The Battle of the 2022 Pinocchios

Netflix Pinocchio Director: Guillermo Del Toro

Story By: Guillermo Del Toro, Patrick McHale, and Matthew Robbins

Cast: Gregory Mann, David Bradley, Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, and Christoph Waltz 


Disney Pinocchio Director: Robert Zemeckis

Story By: Robert Zemeckis and Chris Weitz

Cast: Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Giuseppe Battiston, Kyanne Lamaya, Keegan-Michael Key, Lorraine Bracco, Jaquita Ta’le, Luke Evans, and Cynthia Erivo

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Story & Theme: My Winner – Toro’s Pinocchio

The original story of Pinocchio is obviously a classic, and Zemeckis’ live action adaptation was done amazingly and loosely well, heightening the adventure aspect of the story. BUT…I do feel that the themes were not as adhesive throughout due to the focus on Pinocchio’s day of adventure vs his day of learning while on this adventure. 

With Toro’s adaptation, I appreciated the colorful darkness of the story, especially taking time to give a story of Geppetto’s son. Thematically, the film focused on the relationship between a father and a son, expectations of boyhood/being a boy, the spirit of being a child, and the consequences of childhood and adulthood intersecting.

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 Pacing: My Winner – Zemeckis’ Pinocchio

So honestly, I think both films had solid and appropriate pacing for the story they were telling. When it comes to Toro’s adaptation, pacing felt a little choppy and rushed in regards to the relationship between Pinocchio and Geppetto. Some of the frustrations by Geppetto weren’t fully justified based on the knowledge we had of Pinocchio, in my opinion. 

With Zemeckis’ adaptation, the adventure focus gave it that extra nudge forward for me. Though pacing sort of took over thematic followthrough, it did move the character through situations to at least check off the tasks given to him by the Blue Fairy, while also being super engaging. 

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Character: My Winner – Toro’s Pinocchio

As mentioned with my pick for best story and theme, Toro’s adaptation put effort into the character of Pinocchio. He wasn’t just a means to move the plot, he was written as, what seemed to be, a “real live boy/child.” It reminded me of the most recent Child’s Play remake where the film gave space to this unknowing and ignorant character to actually learn and pick up habits with help in making sense of them when possible. Even Geppetto had more purpose and range as a character than in the original. 

Zemeckis’ adaptation, though loose, was loose for the engagement and adventure, not necessarily Pinocchio. From the very beginning, Pinocchio was an upstanding puppet looking to do right, and none of the situations really brought about enough tension for him to be swayed either at all or for too long. The moment that stands out most is Act Three with the Pleasure Island which I would’ve liked to have seen showcase a more faithful version of Pinocchio. 

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Creativity: My Winner – Toro’s Pinocchio

The setting. The backstory to Geppetto’s son. The more “realistic” adaptation to the Pleasure Island climax of the original. And the overall production and storytelling medium. All things that should be admired and given due props, in my opinion. 

With Zemeckis’ adaptation, I wouldn’t say creative liberties were taken, which is probably because the owners of the story were also spearheading the adaptation—so why take creative liberties with their original concept, when doing it “live action” is “creative” enough…maybe??

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Entertainment Factor: My Winner – Zemeckis’ Pinocchio

By default, if I were to suggest one to watch to the general public, it would be the Disney live action adaption. I chuckled more during my viewing, the visuals are great, and the focus on adventure really helps with engagement, so it’s the most accessible of the two. I also loved the Pleasure Island song. 

However, for viewers looking for story and substance, I’d definitely suggest the Toro adaptation on Netflix. 

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Overall, my pick between the two is #TorosPinocchio which gives Pinocchio of 1940 – meets JoJo Rabbit – meets Up – meets The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 

Both are definitely interesting in their own way due to their individual creative paths, but I genuinely appreciated the depth that Toro applied to the Pinocchio story. 

Also, the score for Toro’s Pinocchio sounds like quality, and Erivo’s When You Wish for Disney is stunning. 

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