The never ending adventures of Pinocchio

The original tale of Pinocchio, the wooden boy whose adventures are familiar from the Walt Disney film, was censored in the same way as translations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Today’s audiences are less sensitive, so can we look forward to a no-holds-barred portrayal of the badly behaved puppet?

Carlo-CollodiThe Adventures of Pinocchio by Italian author Carlo Collodi (right) was written in two parts. The first was a newspaper serial, later turned into a book for children. It tells of an animated puppet, a talking cricket, boys who turn into donkeys and other fantastic tales. Pinocchio’s world is one of harsh realities: food, shelter, and the necessities of daily life. The setting is Tuscany in northern Italy and the text is peppered with Florentine dialect.

One researcher has traced what he believes to be its real-life setting. Pinocchio’s home is San Miniato Basso, which before 1924 was actually called “Pinocchio” and whose inhabitants were known as Pinocchi or Pinocchini. In the immediate locale there is the “Casa il Grillo” (Cricket House) and the village of Osteria Bianca (White Inn) where the tavern stands that may have been the inspiration for the Red Shrimp Inn. Also on the local map is the “Fonte delle Fate” (“Fairies’ Spring”) which may have inspired the Field of Miracles where Pinocchio planted his gold coins so they would grow into several thousand.

Similarly, the Fox and the Cat encountered by Pinocchio appear to have links with two features: the “Rio delle Volpi” (Stream of Foxes) and two houses called “Rigatti” (the name evokes “gatti”, cats). Not far away, the village of La Lisca (Fishbone), which boasts a house with the bones of a prehistoric marine mammal on its façade, may have suggested the plot of Pinocchio being swallowed by the Dogfish.

PinocchioIn 1881, Collodi sent a short episode in the life of a wooden puppet to a friend who edited a newspaper in Rome, wondering if he would be interested in publishing this “bit of foolishness” in his children’s section. The editor did and it was serialized in 1881 under its original title La Storia di un Burattino, or “The Story of a Marrionette”, appearing in book form two years later as Le Avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio).

Disney’s film Pinocchio (1940) is considered a classic, but it is not a faithful adaptation. In Collodi’s original story, the cutesy cat Figaro does not exist and Pinocchio attacks the Talking Cricket (not named Jiminy) with a hammer. At the end of the serialized version, Pinocchio dies a gruesome death – hanged for his sins: “…a tempestuous northerly wind began to blow and roar angrily, and it beat the poor puppet from side to side, making him swing violently, like the clatter of a bell ringing for a wedding. And the swinging gave him atrocious spasms….His breath failed him and he could say no more. He shut his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible.”

At the request of his book publisher, Collodi added chapters 16–36, in which the Fairy with Turquoise Hair (or “Blue Fairy”, as the Disney version names her) rescues Pinocchio and eventually transforms him into a real boy, when he acquires a deeper understanding of himself. There have been many adaptations, especially for television and film.

Mazzanti(1911)Un burattino di nome Pinocchio (1972) directed by Giuliano Cenci was an animated film adaptation, featuring some of the well known Italian actors of the age. Collodi’s grandchildren, Mario and Antonio Lorenzini, advised on the production. The same year saw Le avventure di Pinocchio (1972), a high-quality TV mini-series by Italian director Luigi Comencini, starring Andrea Balestri as Pinocchio, Nino Manfredi as Geppetto and Gina Lollobrigida as the Fairy.

A live-action musical version for television, Pinocchio (1976), starred Sandy Duncan in a trouser-role as the puppet, Danny Kaye as Geppetto, and Flip Wilson as the Fox. The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996) was a fantasy film directed by Steve Barron and starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Martin Landau and Geneviève Bujold. For the character of Pinocchio, a complex animatronic puppet created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was used and Pepe, the talking cricket, was computer-animated. Then came Pinocchio (2002), a live-action film directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. It was well received in Italy but the English-language version was among the worst reviewed films of the decade.

Now, the book is the subject of a 3D stop-motion animation to be directed by Guillermo del Toro (not known for pulling his punches when it comes to things sinister, so we may get the original storyline) and it is simultaneously being considered by Tim Burton, whose children’s films have adults firmly in mind. Burton reportedly wants Robert Downey Jr. to portray the puppet’s father Geppetto. Time will tell if these latest adventures delight or disappoint.

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