Pinocchio is a Lot Darker Than I Originally Thought

Watching an animated film or TV show as a child is a different experience from when you watch it as an adult. Sexual innuendos aside, sometimes scenes in films and shows geared towards children can be creepy, and can only be truly appreciated when you’re grown up. Case in point, the Disney classic Pinocchio. When I watched this as a kid, I took it as an entertaining yet cautionary tale about a marionette who wants to become a real boy. As an adult, the story remains the same, but it’s a lot darker than I originally thought.

Disney’s Pinocchio (1940) is based on Carlo Collodi’s children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883). The story is the same: an ageing woodcarver named Gepetto creates a marionette called Pinocchio. He dreams of having a son, so the Blue Fairy brings Pinocchio to life, and promises to turn him into a real boy if he is “brave, truthful, and unselfish.” In both the film and the novel, Pinocchio’s nose grows longer each time he lies.

The only difference is that in the film, Pinocchio is a naive but well-meaning boy, while the novel version is naughty and wretched.

In the Disney animated feature, Pinocchio goes on a series of adventures, including being forced to perform at a puppet show, being kidnapped to join Pleasure Island (where nothing pleasurable happens), and an attempt to save Gepetto, who has been swallowed by the giant whale Monstro.

Watching this as an adult, I was horrified to see that Pinocchio was basically kidnapped for slavery twice. In the first instance, his slavery means performing against his will, while the second time has him lured with other boys to Pleasure Island, where they can enjoy vices like smoking, drinking, gambling, and vandalizing. At the end of the night, the boys are turned to donkeys, and are sold into slave labor.

Perhaps the scariest moment in Pinocchio is the scene where Monstro chases both the puppet and Gepetto. Considering that this was made during the World War, the animation and the score combined to create a terrifying climax that must be seen as an adult to understand.

At the end of the day, Pinocchio is a cautionary tale about doing the right thing. The chances of you being swallowed by a giant whale is pretty slim, but it can get rowdy kids in line. Just make sure they’re not like me who’ll miss the point of the story completely.

This review is part of a marathon of Disney movies called #DisneyFlicks. To read the rest of the reviews, click here.

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