I’m not going to say I don’t routinely write about people my kids recognize. I will, however, say I seldom do so for horror month. My kids are three and seven, and while I’m fairly laid back about screentime and probably let them watch things a lot of other parents wouldn’t, that only goes so far. Earlier this year, I was telling my son about books of mine he can’t read yet, and the example I used was The Stand. He’s definitely not ready. However, they recognize Guillermo Del Toro and know his voice. In fact, one of the moments that blew Simon’s mind watching the Oscars a while back was by pointing Del Toro out to him and informing him that it was the voice of the dentist.
Now, they don’t know as much of his career as I do. Irene saw The Shape of Water, but she was definitely not paying attention and may have slept through it; I’m not sure she was two yet at the time. They definitely haven’t seen any of his other movies, though Simon might enjoy Hellboy. Certainly it’s a movie where I think he’s old enough and she isn’t. Neither of them are ready for Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone, though, I can tell you. Pretty much what they know him for is the Tales of Arcadia series on Netflix, which they adore. I suspect it also means they’re a lot more familiar with the sound of his voice than a lot of his other fans, since he’s a recurring character on the show as Dr. Muelas.
A thing I’ve often said about that show is that I like the design of the monsters better than that of the humans. That is definitely part of the Del Toro aesthetic, really; the monsters are exquisite. The fantastical world is so much wilder and more vivid than the mundane world. I’ve been angry for years that Hellboy 2 lost Oscars to Benjamin Button, as the creativity of Hellboy 2 was on practically every frame. The makeup is astounding. I get people who don’t care for the movie, but it is absolutely gorgeous.
Del Toro’s worldview can be fairly dark. No doubt about it. He does not come across as having a great deal of faith in human nature. These are not happy fantasy worlds, when he gets into fantasy. I’ll admit I haven’t seen all his works—my regularly mentioned lack of real interest in horror—but I’ve seen several of them, and they are impressive. They are rich, complicated stories that are ambivalent on the subject of good and evil; Del Toro himself admits that they are strongly influenced by his Catholic upbringing.
For all the darkness of his movies, Del Toro seems to be a heck of a sweet guy. Quite famously, Mana Ashida couldn’t pronounce his name on the set of Pacific Rim and asked permission to call him “Totoro-san,” permission he of course gave. (Why wouldn’t you?) From what I can tell, children who work on his movies love him. He’s one of those directors who work with the same people over and over again, which I tend to believe usually means they’re someone you’d want to work with over and over again. (There are exceptions.) And from what I can tell he went out of his way to keep at least a little of Anton Yelchin’s originally voicework as James Lake, Jr., in all three sections of Tales of Arcadia.
He is also, of course, famous for his unfinished projects. He strikes me as one of those people who’s absolutely full of ideas and makes the mistake of telling people about them before they’re really ready. Which, um, he has my sympathy on. There are so many of those projects I’d love to see, though. His take on the Haunted Mansion would honestly be the one that was most in the spirit of the attraction; he’s your man for getting a combination of humour and horror. Which may be why he’s one of the horror people most appealing to me.