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Have We Reached Peak Pinocchio? Fifty Remakes of the Classic Tale Baffle Fans

I'm sick and tired of Hollywood objectifying Gays, Blacks, Women, Left handed people. But what really pisses me off is their treatment of folks with large noses. Oh, I get it. Pinocchio is a member of the tribe. Very funny. Haha.


Have We Reached Peak Pinocchio? Fifty Remakes of the Classic Tale Baffle Fans

Even aficionados are asking whether the world needs another Pinocchio movie, but filmmakers keep crafting new versions


By Don Steinberg, WSJ

Dec. 26, 2022 10:49 am ET


Around 50 Pinocchio movies have been released since the classic 1940 Disney film, including, no lie, 1965’s “Pinocchio in Outer Space.”


Filmmakers’ unflagging fascination with the wooden boy’s tale may explain why 2022 shaped up as the year America reached peak Pinocchio. Even die-hard fans suspect supply has outrun demand.


Three Pinocchio projects have premiered since January, among them Walt Disney Co.’s “Pinocchio” from director Robert Zemeckis—with Tom Hanks as Geppetto—and “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” this month on Netflix.


A fourth, “Pinocchio and the Water of Life,” billed as a coming-of-age comedy, was pushed to summer, presumably to skirt the Pinocchio pileup. In “Lies of P,” a videogame also set for release next year, Pinocchio battles his way through a preindustrial hellscape. His mission: return home to Geppetto, the carved kid’s creator and surrogate father.


Mat Brunet, an animation historian in Montreal, called Disney’s original “Pinocchio” the “ ‘Citizen Kane’ of animation.” He is among the Pinocchio aficionados braying their discontent over the Disney reboot, wondering why the world ever needed another Pinocchio movie.


“Why should I be watching it when the original ‘Pinocchio’ is also right there on Disney+, a click away?” said Mr. Brunet, who dismissed the new version as “an endless cycle of crazy moments.”


Kathleen Gwinnett, born the year the original Disney film opened, has stockpiled a proper Pinocchio collection in her Burlington, N.C., home: dolls, figurines, puzzles, games, snow globes, books. She also didn’t like the remake.


“I felt like we were watching a horror movie,” said Ms. Gwinnett, who saw it with her grown daughters. “First thing, they have is a boy getting kicked out of school? You want somebody who’s in preschool thinking that’s what happens when you go to school?”


Broad audience demand has driven the release of 30 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, including the latest, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” One man, Pinocchio’s creator, 19th-century Italian writer Carlo Collodi, has stirred the imagination of filmmakers.


“Pinocchio is one of the primordial literary myths,” Mr. del Toro said. The director said that novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez put Pinocchio alongside Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Tarzan and the Count of Monte Cristo.


“You can make a Pinocchio that serves as a reading of family dynamics, or social dynamics, or as a story about truth and lies,” Mr. del Toro said. “You can set it in the present day, in the future, you can set it in outer space.”


Mr. Del Toro’s version, using stop-motion photography, is set in 20th century fascist Italy, where a military leader sees Pinocchio as the perfect soldier because he can’t die. “We wanted to make a tale about disobedience as a virtue, as opposed to obedience,” he said, upending the original’s theme.


“Frankenstein and Pinocchio, since I was a kid, were very related in my mind,” Mr. del Toro said. “They were both stories of fathers and sons, and the father releasing the son into the world without any guiding principles.”


Federico Fellini and Francis Ford Coppola had dreams of making Pinocchio movies. Italian comedian Robert Benigni made two of them. Ron Howard and Robert Downey Jr. stirred rumors a few years ago about making one.


Then there were the films echoing the Pinocchio story, including as “Edward Scissorhands,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a movie that Steven Spielberg took over from Stanley Kubrick, who also wanted to create his own version of Pinocchio.


Not all were hits. On RottenTomatoes.com, which converts published reviews into a numerical index, Mr. Benigni’s 2002 “Pinocchio” has a critics’ score of zero out of 100. It received an audience score of 33, below even legendary flop “Ishtar.” Disney’s remake has an audience score of 29 on the site.


“It’s very much a story for boys, and this is one reason why it remains so popular with male filmmakers,” said Rebecca West, a University of Chicago professor who has taught a course on film adaptations of Pinocchio.


“The mother figure is absent in Pinocchio’s creation, and the father takes on an all-encompassing role as creator, nurturer, shaper of his son’s values,” she said. “Few of my women friends were into Pinocchio as children.”


In Mr. Del Toro’s film, narrator Sebastian J. Cricket said the story is about “imperfect fathers and imperfect sons.” Pinocchio later tells a friend, “Sometimes fathers feel despair like everybody else, and they say things they only think they mean in the moment, but with time they learn they never really meant it at all. They may call you ugly things like a burden, or a coward, but inside they love you.”


Some scholars see Pinocchio as a cautionary tale about creating life, similar to the Frankenstein story. “Geppetto is a god figure in the sense that he’s creating this animate thing that sort of escapes his grasp, which is very much the story of Adam and Eve,” said Michael Sherberg, professor of Italian at Washington University in St. Louis and editor of the book “Approaches to Teaching Collodi’s Pinocchio and its Adaptations.”


Early Pinocchio movie treatments pushed conformity, reflected in the wooden’s boy’s quest to become a “real boy,” as he says in the Disney original. Newer films lean toward the acceptance of differences. Some viewers of the Disney remake were upset Pinocchio never turns into flesh and blood.


Tracy LaGrua Mount, a travel agent in West Orange, N.J., who specializes in Disney vacations, said she appreciated that Geppetto accepted and embraced his wooden child.


“Kids today have these insane pressures, to be perfect, to become something by a certain age,” she said. “It sparked a whole conversation with my daughter.”



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