Pinocchio: If You're a Naughty Little Boy, I'll Sell You to the Salt Mines

After watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I decided that it would be fun to go through all the Disney feature films in order.  There's actually a bunch that I either haven't seen in a long time, or haven't seen period.  Anyway, the film that came out after Snow White was Pinocchio, which also happens to be on the Top 1000 list.  Two birds, one stone.

Geppetto is a lonely old woodworker, with only a kitten, fish, and marionette to keep him company.  He wishes upon a star that Pinocchio (the puppet) would become a real boy.  Enter Blue Fairy.  Pinocchio is given life, and if he learns how to be a good person, then he will become an actual human being.  (Not just an animated marionette, which let's face it, must have been pretty creepy to see walking around town.)  Also, the shiftless layabout Jiminy Cricket is enlisted to be Pinocchio's conscience.  Which he fails at miserably.  Seriously, he does a terrible job.

The next day, Pinocchio gets sent along his merry way to school.  By himself.  This should end well.

He meets up with a Fox and a Cat (traditionally two of the most trustworthy animals) who convince him that he should skip school and join the circus.  What could go wrong there?  Oh...he gets sold to a ruthless puppeteer and will be forced to perform every day for no money.  See, kiddies?  This is why you never run away and join the circus.  It's rarely as much fun as you think it will be.

Lucky, Deus ex Blue Fairy comes along and frees him, and he runs home to his daddy.  Until he gets distracted by the Fox and Cat (again).  This time they convince him to go to a magical amusement park called Pleasure Island.  Jiminy Cricket, being a cricket, is powerless to stop him.

Oh, Pleasure Island.  Pleasure Island terrified me when I was a kid.  But watching it now, I'm just thinking how unfair this all is.  So you round up a bunch of little boys, give them free reign, and then are what, shocked and betrayed when they misbehave?  It kind of makes me think of the Adam and Eve story, it's like setting people up for failure.  Yeah, the kids probably shouldn't be smoking or drinking.  But what's wrong with pool?  And if the amusement park supplies a model home that's sole purpose is to be destroyed, what's so bad about that?  And what's the point of this whole exercise?  The little boys turn into jackasses, and then they get shipped back to work in the salt mines.  And are none of these boys going to reported missing?  And much did that snazzy amusement park cost in comparison to how much money the donkeys could be sold for?  It just doesn't seem like a viable business model.

But the part where the little donkey who is still enough of a boy to be able to cry and beg for his mother...well, I think that's when the five year old version of myself yanked Pinocchio out of the VCR and cried herself to sleep.

Seriously, this has to be one of the darkest Disney movies ever.

So Pinocchio just narrowly avoids being turned into a donkey, and he and Jiminy set out for home again.  Where they find a note from Geppetto, explaining that he has been eaten by a giant whale.

Wait a second.  Hold all the phones you can find.

So...Geppetto sends Pinocchio a letter...from inside the stomach of a whale.  And how does he know the whale's name?  Did he introduce himself before he ate them?

Pinocchio vows to rescue his father, and...actually does a pretty good job.  I mean, considering the fact that he's made of wood so he would get all gross in the water and Geppetto would probably be dissolved by stomach acids by the time he got rescued and how the hell did Figaro and the stupid fish manage to make it out of there alive??

Anyway, Pinocchio gives his life saving Geppetto, and in doing so demonstrates courage and goodness and everything the Blue Fairy wanted him to do.  So she turns him into a real boy.  Everyone lives happily ever after.

Except for all those little boys who got turned into donkeys and will now be forced to live tragically short, painful lives doing manual labor.

Random Musings:

  • I just read that the guy who played Geppetto often waxed poetic about the glories of Hitler on set.  Guess what, guys?  Magic gone.

  • So...I don't remember Jiminy Cricket being such a hobo.  I mean, he's about five seconds away from hopping a cargo train and eating some mulligan stew.

  • I love Figaro.  I appreciate that they just made him be a real cat instead of an anthropomorphic one...he's so adorably and I wish I had a cat like him!! 

  • Is the Blue Fairy any relation to the Green Fairy?  Maybe she's the Blue Fairy's slutty, drug-addled little sister?

  • Jiminy, you are the worst guardian cricket I've ever seen.  While you're busy catching Z's, impressionable young Pinocchio is being led astray by unsavory theater folk!

  • I'm confused.  I was under the impression that this was taking place in, like, Italy.  But Lampwick sounds like's he's straight out of turn of the century Brooklyn.

  • Pinocchio, you're made of wood, you should not be smoking a cigar!!

So that's Pinocchio.  Honestly one of the scariest Disney movies that I can remember.  I feel like I only watched it once or twice as a kid, because it just made me feel uncomfortable.  The animation is really nice, which really you could say about all the early Disney films.  I like all the cute little character moments with Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo...very nice attention to detail and absolutely adorable pets.  The story itself is good, although I feel that it has a tendency to jump from plot element to plot element without too much connecting it.  You can definitely tell that it was adapted from a serialized story, as each little vignette seems distinct and isolated from the others.  Overall, I don't think this is one of Disney's best pictures, even though it does have parts that are genuinely frightening.  Oh, but Wish Upon a Star is awesome.  And I like Pinocchio's little number when he's dancing with the other marionettes.  That was cute.

Thanks for reading, and come back next time!

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Margaret Perry said...

Haha! This post made me laugh out loud! Because you are so right, this movie is way scary. But did you know that Walt Disney really believed that kids movies had to be scary to keep kids interested. Which is actually not too crazy - kids like fear and gore and all that stuff. I used to love this movie when I was a kid. Sure, I was scared, but not like horror-movie-scary scared. Good movie.

Nick said...


Nick from here. Doing some scout work for the LAMB. We're wanting to make an email newsletter for community features as well as a list we're making similar to Sight & Sound's best movies of all time list. Just need an email! Email me at npowe131 at

diego78 said...

Interesting post! I have never seen this movie but after going through this post, I really think that I must watch it with my kids. They will soon finish watching all the shows by Andy Yeatman and then I can add new movies and shows to my watch list.

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