Guy, you know, his ability to get Caramel’s vision on paper, and the unique take on the characters. I think that that is directly responsible to you. There were things that were from the initial sketches.”
Davis chimed in to speak about previously working with Guillermo on other films in contrast to this one. “I’ve collaborated with Guillermo and another productions, Crimson Peach, Shape of Water and stuff. We have a great collaborative flight, but this is not like any other Pinocchio, or any other production because it is a Guillermo’s vision.”
Davis continued, “Look at things like the characters that we have even Pinocchio or Death and our version of the Woods or the Blue Fairy.” “It doesn’t look like any blue fairy that people have seen,” he said laughing.
“It’s Guillermo’s World and we’re all inspired by like his ideas, to think outside that box of what, you normally would think or do for a, a character design or a set piece, or, you know, even with just the settings we have and the different styles, but it comes visually distinct,” Davis expanded.
Davis then dug a little deeper on the collaborative process between him and the award-winning Guillermo. “We talk. We go back and forth on sketches. It’s like you’re creating everything from scratch. It’s not just saying over here as an actor, and here’s a set. What can we have real-world that we’re dressing up in live action? We still had that same attention to detail and that same process that we would for live action. But now it’s like we needed to design our cast of characters, you know, from scratch.”
One of the most impressive things about Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, aside from its unique story, is how everything in the film successfully blended together, even the different scenes from different worlds within the film itself, such as the Underworld and Pinocchio’s world. Davis went on to discuss the how critical it was that everything blend to show that it was part of the same world. “And if we have a tree, the tree must be stylized in a way that matches the cast of characters and the environment. So, it’s world building on a level that. Yeah, is complete, you know, in a way that nothing is a given. Every single bit had to be not just built, but designed to fit in with the other bits, like, glass on a table, a leaf. They couldn’t just be like a ready-made prop that you could redress. It was always like something unique. But to me, that was great because it’s a level that just brought it into its own reality of something that was its entirely Pinocchio’s World.”
The two also spoke about the “physical limitation” as to how small you can make joints on the characters and have them hold up to the rigors of animation, and the evolution of the Pinocchio character on a granular level. Watch the full interview below and let us know your thoughts on the film in the comments.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is in select theaters now and streaming on Netflix on December 9.