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Guillermo del Toro Makes the Perfect Case for More Animation Outside of Children’s Programming

Again for those in the back, please.

Guillermo del Toro behind a window on the set of Pinocchio. Image: Netflix.

In Variety‘s Artisans Screening Series on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Jazz Tangcay spoke with the directors (del Toro and Mark Gustafson), composer (Alexandre Desplat), sound designer and supervisor (Scott Martin Gershin), production designer (Guy Davis) and songwriter (Roeban Katz) about the process of making the film and the heavy themes in the story. After revealing that he was having issues pitching his next stop-motion animation project, del Toro gave some impassioned thoughts about how animation is treated in the film industry.

I think it’s important to make sure that all people that love animation know it’s not a goddamn genre for kids. It’s a medium for art. […] It’s important for the people that are coming up because we have never been in an industry with better animators and worse industry. […]

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of successful movies for kids for sure, but that’s to say I love McNuggets, but not every fucking day.

Not three meals a day.

No, can we also have some steak and some cornish chicken.

Most fans of del Toro’s work, or those that follow professional animators online, will know this is not the first time he’s pushed back against this. Part of this response from del Toro is just a reword of something he says over and over again. The main difference this time is his comparison to food which I think is fitting because it gives a visual to someone that might not have seen enough movies to really understand this sentiment. In fact, just a few months before Pinnochio‘s release, a video of the award-winning Mexican director explaining that he never approaches movies based on whether they’re for kids or adults went viral.

@gillianlovesfilms Replying to @sallyalbrightofficial Part 1 of our conversation #guillermodeltoro #netflix #filmtok ♬ original sound – gillianlovesfilms

Regarding this film, del Toro clarified that this is a great movie for adults and kids to watch together, but that he sees adults having issues with their kids seeing it rather than the kids themselves due to the complex world they are entering.

Disrespecting animation

The feeling he and others have to remind people that animation is a medium and not a genre comes from a demoralizing time in the film industry. With few exceptions, there are very few media to large-budget animation features released each year to a wide audience. The few that make it to the major awards like the Oscars are chided as “something you watch for your kids.” It feels like every year, there’s a repeating punchline about this, but it is rarely discussed outside of the art community because something more viral will capture news media.

Even companies like the Criterion Collection got backlash (albeit for many reasons) when they released their “animation” genre t-shirt. (It wasn’t even the worst shirt, that prize goes to “foreign.”) This company, whose focus is curation, restoration, and distribution of “important classic and contemporary films,” has been criticized for years for its lack of support for animated films. As of 2023, and aside from special editions, only seven animated works have entered the physical collection. The Criterion Channel has made much better progress in this regard though there’s still an overrepresentation of American, European, and East Asian animation.

TV doesn’t fare much better, as there’s always a pushback against general audience animation stories. Also, as we’ve seen from the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, animated projects are first on the chopping block. Things either have to be clearly for adults or clearly for children for most production companies. With children, shows must have a large boy audience or the show will likely be cut because everyone knows they’re the only gender that likes toys. (The toy industry made Saturday morning cartoons possible.)

Animators are also starting to speak up about a shift happening (not AI, though that’s certainly starting) that will only worsen the disparity of animated stories.

@sarasartmistakes what’s up #animtok #animationtok #arttok , welcome back to another episode of “the animation industry is being punished for no reason✌?” #art #animation #cartoon #animator #animatorsoftiktok ♬ original sound – sara

(via Variety, featured image: Netflix)

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(she/her) Award-winning digital artist and blogger with experience and an educational background in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. A resident of the yeeHaw land, she spends most of her time watching movies, playing video games, and reading.