If you have read Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel, “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” or watched the 1940 Disney adaptation of it by Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske, Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, and Bill Roberts, you know the story of “Pinocchio.” Geppetto (Tom Hanks) makes a wooden doll and names him Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). Then he makes a wish for Pinocchio to become a real boy, which is granted by the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo). Well, she makes him sentient but tells him that he has to prove he’s brave, truthful, and unselfish. Then he can turn into a real boy. She appoints Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as his “conscience,” and he goes on a roller-coaster ride of an adventure that tests his mettle.
Now, these Disney live-action/CGI adaptations have become about sucking the life and magic out of their animated counterparts and adding a bunch of unnecessary elements to the plot. So, let’s talk about some of the egregious examples in Robert Zemeckis’s “Pinocchio,” which then leads to the weirdest alteration to the source material and the animated film.
Why Is Fabiana In The Movie?
Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya) and her marionette Sabina aren’t present in Collodi’s book or in the Disney animated film. She shows up at Stromboli’s (Giuseppe Battiston) puppeteering performance as a part of his troupe. She says that she wants to leave the show because she wants to be famous, while helping Pinocchio wear his strings. Then she introduces him to Sabina and says that they can be good friends. Pinocchio notices that Fabiana has a mental contraption on her right leg. So, he asks if she has hurt her leg. She doesn’t give a direct answer and instead says that it’s a long story, but it gets better with every passing day. During Pinocchio’s performance, Fabiana helps him get his nose out of the floorboard via Sabina, and the two go on to do a little dance together too.
Later on, Pinocchio goes to meet Fabiana and sees her performing ballet. She does a pirouette on her right leg, and it seems like that metal contraption is helping her to do so. When she notices Pinocchio sneaking on her, she brings down the makeshift props and breaks Sabina into a dance performance for him. Stromboli interrupts this intimate moment, snatches Pinocchio, and puts him in a cage. Later that night, while the train on which they are riding is moving, Fabiana comes through the ceiling to tell Pinocchio that Stromboli is a “horrible, mean man” and that she’s going to help him get out of the cage. Guess what she actually does? She points out the key to the cage, and says that at the next stop, all the puppeteers are going to mutiny against Stromboli, and start their own puppet show; and then she leaves!
Fabiana then appears all the way in the third act of the film to tell Pinocchio that the Carabinieri arrested Stromboli and put him in jail. And that she has started the New Marionette Family Theater and wants Pinocchio to join her. Since Pinocchio has to go find Geppetto, Fabiana tells him that she’ll be organizing a show in Siena next year, and she hopes to meet him there. Then she leaves… again! So, my theory is that Fabiana has been inserted into this film to either pad the runtime or tease a sequel. Because if you claim to be such a good friend to Pinocchio, won’t you actually help him? She neither gets him out of the cage nor helps him find his father. If you’re going to say that that’s not how it happens in the animated film, then the question still remains: why is Fabiana here at all?!
What’s Up With The Coachman’s Workers? Why Is Monstro The Whale The Kraken Now?
You’ll probably remember that in the animated film, Honest John (Walter Catlett) made a deal with The Coachman (Charles Judels) and poached Pinocchio off to him. In Robert Zemeckis’s adaptation, John and the Coachman don’t even meet on-screen. Pinocchio apparently jumps out of Stromboli’s train (you don’t see that as it happens off-screen) and starts making his way to his home. That’s when he’s essentially kidnapped by the Coachman (Luke Evans) and taken to Pleasure Island. After that point, the live-action film follows the same beats as the animated film, where he befriends a mischievous boy named Lampwick (Lewin Lloyd) and witnesses him turning into a donkey and almost turns into one himself. At the same time, Jiminy finds out that the Coachman is somehow getting these kids to turn into donkeys and selling them. But then Zemeckis makes a strange creative decision.
In the animated film, the Coachman’s henchmen looked like big, burly men dressed in some kind of weird, hairy, black costume. They had green eye holes in that costume. However, did it seem like something supernatural? No. According to Zemeckis, though, it did. So, in his film, Zemeckis turns those henchmen into black, smoke monsters, similar to the ones from “Shazam!”. Is it necessary? No. Is it distracting? Yes. Does it put some more pressure on the CGI department in an already CGI-heavy film? Definitely. Then why do it? I don’t know! And, you know what? It would’ve been fine if these smoke monsters were limited to loading the kids-turned-donkeys into their crates. But no! Zemeckis just needed the Coachman to ride them on their backs (these formless, gaseous beasts, mind you) up a hill to catch an escaping Pinocchio, thereby leading to another janky CGI moment.
You can say that “Pinocchio” has a talking doll, anthropomorphic animals, fairies, and children turning into donkeys. So, why not push the horizons of the supernatural elements of the story? Well, the simple answer to that is this: every CGI department in the world is overworked and underpaid. And with studios rushing to release films ASAP, this particular profession in the entertainment industry doesn’t have the luxury of bringing everything that the director imagines to life in a perfect fashion. The directors know that. That’s why the smart thing to do is to keep a balance between the CGI-heavy and practical elements instead of coming up with crazy ideas and forcing the artists to deliver them during the post-production phase. This brings us to Monstro the Whale. In the original book, it has been described as a Terrible Dogfish, i.e., a large shark, and the animated movie has depicted it as a Moby Dick-esque whale called Monstro. Zemeckis has interpreted it as the Kraken.
So, you see, there’s reference imagery for a shark or a whale. However, there’s no reference to the Kraken. You can say whatever you want to say about the writing in “The Meg” and “In the Heart of the Sea.” But they managed to make those underwater villains feel intimidating and, most importantly, tangible (despite being completely CGI) because they had those reference points. The best interpretations of the Kraken were seen in “Dead Man’s Chest” and “Underwater.” And those films played it very smartly by never showing the creature in its entirety, thereby not putting too much pressure on the CGI artists. Monstro The Whale in Zemeckis’s film looks like it’s something from the “Mega Shark” franchise, since the artists (who are already dealing with so much CGI) have nothing to draw from and have no avenues to create a sense of mystery around it. It’s out there in the Sun looking like an implausible thing.
‘Pinocchio’ Ending Explained: Does Pinocchio Turn Into A Real Boy?
I know what you must be thinking. That title is obviously clickbait. Because, like in the original animated film, Pinocchio becomes a real boy in this live-action adaptation too. There’s no way Zemeckis could have messed that up. Has he? The unfortunate answer to that is, yes, Zemeckis has messed that up as well. Pinocchio doesn’t become a real boy made of flesh and bone. His transformation is more metaphorical in nature. Here’s how it goes. In the animated film, Geppetto and Pinocchio are eaten up by Monstro. They start a fire in there, causing Monstro to sneeze out of the dinghy that Geppetto, Pinocchio, Cleo, Figaro, and Jiminy are in. When the giant tries to gobble them again, Pinocchio uses his feet to turn the broken dinghy into a speedboat and crash into a cave that isn’t big enough for the Monstro to enter. However, in that process, Geppetto is rendered unconscious.
Afraid that he’s dead, Pinocchio hugs the unconscious Geppetto and starts crying. A single drop of tear comes out of Pinocchio’s eye and falls on Geppetto’s cheek with a magical sparkle. That brings him back to life, and he proceeds to explain the metaphor. He says that no real boy can ever swim as fast as Pinocchio did in order to save his loved ones. He says that Pinocchio is truthful, unselfish, and brave because he honestly tried with his heart. What did he try? I don’t exactly know. Maybe Geppetto is referring to his efforts to save everyone or doing everything that the Blue Fairy told him to accomplish. Anyway, Geppetto says that Pinocchio will always be his real boy, and he won’t change a single thing about him because he is proud of him, and he loves him. Pinocchio reciprocates this sentiment. They hug it out. And they proceed to go back home.
In the animated film, we get a pretty elaborate scene with Pinocchio as a real boy. In Zemeckis’s, there’s barely a hint of the fact that he turns into one. Even if you can see his wooden skin and joints transforming into flesh and bone, Jiminy refutes the phenomenon by saying that it may or may not be true. Because Zemeckis has to drive the point home that it doesn’t matter if Pinocchio underwent a literal metamorphosis because he was, is, and will be a real boy from the inside. Also, since we are keeping track of inconsistencies in the adaptation, Jiminy doesn’t even get his golden “Official Conscience” badge like he did in the animated film. But maybe that’s consistent with Gordon-Levitt’s iteration of the character because he doesn’t do a very good job of being Pinocchio’s conscience. And if that’s not emblematic of the problem with Disney’s live-action and CGI adaptations of its animated classics, I don’t know what is.
“Pinocchio” is a 2022 Action-Adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis.