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2022 was the year of Pinocchio

Who doesn’t love Pinocchio? Whether it’s Carlo Collidi’s original novel or Walt Disney’s 1940 feature film, many know the story of the wooden boy with the growing nose. In 2022, three film adaptations were released, and I took it upon myself to watch all three. I would be remiss to not mention an influence on many “Pinocchio” adaptations: Walt Disney’s ideas to make the talking cricket Pinocchio’s friend, and the Blue Fairy bringing Pinocchio to life, both details not in the original text. 

Let’s begin with the first from 2022. “Pinocchio: A True Story” is a Russian animated film that was released in the United States in 2022. Shockingly, the film ignores two of the story’s most recognizable elements: Pinocchio’s growing nose and the talking cricket. The film is most famous for the line “Father, when can I leave to be on my own? I have the whole world to see!” which made the film’s trailer go viral.  After watching it, I feel the need to advise anyone who might feel inclined to watch it based on that clip that it is not worth it; the voice acting is disjointed, the animation is stiff and the writing feels lazy. I strongly do not recommend this adaptation. If you want a laugh, just watch the trailer. 

The second Pinocchio film was the latest in Disney’s current endeavor to remake their animated classics. Helmed by Robert Zemeckis, director of “Forrest Gump,” the film was a solid retelling of the Disney version of the story. While all three iterations from last year were musicals, I would say this version had the best music, albeit based more on the new performances of the songs from the original film rather than any of the new songs composed. The “Pleasure Island” scene was updated to show healthier forms of disobedience than the original smoking and drinking, instead having the children aim fireworks at each other. The film was a satisfying reiteration of the classic film, but not much more than that; a reiteration, and just satisfying. I felt the same way watching it that I feel when watching most other Disney remakes. I enjoy it. I think it has value as a new film, but I’ll most likely watch the original sooner than the remake again. 

The last Pinocchio film to come out was Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” released on Netflix in Dec. 2022. This movie separates itself from the others by changing the setting from a nondescript time period to one that is very real, and very unexpected for a children’s story: Fascist Italy during World War II. This version, I feel, was not necessarily made for children, dealing with heavy themes such as death and the balance between personal morals and the duty to one’s nation. Geppetto is portrayed not as a jolly woodcarver but as a man dealing with serious grief due to the death of his son, leading the Spirit of Life (taking the place of the Blue Fairy) to give life to the puppet. Another changed aspect of the film is the combination of multiple antagonists into one, Count Volpe, with the novel characters of the Fox and the greedy puppeteer becoming a single character. In the place of Pleasure Island (or Toy Land in the novel) is a military training camp, and the island’s leader is presented instead as a military officer. The film’s animation is beautiful, being stop-motion animation which means every character is a real puppet, not just Pinocchio. Its music was also solid, with a stand-out being the song “Ciao Papa.” Out of the three films, this one stands out as the best, in my opinion. 

If you really want to watch a Pinocchio movie, you cannot go wrong with the 1940s classic, but if you want to choose from last year’s offerings, Disney’s will give you a breezy, fun if not familiar adventure for the whole family; Netflix’s by Del Toro is for the older kids, and gives a more contemplative watch; “A True Story” is just one to avoid.

Contact Andy at aottone@nd.edu.