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With “Pinocchio,” Guillermo del Toro crafted a thoughtful and philosophical stop-motion animated feature that centers on the father-son relationship, political upheaval and death. It’s not a remake of the Disney classic — a version del Toro loves — rather, it’s derived from Carlo Collodi’s novel.

At Variety‘s Artisans Screening Series, del Toro talked about balancing dark themes, like fascism, and making the story accessible to younger audiences. “Kids are far more complex than the soccer parents give them credit for,” del Toro said. He went on to say, “Kids are thankful when you give them the pieces to understand the real world, not when you take it from them because things might be tough.”

Del Toro told the audience that the pandemic had made children more aware of the brevity of life. He said, “We are in a world where everybody experiences death. Normally the kids they think about in studios are skateboarding kids in suburbia, but a kid now is Greta Thunberg.” He continued, “A kid now knows that the doomsday clock is ticking. They know we have destroyed ecology. They know we have destroyed society. They know everything that is going wrong. So, they appreciate an explanation. The movie is constructed with parallel stories of fathers and sons.”

Del Toro was joined by director Mark Gustafson, composer Alexandre Desplat, sound designer and supervisor Scott Martin Gershin, production designer Guy Davis and songwriter Roeban Katz.

In the film, Pinocchio finds himself face-to-face with Death (voiced by Tilda Swinton) numerous times and has to make decisions about his path. Death is maternal, del Toro told the audience. She’s the one who guides him.

As Pinocchio navigates death, the film explores several father-son relationships. Del Toro said, “We parallel the stories of the father and the son and the fascist side, Volpe and Spazzatura, Jesus Christ and his father.” He noted that the stop-motion puppet of Pinocchio also had nails on him, like Christ, adding, “I think it’s not the story of a boy learning to be a real boy but a man learning to be a real father, which is a lot more interesting to me.”

The panel also discussed how the song “Ciao Papa,” written by Desplat, del Toro and Katz, came together. Del Toro revealed he had approached Nick Cave and Beck as potential songwriters, but in the end, the trio collaborated on the tune’s lyrics and music, with Desplat using wooden instruments to underscore the film’s aesthetic. “The percussions, the piano, harp, mandolins, guitars and even the accordion was made from wood,” he said.

Watch the video above.