I’m guessing that everyone reading this blog was always raised to be an excellent student, but I had a childhood so similar to Pinocchio’s that I’ve always felt a particular familiarity with him. Really, much more than I imagined.
Pinocchio couldn’t stand school. He was overcome by a desire to goof off and the temptation to do bad things. As I kept reading about his lies and repeated regrets and failures, I started to see it as realistic picture of my childhood… even though it was supposed to be a fairytale. Eventually, I couldn’t stand the story anymore. And it’s not just about when I was a kid—if a Pleasure Island like the one in the story really existed, I’d still head out for it right away. So when Pinocchio gets turned into a donkey and sold, I honestly feel like I’m being turned into a donkey too, even though I’m not.
Add to that the fact that I’m a liar, so I’m sure my nose has been growing like Pinnochio’s as well.
The story of Pinocchio comes from Italy, and the Disney movie that made it famous all over the world was based on a children's novel by Carlo Collodi. The original, however, is full of incredibly dark things that keep snowballing, to the point that it ends up being a biting social commentary couched within a fairy tale. In fact, it ran in a children’s newspaper the very first time it was published, and was meant to be a cautionary tale full of dangerous and dark elements. Pinocchio even ends up being killed for that reason. Even the Italians, who seem pretty comfortable with intensely dramatic plots, couldn’t accept it—and ended up showering Collodi with criticism.
Meanwhile, the Japanese adored the Pinocchio story when it got to Japan, but it included some terms considered derogatory at the time, so it ended up being viewed as problematic.
Disney’s Pinocchio softened up the roughest parts of the original. An Italian Pinocchio film that Roberto Begnini directed, wrote, and starred in was actually released in Italy about 15 years ago. Although Begnini got the Academy Award for Best Actor for his renowned film Life is Beautiful (which he also wrote, directed, and starred in), most Italians felt that his Pinocchio was in no way a worthy follow-up to Life is Beautiful.
The Adventures of Pinocchio is a timeless story that has been read for generations all over the world. It is full of unforgettable descriptions that still pepper Italian conversation to this day—things like “You may think it’s a joke but if you tell a lie, your nose will grow like Pinocchio’s” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could use change to grow money trees like the ones in the Pinocchio story?” The scenes bring up feelings of deep familiarity not only in me, but in everyone around me as well—so I’ll nod along to make the conversation go smoothly, keeping to myself the fact that a real Pinocchio is actually sitting among them.