Guillermo del Toro Explains the Mexican Influence Behind His ‘Pinocchio’
A new TikTok video featuring Guillermo del Toro shows the “Pinocchio” director talking to what appears to be a room of animators about his new Netflix original film. In the video, he cites Mexican culture as a huge inspiration behind the film, both in terms of the character design and a unique cultural attitude towards death.
In the 3-minute video, del Toro covers everything from the poetry of Jaime Sabines to the necessity of pushing back against the studio executives who are afraid to spend their money on anything original or daring. The video starts with a question from one of the audience members asking what the inspiration was behind a certain character design, to which del Toro simply says, “Mexico,” at which point the crowd cheers.
“Those two figures have every single thing from Mexican sculpture and creativity,” del Toro says. “They can be an alebrije from Michoacan. They can be a hand-carved saint in a little town church.” He then explains how, as a child, he would see an archangel with eyes on every feather of his wings. “And I thought: that’s freaky,” he says to laughs from the crowd.
The director goes on to explain how Mexican culture also influenced the way the film deals with “death and life.” He explains this with verses from a poem by Jaime Sabines called “Del Mito,” saying, “All my life I heard a voice whispering softly in my ears. Live. Live. Live. It was Death.”
He goes on to say that Mexicans have a unique understanding of death that makes for a good fit with a character like Pinocchio, who has a fundamental existentialism to him that can be explored as more than just a story about a wooden boy who comes to life. “I can promise you one thing,” he says. “We all are going to die.” The crowd laughs along before del Toro asks, “How’s your afternoon now?”
Del Toro continues to talk frankly about the dichotomy of life and death, saying, “It’s really, really beautiful how you hang on to life. The way we live life is without danger or curiosity if we’re not careful. And we’re living with fear as opposed to hunger.” He adds, “We really don’t know when it ends.”
From there, del Toro moves to the topic of animation and the necessity of artists like those listening to him speak, the people who will push the medium forward even as those with the money push back on them. “I think this is the time where we can make animation be what it is,” he said. “Everyone in this room knows what animation can be. People with the money, they don’t know what animation can be.”
The director acknowledges the push-and-pull of this kind of relationship without letting the artists off the hook. He makes it clear he thinks an artist’s job is to, even if it’s just one shot, find some way to improve the medium and move it forward. “It is the nature of the artist to be fearless and it is the nature of the people with the money to be scared as shit.”
Del Toro closes his speech with a perfect metaphor for what animation is in today’s cultural landscape. “They want to keep it being a fucking McNugget,” he says. “It’s a whole meal! A whole meal with five courses!”
The comments under the TikTok video unanimously praised del Toro as one of the most important and talented artists not only in Mexico but the entire world.
“Pinocchio” streams on Netflix starting December 9 following a month-long theatrical run that begins on November 11.