Monday, March 15, 2010
The original story appeared in 1883 in Italian. Written by Carlo Collodi, the adventures of a little wooden puppet have charmed children and their parents ever since. Adapted many times over, perhaps the best known in my world is the Disney Classic, made the same year as Fantasia: 1940.
These were heady years for Hollywood filmmakers. The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind were color extravaganzas that mesmerized audiences in unparalleled ways, well, that is, until Avatar hit the Imax screen in 3-D just this year.
These had to be extraordinary times for Walt Disney. There were rumblings of war. But the nation seemed to be emerging from a decade of economic strife. The New Deal appeared to be working. New whiz-bang technologies opened creative doors. Fantasia brought otherwise dull classical music to a broad appreciative audience. Pinocchio would be a morality play – teaching young children strong values with thinly veiled biblical imagery.
The dazzling color and full symphonic sound track filling the darkened theater with thunderous roars and crashes and waves rolling over the screen; a sound track to set the mood from fear to courage; from sorrow and loss to joy and celebration. The animators, too, with action sequences and rich facial expression. An industry was born.
I want my grandchildren to know this story. Sure, the DVD will be great. Probably best in Blu Ray. But I want them to hear me read the original – translated, of course, in English.
So, thanks to both public domain and Google, I found the complete original text. I’m compiling it in a file of my own, from which I intend to read in its entirety to my grandkids (assuming they will sit still that long). I’m not quite sure what I’ll discover in the original story – I’ll learn how much liberty Walt Disney took in the adaptation.
Geppetto wanted a real boy.
So he fashions a puppet from some wood he acquired. He had been told the wood had magical properties. The puppet comes to life – but still on strings, still made of wood. Geppetto sends him off to school, where he is exposed to influences beyond home and hearth. Before long, innocent and naïve, Pinocchio falls under the spell of a pack of ruffians. They pull his strings.
Disney inserted an unforgettable character who played the role of conscience for the young wooden boy – Jiminy Cricket (J.C. – get it?). I’ll check the original to see if this is a Disney invention. Soon his pals convince him to run away to a place called Pleasure Island – where boys can have whatever they want whenever they want. It is the ultimate indulgence. Candy. Ice cream. Cigars. Roller coasters. Ferris wheels. Sideshows. No admission. No limits. All you want. No one to say no.
Pinocchio believes he has arrived. But it doesn’t take long. The stomachache signals that gluttony has a downside. Dizziness blurs the vision of paradise. And when Pinocchio looks in the mirror, he sees long fuzzy ears sprouting and then checks his backside. A tail.
Pleasure Island is turning him into a jackass.
He looks around. They are all becoming donkeys.
It is one of those striking moments of self-realization. Pinocchio determines to make his escape. Along the way home, he is swallowed by a whale (get it?).
And finally, back in the loving, joyful arms of his creator-father, Geppetto, he (the Prodigal) becomes a real boy.
I want my grandchildren to become real, too. They will encounter ruffians who will tell them all about Pleasure Island. They may even give it a visit.
But I want them to know in advance – there is more. Way more.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2010