Guillermo del Toro Gives Us Some Writing Advice

…To which we can only say – gulp – “Amen:”

by Charlie Jane Anders

Guillermo del Toro has directed some of the coolest movies of the past decade or so, including Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, plus the upcoming monster/robot smackdown Pacific Rim. But he’s also gotten into producing animated films for kids, including Kung-Fu Panda and the upcoming Rise of the Guardians.

We were lucky enough to get a chance to talk one-on-one with del Toro about Rise of the Guardians, and he explained to us why children’s stories need to be dark, because “kids are neurotic.”

What’s the biggest mistake people make in telling stories about children, or for children?

Well, I think that one of the things is to actually try and create a sense of darkness in the tale. A lot of people just make this sanitized super happy-go-lucky, “bright sunshine and clouds” type of childhood movies. And you really need an element of the dark in it. In the case of Kung Fu Panda 2, we really came up with a psychotic, sociopathic villain. In the case of [Rise of the] Guardians, we have Pitch, which is an incredibly sophisticated and articulate guy that tries to control your fear. In the case of Puss in Boots, we had a bad guy who was Humpty, who was capable of changing and capable of doing a good action at the end. He was incredibly neurotic.

And I think that people don’t acknowledge that kids have all these sides. Kids are neurotic, kids deal with fear, kids are confronted by really hostile impulses from the adults around them and the other kids, and you know, movies should acknowledge all this and create these fables that help them deal with those things.

Do kids’ movies have the best villains?

I don’t know that I’d say [that]. Hitchcock used to say, “The better the villain, the better the film.” And Hitchcock’s bad guys, in some cases, are formidable. The James Bond villains can be fantastic. And superhero movies are only as good as the bad guy.

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