Overthinking Disney: Pinocchio

Pinocchio, like Snow White, was not one of the Disney films which I watched often as a child. In fact, I don’t think we even had it on VHS. Re-watching it as an adult, I can see why; it’s a weird film.

For starters, who is Jiminy Cricket? He appears to be a homeless bug who has zero qualifications for the role of Conscience. He gets the job by interrupting a conversation which he was eavesdropping on, and then messes up by oversleeping on the first day and letting his charge get abducted on the way to school. He is obsessed with pretty feminine forms, getting distracted by them on more than one occasion. At one point, he identifies the smart thing to do – get an adult (tell Geppetto) – and then decides not to do it. He gets snippy when Pinocchio calls someone else his best friend, and spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself: “A fine Conscience I turned out to be…” Well, indeed, Mr Cricket.

Furthermore, why doesn’t Jiminiy look like a cricket? He has no antennae, only two legs, no wings. This bothers me.

What’s more disturbing are the, frankly, quite adult things going on this film calling itself a children’s classic. There’s kidnapping, exploitation, entrapment, false medical diagnosis, and human (well, donkey) trafficking. No, really. Everyone remembers the scary whale scene, but this film has a lot more sinister stuff going on.

(What happens to poor Alexander and all the other donkeys which could still talk? This question haunts me.)

And the worst part is, not one of villains in this piece is ever punished (on screen) for their bad behaviour. Not the child-abducting team of Honest John and Gideon; they actually receive financial reward for their efforts. Not the profiteering and emotionally explosive puppet master Stromboli; aside from losing his star performer, his show goes on. Not the kidnapper and animal abuser Coachman; his donkey supply business continues. This lack of retribution is highly unusual for a Disney film, which tends to see the antagonists hoisted by their own petard, or meeting a grisly end.

Speaking of grisly ends, and ‘unusual for Disney films’, let’s not forget that the titular character dies at the end. Yes, he’s brought back to life by the Blue Fairy, eventually – after she said she couldn’t help him anymore, then proceeded to help him again, twice – but there is an actual shot of him lying face down in the water first, which is somewhat disturbing.

It’s also illogical: we just saw Pinocchio and Jiminy walking (and breathing) underwater in their quest to find Monstro. How, then is it physically possible for the little wooden boy to drown?

The only redeeming feature of this film, to my mind, is Figaro the cat. Not only is he a very good pet, but him trying to sleep while everyone else persists in talking is adorable.

And yes, that is a pipe which Geppetto is smoking in the clip above. There is a lot of smoking in this film; and a number of uses of the word “jackass”.

Overall, an odd movie. Not one I’ll be hurrying to watch again anytime soon.

Part of my Overthinking Disney series. Do let me know what you think.

Pinocchio is available on DVDBlu Ray, and Amazon Prime Video, as well as on Disney+.

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