The ostensible reason to invest in a Criterion Collection edition of a movie is its reference-quality audio and video, its thoughtful critical notes, and its surplus of supplemental documentaries and commentaries. But another huge part of it is the thrill of seeing its cover, which reliably reimagines the accompanying movie’s themes and images.
Earlier this month, Criterion released Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 dark fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, which occasioned a separate release containing all of del Toro’s Criterion editions. While you can get that three-pack in a typically striking slipcase on DVD, the Blu-ray versions demand an enclosure as nightmarish as its contents. Over on the Criterion website, designer Eric Skillman traced the creative process for all of the company’s work with del Toro.
Each of the individual editions feature striking comic book-style images. Cronos’ 2010 Criterion edition pulled in Hellboy artist Mike Mignola to design a simple evocation of the ancient device at the movie’s center.
Del Toro collaborator Guy Davis designed the slipcase for The Devil’s Backbone. Across a series of sketches, you can see the image of a boy mysteriously seeping red smoke gradually develop into a tableau featuring the movie’s haunting, unused bomb.
For Pan’s Labyrinth, artist Becky Cloonan explored a series of possibilities featuring the movie’s protagonist, emerging from within the movie’s titular demon.
Skillman says the Blu-ray collection demanded “an objet d’art in line with the magical artifacts and mystical tomes that populate del Toro’s films.” Artist Vania Zouravliov’s lush, fantastical art is slowly revealed as the box is unfolded, finally settling on an image of the creepy eyeball-hands guy from Pan’s Labyrinth.
Skillman had initially aimed to create something even more elaborate, with die-cut filigrees and a textured slipcase, but these had to be cut “for various reasons”—by which he presumably means “they would not let me actually create an evil puzzle box for this.” Anyway, look: Unboxing videos are not the highest form of internet video, but the Criterion Collection takes its boxes unusually seriously. And this is the box del Toro’s best deserves.