Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The lies Disney sold you

Via Bookninja, this very interesting review of Pinocchio. You know. The book. By Carlo Collodi.

It's Italian and it's dark.

Much is often left out of condensed English-language versions.

The Disney film omits even more of the story, and changes it drastically. Geppetto, Pinocchio's foster father, appears to be a prosperous toymaker, and the town where he lives looks Swiss or Bavarian: his workshop is full of music boxes and cuckoo clocks. In the original story, however, Geppetto is a desperately poor Italian woodcarver. When the film begins Pinocchio is a lifeless wooden toy; he comes to life only when a fairy grants Geppetto's wish for a child. In the book Pinocchio is alive from the start. Though he is only a nameless stick of firewood in the shop of the carpenter Master Anthony, he can already speak and move. When Master Anthony strikes the stick with his axe, it cries out "Ouch! You hurt me!" The carpenter is terrified, and offers the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto, who wants to make a marionette. It continues to act up, mocking Geppetto, and striking Master Anthony, provoking two fistfights between the old friends.

When Geppetto gets home he begins to carve the marionette. But as soon as Pinocchio's mouth is finished he laughs at Geppetto and sticks out his tongue, and once he has arms he snatches Geppetto's wig off his head. When his legs and feet are finished, he runs away.

From the start, Collodi's Pinocchio is not only more self-conscious but far less simple than the cute little toy boy of the cartoon. He is not only naive, but impulsive, rude, selfish, and violent. In theological terms, he begins life in a state of original sin; while from a psychologist's point of view, he represents the amoral, self-centered small child, all uncensored id.

I'm inspired to read it for myself. (I don't know if the version available online is condensed or not.)

In light of what the story of Pinocchio is alleged to be, Roberto Benignis's movie version becomes much more interesting than just plain weird. The "boy" was troubled and obnoxious, infuriating — dare I say evil?

See it with subtitles, and not dubbed (though this makes it harder to share with children). I didn't come across a single favourable review of this film, but then most reviewers freely admitted that the Disney version was their measuring stick. Few if any were familiar with the original text.

The moral (as true today as it was in Collodi's time) is that poor boys who quit school and hang about doing nothing and enjoying themselves are apt to end up as exploited and overworked laborers — or possibly dead.

Some think the story is too dark for children, but that lesson is, in fact, precisely what I want my offspring to know.

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