He described how, as a child, he would retreat to a world of make-believe to escape the harsh reality of a violent Mexico. Del Toro was fascinated by the world of fantasy and monsters. Although a talented artist, his drawings of monsters and demons would frighten his grandmother. She was so disturbed by his behaviour that she tried to exorcise him twice. In an interview, Del Toro revealed that his strictly Catholic grandmother would, “…require him to mortify himself in self-punishment, in one case placing metal bottle caps into his shoes so that the soles of his feet were bloodied while walking to school.” 
The theme of childhood is at the heart of Del Toro’s work and has stayed consistent throughout his filmmaking career. He captures the innocence and fragility of childhood by structuring his films in a fairy tale format. Del Toro takes inspiration for this from his own childhood. As an infant in the crib, Del Toro experienced a dream state known as lucid dreaming. In this dream state Del Toro had encounters with monsters, ghosts and demons. It’s these encounters that Del Toro claims, fuelled his filmmaking career. "It started in the crib, I was a baby. From the crib all the way to age 11, more or less, I had what is called lucid dreaming, which means you dream that you are awake. So I literally saw monsters. I was used to monsters, I loved them. This is what inspired my movies” 
Del Toro visually separates two different realms within his films, thus creating a dichotomy between reality and fantasy. Blue tint is used in scenes that are particularly horrifying or that take place in the ‘real world’ and an amber tint in the scenes where something fantastical is occurring. “I also wanted to create two opposing worlds. I used the angular, cold world of fascist-era Spain to represent reality, and a very rounded and uterine world to represent the fantasy that the child escapes into.” This creates a clear distinction between a child’s imaginary world and the cold harsh world of the adults.”
“If this movie was going to be a movie where two stories intersect then I needed to have this beautiful fairy tale prologue in the narration. I needed to see images of a destroyed Spanish city torn by the war as a contrast to the fairy tale narrative so the child’s world and the adult world would start to juxtapose from the very beginning.” Pan’s Labyrinth begins like a fairy tale. The story is introduced using the traditional fairy tale narration, ‘a long time ago’ and in doing this a feeling of childhood is established. The camera tilts to show a girl’s face in a close up horizontally across the screen. The camera then zooms through her eye into another world on the other side. This shows the journey into a child’s imagination: “Through Ofelia’s eyes, we see the fantasy world and, also subjectively, hear the fairy story that motivates the fantasy narrative.” The sequence ends with a close up of the pages of a fairy tale, further emphasising the theme of childhood.
Del Toro always holds the camera at a child’s height. The shots favourchildren, usually showing them in close ups or in the foreground. This is shown in Pan’s Labyrinth when the protagonist, Ofelia, meets her step-father for the first time. Del Toro keeps the camera at eye-level with her to immerse the audience in the world of a child. In this scene Ofelia meets her step-father for the first time. She offers the wrong hand to shake his. In reaction to this, her step-father crushes her hand in his. Del Toro says in the commentary that this action of crushing her hand shows how,“...kids are confronted by really hostile impulses from the adults around them and the other kids.”  The hostility Ofelia is met with when she is interacting with adults shows how difficult it is to be a child.
The Devil’s Backbone takes place in a Spanish orphanage in 1939. The orphanage is inspired by the Jesuit-run boys’ school in Mexico that Del Toro attended as a child. Del Toro described Jesuit school as, “close as I can imagine going to prison. You have the whole system against you. Within the school you have all the other kids fighting for position.” In this scene the protagonist, Carlos, has been dumped at the orphanage. The orphanage bully, Jamie, is fighting him. The fight between Jamie and Carlos mirrors Del Toro’s own experiences in Jesuit-school. Del Toro says, “I saw many a mortal fight in that Jesuit schoolyard. I saw kids try to stab each other and almost kill each other. This sense of mortality is entirely fake to adults. As a kid I felt that the danger of being killed was very real.” I think that in this scene Del Toro is trying to convey how dangerous it is to be a child. Del Toro says, “I wanted to show that childhood is not a benign or beautiful time. Childhood is a dangerous mortal fragile time to exist in.” 
Significant props such as Ofelia’s books show her interest in reading and fantasy. After the opening prologue, Ofelia is travelling in a car with her mother. There is an extreme close up of one of Ofelia’s books. This close up introduces the themes of imagination and childhood and Ofelia’s necessity for a fantasy world to escape to. Even though her mother turns to her and says, “You’re too old to be filling your head with such nonsense,” Ofelia needs the stories to calm her fears about the violent adult world around her. I think that Del Toro does not want his viewers to forget that the fantasy and the adult worlds are juxtaposed so he visually reminds them through the inclusion of the fairy books: “In childhood the power of imagination is at its strongest and thus can be used as a weapon against hurt and pain. Ofelia takes solace from her stories and uses the fantasy world that she imagines to counter the horrors within the real world” 
Sound:The lullaby theme is used several times throughout the film. The music is evocative of childhood but is also mournful. The mournful tones represent the loss of childhood as the narrative progresses: “Lullabies are simple, repetitive and easily remembered. The score is saturated with sadness and evokes the themes of childhood and loss at the heart of the film’s narrative.” Editing: Del Toro uses vertical wipes during “Pan’s Labyrinth” to connect fantasy to reality and Ofelia’s narrative to the harsh backdrop of the Spanish civil war. As well as working as a device to connect all the different narratives together, the wipes are reminiscent of the pages of a story book turning. The wipes remind the viewer how the narrative mirrors that of a fairy story: “We have a fairytale being told. We have the wipe. This creates the illusion of the two stories starting to combine. They are reminiscent of a book page being turned.” The lullaby works together with the vertical wipes to portray childhood as a magical time: “The use of sound within Pan’s Labyrinth is subtle and complex. The central musical motif was created by Javier Navarrete as a lullaby, a form appropriate to the theme of innocence within the film.” 
“I wanted to represent political power within the creatures,' del Toro says, ‘And that particular character somehow came to represent the church and the devouring of children.” In the Pale Man’s lair the camera pans around the ceiling which is coated in murals of him massacring and devouring children. The non-diegetic screams of children accompany the violent images.Inthis scene Ofelia must retrieve a dagger without eating anything from the Pale Man’s feast. Ofelia disobeys the Pan in this scene and is tempted to eat two grapes. The Pale Man awakens and devours two of the three fairies assigned to guide her. The Pale Man is a monster that Del Toro says embodies the adult world, the Catholic Church and the Spanish Fascists that were in power at the time the film is set. The act of devouring the fairies is a symbol of the destruction of childhood. There is an anti-authoritarian message in this scene. Del Toro presents the Spanish Fascists and the Church as antagonists and has expressed his views against politics and the Catholic Church. This distaste for authority comes across strongly in the Pale Man scene. The fascists have limitless wealth, yet they take from the people just as the Pale Man has a huge feast yet he only eats children.“My deepest sympathies. I feel that we have, as Mexicans, two things: one, a natural distrust of institutions. I hate organised religion, I hate organised politics, I hate the idea of the military and the police. Because we grew up distrusting all these sacred institutions...” 
“As a child, I was convinced that a goat man lived in the bedroom closet and was going to come out and grab me. This goat man later became the basis for Pan, the central character of the film.” There are two scenes that I feel represent the connection between the Faun and childhood: In scene 1, The Faun tells Ofelia that he and all her other fantasy creatures will vanish. This to me shows how Ofelia is growing older and her childhood imagination is vanishing. In scene 2, Ofelia and the Faun are talking. Over the shoulder shots are used during the conversation. Ofelia’s stepfather appears in the back of the shot. The camera then switches from an over the shoulder shot to a point of view. In this point of view shot the Faun is invisibleand Ofelia appears to be talking to herself. This is the first time the audience realises that it is only Ofelia who can see and interact with the supernatural. I think that Del Toro is showing childhood as a magical time which adults are unable to see and comprehend.
“Horror is an extension of the fairytale, and in fairytales ogres and wolves eat children and I think that it goes to the roots of storytelling to have children as vulnerable.” - Guillermo Del Toro  Guillermo Del Toro’s films put children in brutal and violent situations where they are vulnerable to harm. ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ are both set against the backdrop of the civil war in Spain. In these films the child characters have to experience the direct consequences of the mistakes made by adults and their violent and brutal nature.
“The best witness you can have for anything is a child because they are a non-judgmental, fully emotional character.” In ‘Cronos’ the child character, Aurora, loses her grandfather to a strange device that makes him immortal but also turns him into a living corpse. Aurora stays with him as he transforms and continues loving him. Through Aurora’s character, Del Toro shows how children are not superficial or judgmental but love regardless of the way a person looks.“In the middle of writing Cronos my own grandmother got sick and eventually died. The granddaughter in Cronos is basically me and the grandfather is my grandmother.” In ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ the protagonist, Carlos, encounters the ghost of a dead boy named Santi. Although Carlos is afraid at the start, he is willing to speak to Santi so that he can find the reason why his soul continues to linger in the orphanage. Carlos’ childish innocence makes him open to believing in the existence of ghosts. It is though Carlos’ open-mindedness that the children at the orphanage are able to learn more about Santi and to avenge his death. This encounter with a ghost in this film is inspired by Del Toro’s own childhood experiences. “The episodes behind the children’s story in Cronos and ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ are all things I lived. I lived through Jesuit-school which is the equivalent to prison life in Mexico. At the age of twelve I heard a ghost. I heard the ghost of my dead uncle.” 
I set out to discover how Guillermo Del Toro portrays children and childhood in his films. I studied his most famous film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ in depth and referred to two of Del Toro’s other films, ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Cronos’. I found that in all three of these films Del Toro presents childhood as being brutal and dangerous. This dark depiction of childhood was inspired by Del Toro’s own childhood in Mexico where he was schooled in a strict Jesuit-school but also suffered abuse at the hands of his grandmother. In all three of his films Del Toro’s use of sound, cinematography and symbolism portray childhood as dangerous and magical and children as important. For the majority of his films Del Toro shows the importance of the child’s point of view. He uses camera shots that are at eye-level with the child protagonists and shots that favour children such as close ups of them in the foreground. Del Toro uses uterine symbolism in “Pan’s Labyrinth” to portray the childhood feeling of safety and attachment to a mother figure. The creatures such as the Pale Man, the faun and the fairies all symbolise the childhood belief in magic. I think that Del Toro shows children as open-minded, non-judgmental characters who are not afraid of things that seem dark or unnatural. They suffer immense brutality and violence but all the child protagonists manage to emerge at the end of his films with their innocence intact.
Final draft - Auteur Project
Guillermo Del ToroHow does Mexican director, Guillermo DelToro, portray children and childhood in his films?By Sophie Villalobos
Guillermo Del Toro• Born October 1964, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.• Largely raised by his strict Catholic Grandmother.• Started making his own Super-8mm films when he was eightwhile attending a Jesuit-run boys’ school.• Studied script writing with Mexican director, Jamie HumbertoHermosillo.• Learnt Make-up and special effects from Dick Smith (TheExorcist 1973)• Started his own make-up design company in Mexico 1984called, ‘Necropia.’
Children and Childhood“I hate Hollywood movies with children ashappy, brainless creatures that spout one-liners. What I tried to put in The DevilsBackbone (2001) is how unsafe it is to be achild. Many times in my life I saw childrenalmost kill each other.” 
Mise-en-sceneA shot from a scene whereOfelia encounters The Faun inthe ‘real world.’ The strangebluish tint is used here.A shot of the ending scene from“Pan’s Labyrinth” where Ofeliareturns to the fantasy world. Theamber is used here.“You have the blue outsideworld and the golden magicalworld.” 
CinematographyThe camera is held at eye-level withOfelia. This shows her point of viewas being important: “The camera isalways at the height of the kid’seyes...” The shots that show the adults arelow angle/over the shoulder shotsshowing how Ofelia views them fromher child’s perspective. In this shotThe camera shows how she views herstep-father.
CinematographySimilarly to Pan’s Labyrinth, DelToro also uses eye-level sots in TheDevil’s Backbone.Like in Pan’s labyrinth, a high angle/overthe shoulder shot shows theantagonist, who in this case is anotherchild. A low angle/over the shoulder shotis used to show how the protagonist viewsthe antagonist, all from a child’s point ofview.
Props: Fairy BooksThe close up of the fairy bookOfelia is reading during the carjourney in the opening .Screenshots from a scene later on inthe film where an insect enters Ofelia’sroom at night. Ofelia shows it anillustration of a fairy from one of herbooks and asks, “Are you a fairy?”The insect then transforms into a fairysimilar to the illustration.
Pan’s Labyrinth - Sound andEditingAn example of the vertical wipes used in “Pan’s Labyrinth” : Ofelia’sfascist step-father rides into the forest in search of rebels. A treetrunk wipes across the screen to reveal Ofelia walking in anotherpart of the forest while reading aloud a fairy story from one of herbooks.
Childhood Symbolism: Pale ManThe Pale Man’s feast is identical to the feast of Ofelia’s Fascist Step-Father.
Childhood Symbolism: The FaunScene 1: The Faun discovers thatOfelia has disobeyed his orders.He tells her that she can neverreturn to her kingdom, that allmemory of her will vanish and thecreatures will vanish with it.Scene 2: From the ending sceneof the film. The Faun and Ofeliaare talking, Ofelia’s stepfatherappears from behind. Thecamera switches to a point ofview shot. This shot is fromOfelia’s stepfather’s point ofview.
Childhood in Pan’s LabyrinthThere are religious overtones in this scene that arederived from Del Toro’s own Catholic upbringing.Ofelia’s narrative voiceover accompanies theimages of the rose on screen. Her story is about arose on top of a mountain that gives the gift ofimmortality. The flower represents Jesus and thepromise of eternal life.“I very deliberately designed the idea of the fantasyworld to be extremely uterine. We used a fallopianpalette of colours: we used crimsons and golds, andeverything in the fantasy world is very rounded whileeverything in the real world is cold and straight. Youcan see it in the not-so-subtle entrance to the tree.The idea is that this girls idea ofheaven, ultimately, is to go back into her mothersbelly. That is why the first time she goes to thefantasy world, she goes through the baby in hermothers belly. She starts talking to her brother, andthe camera goes into the belly and through that wego into the magical land where the rose grows and soon.” 
Brutality and ChildhoodA child is murderedby an adult in both‘The Devil’sBackbone’ and ‘Pan’sLabyrinth’. They areboth compositionallysimilar.In both ‘The Devil’sBackbone’ and ‘Pan’sLabyrinth’ the adultantagonist is abusivetowards the childprotagonist.
Children as open-mindedCronos:“What if the granddaughteraccepts him no matter howbad he looks, no matter if he isrotting away?” The Devil’s Backbone: Carlosis not afraid to confront theghost. He does not deny ordoubt its existence.