Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro keeps his obsessions close at hand. They have a home in his numerous sketchbooks and notebooks that are filled with detailed drawings and notes for his fantasy films. In many respects, Del Toro’s notebooks are where his phantasmagoric imagery gestates and eventually blossoms into fully-developed visual metaphors and motifs.
Del Toro’s image-saturated notebooks are not unlike a series of visual diaries where no idea is off limits. And excerpts from these notebooks are prominently featured on the DVDs for Del Toro’s films like his screen adaptation of the comic-book series Hellboy and its sequel Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, as well as his more personal films like Pan’s Labyrinth, among others. The DVD release for The Devil’s Backbone also has the director’s numerous storyboards mapping out the on-screen action with a sharp eye for hooking the viewer’s emotions through the sequence and pacing of moving pictures that burst forth from his vast and complex imagination. The Criterion Collection also released an excellent DVD of Del Toro’s feature-film directorial debut, Cronos.
The Mexican filmmaker – who is currently working on his new monster epic Pacific Rim – is an avid comics reader and you can see the influence of the comic-book medium on his choice of subject matter and skilled directorial approach to telling stories with lavish, grotesque, and even baroque visuals.
In fact, Del Toro’s repertoire of films are distinct in his emphasis on visual storytelling rather than dialogue-driven narratives. The director’s pictures are the skeleton key to unlocking Del Toro’s secret garden of dark dreams and miraculous iconography unleashed in film after film for the viewer’s delight.
Here is a clip offering a glimpse into Del Toro’s creative process and the modus operandi behind keeping notebooks as repositories for ideas to breed and multiply:
Here is Del Toro discussing his philosophical vision of monsters as personal metaphors and the importance of mythology as a means of understanding our experience of the world:
Here are a few other links to articles featuring Del Toro’s notebooks where dreams reign supreme:
Del Toro discusses inspiration and his writing process:
BFI Southbank interviews Del Toro who shares candid anecdotes about his childhood and what drives his creativity:
Daniel Zalewski’s excellent 2011 article “Show the Monster” for The New Yorker magazine is arguably the best and most comprehensive overview of Del Toro’s films, creativity and life:
Here’s a video accompanying Zalewski’s article:
A short video with Del Toro discussing the notebooks that he used to develop characters like the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth:
Charlie Rose inteviews Del Toro as he flips through the image-gorged pages of one of his notebooks:
Perhaps, in another life, Del Toro would be a cartoonist dreaming aloud on the pages of graphic novels. For now, his fever dreams and lucid nightmares have found a home in the cinema and pop culture.
Enter Guillermo Del Toro’s personal world of art, monsters and secret dreads at your own risk and prepare to be enthralled.
- Neil Kendricks