Why Guillermo del Toro Plays with Figurines in the Cabinet of Curiosities

Guillermo del Toro not only shouts out the directors of each Cabinet of Curiosities installment, he gives them a little present.

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet Of Curiosities. Executive Producer Guillermo del Toro in episode “Lot 36” of Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet Of Curiosities.
Photo: Netflix

This article contains spoilers for only the intros of Cabinet of Curiosities.

Good horror anthologies can speak for themselves. But it’s still never a bad idea to have a host hype them up anyway.

That’s something that the classics understood like The Twilight Zone with its provocative opening monologues from creator Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock Presents with the horror maestro’s equally enigmatic intros. It’s also something that the latest entry into the horror anthology canon, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, understands as well.

Ever the student of film and pop culture history, the eponymous Guillermo del Toro begins each of his series eight installments with a self-written introduction of what’s to come. According to series co-creator and del Toro’s collaborator J. Miles Dale, not going the Serling or Hitchcock route was never an option.

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“We decided Guillermo was going to do the intros in the grand tradition of anthology with Rod Serling and, one of Guillermo’s persona cinema heroes, Alfred Hitchcock,” Dale tells Den of Geek.

As he has often done over the span of his career though, the Mexican filmmaker and masterful monster-maker provides a creative update on the classic format. In this case, it’s the actual physical prop known as the cabinet of curiosities that gives the show its title.

“We decided on the device we could use of the cabinet to open in strange and mysterious ways and give a little Easter egg – little teasers about what the show is,” Dale says.

In each of Cabinet of Curiosities eight installments, del Toro shuffles onscreen and manipulates the cabinet to reveal an important totem from the story to come. One time it’s an ornate key. Another time it’s a bespoke necklace. And one time it’s even a perfectly ordinary television remote. Of course, the item that del Toro discovers each time in the cabinet of curiosities is merely a part of what makes these intros unique.

For all eight short films, del Toro is sure to mention the name of the director, something that not even Serling or Hitchcock made a habit of doing. Not only that, but del Toro also procures a little doll that approximates that respective director’s appearance. Yes, those funny totems at the beginning of each episode represent the episode’s director!

“Guillermo came up with the idea to do the little statues of the directors which I still laugh about,” Dale says. “The first time he said that I was like ‘are you serious? You pranking me here? With the little statues?'”

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Ultimately the Cabinet of Curiosities production team made three sets of the director dolls, good for about 2/3 of a full chess set. The directors were each given one copy, del Toro kept one set, and the third set was given to Netflix, presumably to display in their offices – something to keep an eye out for next time you’re in Los Angeles or Los Gatos.

If the creation of twee voodoo dolls was a way to honor the directors involved then it appears to have worked as the directors feel appropriately honored.

“I was humbled almost to the point of embarrassment by how much attention (del Toro) gave to me as a director,” Graveyard Rats director Vincenzo Natali says. “The fact that he mentioned the director’s name – let alone made a statue of the director! It’s nothing Alfred Hitchcock ever did.”

“A little doll! I have it in my house now, in my own cabinet of my curiosity,” Dreams in the Witch House director Catherine Hardwicke adds. “That was really fascinating. (del Toro) is so fun. I mean, just coming up with that little thing in his intro was very, very exciting.”

The first two installments of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities are available to stream on Netflix now. Two new episodes premiere every day through Friday, Oct. 28.