How Stop-Motion Animators Created Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO is available to stream now on Netflix, https://netflix.com/pinocchio
Director: Jackie Phillips
Director of Photography: Paul Ramsey
Editor: Mana Tagami
Talent: Puppeteer: Georgina Hayns
Producer: Ashley Hall
Line Producer: Jen Santos
Associate Producer: Emebeit Beyene
Production Manager: Natasha Soto-Albors
Production Coordinator: Jamal Colvin
Director of Director of Talent: Lauren Mendoza
Camera Operator(s): Collin Lyons, Richard Lyons
Sound: John Gurney
Production Assistant(s): Chad Saddler
Post Production Supervisor: Edward Taylor
Post Production Coordinator: Jovan James
Supervising Editor: Kameron Key
Assistant Editor: Billy Ward
Released on 03/02/2023
You always hope, of course, that nobody is thinking
about what's going on inside the coat.
There's all of these ball and socket joints
and wires articulating it.
All of this is to really trick the viewer
into believing that the puppet has got a weighted real coat,
and that it's moving just how you would expect it to.
My name is Georgina Hayns.
I'm the Puppet Fabrication Supervisor
at On Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.
What I'm gonna talk to you about today is how
do you make puppets for a stop motion animated film?
They love me, they accept me!
Ah, enough of this.
In design and concept,
it came from this amazing illustrator, Gris Grimly.
And you know, in our version of the story,
when Geppetto is actually creating him,
he's actually been drinking a little too much.
And so half of him is almost perfectly carved,
and the other half is just sort of left half carved.
When he first comes into being,
Guillermo really wanted it to be
a kind of Frankenstein-esque sort of creation story.
So when you first see Pinocchio walking,
he doesn't know how to walk.
He's a wooden boy that's never walked before.
So he evolves as a character and he becomes more humanistic
in his characteristics, but he never becomes human,
and he never wants to become a boy.
There was different puppet makings groups
that came together.
The two main groups was Shadow Machine in Portland
and MacKinnon and Saunders in England,
and MacKinnon and Saunders had been working
with 3D printed metal.
This back plate of the puppet is all 3D printed in metal.
All of the wood grain, the nails on the back,
that all comes out of the metal printer.
And then the internal sort of spine structure,
this is all for rigging because Pinocchio is so active,
he's jumping, he's flying
he's doing all these crazy things.
The rigging department would use
all of these square sections,
and we'd have separate sort of extra plates
that we could put on with a hole on the side.
And then from that we made metal armature parts
for the arms and the legs and the feet,
which then had ball and socket joints, or 3D printed joints.
So all of his sort of shoulder and hip joints
which were actually part of his design,
we used, again, the 3D metal printing technique
to create this perfectly engineered
kind of like ball and socket joint that didn't look like
one of our standard ball and socket joints
that were used for puppets,
but looks like the design of Pinocchio.
Most of the characters in our movie,
most of the human characters,
we use silicon and tiny head mechanics
to articulate their heads.
But with Pinocchio, because he's a wooden boy
and because he's got wood grain,
we actually did an early test
and the silicon looked like rubber.
It didn't read as wood at all.
You got the detail of the wood grain,
but it just the minute it moved, it didn't read as wood.
So we decided to do him,
and he's like the only full replacement puppet on the show
One which belonged to a very special boy.
Replacement animation is where you're
literally moving the mouth shapes and the eyes
frame by frame by taking masks off.
So each mask has a different shaped mouth and eyes.
So we 3D printed all of these masks.
So you model the face in the computer,
and you then animate, you sort of meld that face
into the shapes you want and then you print it out.
I think that's what makes him really believable
as a wooden boy next to all these human characters.
When we're doing replacement faces,
we generally cut the face in half
so that we can get eyebrow expression
and mouth expression in separate parts,
and then we'll just erase the line
with a computer afterwards.
But our little Pinocchio has got wood grain
crossing where that line would go,
and he hasn't really got eyes.
You know, the design of him is the eyes are a negative.
They're actually tiny little holes.
We were just racking our brains.
How are we going to give him eye expression
as well as mouth expression
without having to print thousands and thousands of faces?
We noticed the original design on the face,
his eyes essentially are held within wooden knots.
So the knot that you would get when you cut into some wood.
We went to Guillermo and said
well if we can kind of join the outer shape of the knot,
we could actually have those as another replacement part.
So rather than separating it from top to bottom
as a face and and having a straight line,
why don't we use the wood grain,
the wood grain of the knots.
And we ended up having replacement plug-in eyes,
with the replacement masks of the face.
And then of course the nose has to animate as well
because his nose grows and turns into branches and things.
So that was another separate part.
I am not lying!
Each of Pinocchio's noses has a square hole
that is actually printed into the nose
and the head core of Pinocchio has a square peg,
a metal square peg that is projecting
out of the front of the face.
So essentially it allowed us to literally
slide any nose shape over the steel square peg.
And that's what allowed us to replace the noses
for the nose growing into the twig,
the nose growing into the tree sequence.
Because it was a steel square peg and it was attached firmly
into the core of the head of the puppet,
it actually allowed for quite a lot of weight
to go onto that face before we had to then rig it from,
you know sort of externally rig the puppet.
And then if you need to take the face plate off
and change it with another expression,
again you have to take the nose off.
And then you literally take the whole face plate.
The eyes are separate plugins,
so they come out, and then you slide a new face,
and the nose helps locate where that face is going to be.
And then you get whichever eyes go with that sequence,
and you plug your eyes in.
Guillermo's version of Pinocchio is very Geppetto heavy.
Guillermo wanted him to be the most expressive
of the human characters.
Traditionally, most puppets that I myself have worked on,
and MacKinnon and Saunders especially have worked on
are more sort of humanoid head mechanic puppets.
So head mechanics is where you have a silicon skin
that sits over what looks a little bit like a skull,
but instead of having muscles moving the skin,
there's tiny little articulated
ball and socket joints and gears.
So the strings sometimes that are cast
into the corners of the mouths,
which are then sort of they go into the head
into a little gear system
which has cranks and Allen key accesses through the ear.
We were really lucky with him,
that he has a beard and a mustache and he's older.
So when you're sculpting characters like that,
and you've got creases already embedded
into the structure of the face,
that helps silicon skin sort of crease in the right place.
But underneath his skin is this elaborate
sort of like collection of lip paddles.
So he's got four lip paddles in that sit into his mustache.
So he has two outer lip paddles that can move his mustache
you know, and sort of smile and frown.
And then he has two inner lip paddles
that can get the ooh expression of the top lip.
And then on the bottom jaw he's got, again,
four lip paddles that sit in the bottom lip.
Once you've got the skin sitting over the mechanics,
and you've got the articulation of the face working,
all of these characters have some kind of hair,
whether it be facial hair or whether it be,
sort of hair on their head or wigs or whatever.
So we decided it was gonna be a hybrid between sculpted hair
and then fine strands of like a mohair.
I don't have time or patience enough
to explain that to you.
I think the most challenging part
of all of the characters across the board was the eyes.
It's not just solely the eyes,
it's the way that the eyes interact with the eyebrows.
We wanted the eyeballs themselves to have depth,
to feel almost human.
We made most of our eyeballs with rapid prototype
3D printed core, which we then put an iris pupil graphic on,
and then dropped the whole thing into a mold
and embedded it in clear resin to get the lens quality.
So this is the scary sharp tool that the animators
would go in with to animate and move the eyes.
So each movement of the puppet,
each frame that the animator is gonna take,
they're moving the eyeball and the pupil and the iris
literally sort of a couple of millimeters
and you know, an eighth of an inch at a time.
And then they're also having to go in and move the blink.
So I'm moving the lower blink here,
and each movement take a frame of film,
then move the eye blink down, take a frame of film.
Only day that our cacophonous carnival will-
All our puppets, of course have a wardrobe, have costumes.
So with a character like Count Volpe
that has this long flowing coat,
with all the fabrics, we have to think about
the scale of the weave and what is the fabric
that's gonna sort of cheat the human eye,
so that you believe with Count Volpe
he's wearing a tweed coat.
You can see here if I move his coat without intention,
it springs back.
And that's because it has wires which are laced into it
all the way around the outside.
They also link into the sort of the body of the puppet.
So we call it grounding those wires,
so that the wires have something to move from.
And this is really how the animator frame by frame
gets that feel of flow of fabrics.
As I see it, you were charged with a terrible burden.
We wanted these puppets to be
practical stop motion puppets.
So we figured out the scale
of how large can we make the creatures
so that an animator can actually still move them
frame by frame.
The nice thing with Guillermo's designs
for his creatures is that they're stylized.
There's a lot going on, but they are quite stylized.
So we were able to sculpt all of the wings
on the front surfaces, and then on the back surfaces
we actually chose a fur fabric we found
which was almost scale like that was inspired
by the bark that we were using as well.
It was early days that some tests with cardboard,
sort of layering of cardboard were done for bark
and shingles and things like that.
And they were very inspiring
to how we ended up doing the scales and the the fur
and the feathers on the creatures.
[water crashing] [creature bellowing]
What was lovely about the dogfish is when when we made her
she was perfect for foam latex.
So foam latex is something that we often just use
on the inside of a puppet,
and we don't use it for skin anymore
because it has a wrinkly quality.
And turns out when you are making a dogfish for Pinocchio,
that wrinkly quality is perfect.
What we are able to do when we're building the creatures
is embrace all of the techniques that we'd learned
throughout our careers
and used the best technique depending on
which creature we were working on.
It was about making these creatures as believable
and as lightweight and as animatable as possible.
So we really did pull
all of our knowledge together on those.
And they were fun, they were super fun to make.
You will stay here with me a little longer
each time you cross, until the end of time.
Bullet Train Director David Leitch Breaks Down Action Sequences from His Movies
'Stranger Things' Auditions and How the Cast Landed Their Roles
How 'Elvis' Costume Designer Catherine Martin Transformed Austin Butler Into Elvis
How Stranger Things' SFX Artists Created Vecna
How 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' Visual Effects Were Made
How 'Dune' Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Winning Score
How Tattoos Are Designed For Movies & TV
How 'The Lion King' Has Captivated Broadway For 25 Years
How Stop-Motion Animators Created Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
How Avatar: The Way of Water's VFX Were Made
How 'Asteroid City' Production Designer Creates the Worlds of Wes Anderson
'Jury Duty' Auditions and How the Cast Landed Their Roles
How 'Wednesday' Costume Designer Created Jenna Ortega's Looks
How 'The Last of Us' SFX Artists Created the Infected