Pinocchio (1940)

Life as a Wooden Boy

For most of the movie, Pinocchio is a wooden boy; this unique condition coming with its own peculiarities and hazards.  What we want to know is: does Pinocchio “make sap” instead of “make water”?  Hmm?  Also, is he capable of getting splinters?  We need to know.

Perhaps one of the most puzzling aspects of Pinocchio’s existence as a wooden boy is his pyromania.  During the movie, Pinocchio has several encounters with fire.  He’s shown smoking a cigar and even playing with a candle; the result of which is his finger catching on fire.  What a surprise.  When Geppetto, et al. are in Monstro (an angry sperm…uh, whale) seeking a way out, it is Pinocchio who has the idea to create enough smoke to make the whale open its mouth. How will they do this? By starting a massive fire on the old, old wooden ship (possibly the “Diversity” of U.S. Civil War renown) they’ve been living on.  And he is, of course, the primary builder of said bonfire and also the only one fanning the flames.  Way to parent, Geppetto.

Life Lessons from Pinocchio

Lesson 1: Don’t do crack.

Pinocchio is brought to life by the Angel Moroni a magical fairy who then appoints as his conscience a somewhat perverted hobo-cricket that has just broken into Gepetto’s house. The cricket’s response is that he also deserves a gold star, even though he’s not done anything yet. She gave you snazzy new duds and a top hat to boot, and you’re whining about a stupid gold badge? Our best guess is that he wanted it to pawn for crack-money, or possibly to use as a shuriken to kill people so that he can steal their money (for crack).

Lesson 2: Stay in school.

The rest of the film then follows Pinocchio’s misadventures as, surprise, surprise the hobo-cricket does a terrible job.

First day on the job, and he’s overslept. As a result Pinocchio is kidnapped on his way to school and tempted into a life of easy money and loose women puppets at a seedy dance joint.  Upon his discovery of this desperate situation, lazy-ass Hobo-Cricket doesn’t think it’s so bad, and sits back and enjoys the scantily-clad cancan dancers.

Eventually Hobo-Cricket, slow as he is, stumbles upon the fact that it is not such a good thing that Pinocchio was tempted away from his education with the excitement of Ziegfeld –style entertainment.

At a later point, we’re introduced to an older male character who sets up a plan to go around town, find young boys that no one will particularly miss and offer to take them to a place he likes to call “Pleasure Island” .


Lesson 3: Children, never get into cars with people you don’t know, especially when they offer to take you to “pleasure island”.

Thankfully, Pleasure Island turned out to not be a metaphor, and was essentially a place where boys could be asses all they like. Then things get freaky.

Lesson 4: Don’t be an ass. It’s a timeless message.

Boys start literally turning into asses. Really subtle, huh?

See, we’re not being crude by saying “ass” a lot (though it is fun), they say it a lot in the movie.  Ass is the whole point of the movie.

So anyway, with Hobo-Cricket nowhere to be seen until the last minute, Pinocchio turns out to only be half an ass (not a real boy, only half-assed), and he and Hobo-Cricket escape.

Later on, as they begin an undersea adventure to find Geppetto, Hobo-Cricket decides it would be a great idea to shove a rock down his pants for what he described as “ballast”. Apparrently, in Cricket, “ballast” means “look at my huge junk”.

In the end, Pinocchio develops his own conscience with Hobo-Cricket barely assisting. In the original book by Carlo Collodi, the cricket is killed by Pinocchio pretty early on. This is a good example of where violence towards a beloved cartoon character is entirely warranted. It’s for the greater good.


Lesson 5: The Man

According to Wikipedia, the Fox and the Cat, who essentially act as the voices of temptation, are supposed to represent the thieving noble classes, a.k.a. The Man.

However, in the movie their clothes are tattered and worn, making it seem more like the thieving poor. The logical conclusion is that Walt Disney, and his company are in fact The Man, seeing as they’re trying to deflect negative attention away from the wealthy and towards the poor. Snap!

The result is that Pinocchio is not only teaching kids not to be asses, but is in fact, an allegory for the gritty life of the inner city, teaching children powerful lessons about avoiding crack cocaine and the importance of sticking it to the man.

Hobo-Cricket would later have his conviction for crack possession reduced to 2 years community service.

Potent Ponderables

  • Geppetto tells his companion kitty Figaro that he wishes the wooden boy to be a real boy.  So, Italy had run out of adoptable children?  No little urchins running around, getting into trouble, like say, being turned into donkeys?!  Jerk.
  • Did you know that in the movie, the fairy simply unlocks the cage holding Pinocchio, freeing him from the clutches of the evil Stromboli.  However, in the original story, the fairy shrinks Pinocchio’s enhanced wooden nose by sending woodpeckers to whittle it down.
  • Anyone else notice the life-sized “red injun” vending machines that dispensed a never-ending supply of cigars to the boys on Pleasure Island?  See our upcoming posts on Peter Pan and Pocahontas for further discussion of Disney’s sensitive and accurate portrayals of Native Americans.
  • Why is the Fairy the only female? Another smurfette situation?
  • What the helk are those black things working for Mr. Pleasure Island?   This basically sums up our reaction to them:

  • Geppetto spends a lot of time alone, seemingly only talking to a cat, a fish and his wooden toys. He also makes cuckoo clocks; many of them perhaps function as a disturbing insight into his mind’s inner workings.  Here are a few:
    • A man attempting to kill a turkey with an axe.
      Did they even have turkeys on the Italian Peninsula at that time?  Turkeys are, of course, indigenous to North America, but were imported by early European hooligans, we just don’t know when.  We’ve tried to find out, enlighten us if you know.  Might be a bit of an anachronism.  Tsk, tsk, Disney.
    • Child being beaten by woman.
      What sort of man likes to be reminded of beating children every hour? Perhaps this helps him to process his own childhood…
    • Drunkard with an empty bottle and X’s for eyes.
      Perhaps a sign of where the party is going next.

And now, the all-important ratings:

Rating:  8/17
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.

Rating:  15/24
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano:  Thumbs down.