Review: The battle of the Pinocchios [MUSE]


Chenyao Liu

2022 has seen the release of three “Pinocchio” movies and, to be honest, only one of them is worth watching. 

Starting with the worst, Disney+ released their live-action “Pinocchio” on Sept. 8. The film basically recreates the original animated movie, with little change to the plot or characters. And the changes that Disney did make almost ruined the story for me. The original “Pinocchio” was a story about a boy learning right from wrong. In this remake, every misbehavior of Pinocchio’s is the fault of someone else. This movie completely misunderstands the original story and fails to justify its existence. Next!

“Pinocchio: A True Story” was released on Feb. 17. The voice-acting is poor, the animation looks cheap and the story makes no sense. It completely changes the characters and plot and lacks any moral lesson. The only reason I rank this higher than the Disney remake is because it’s so bad, it’s almost funny. 

From here, we move onto Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” released on Dec. 9. Not only is this the best “Pinocchio,” it’s an amazing story that can entertain everyone in the family. Del Toro’s story is darker while still being child-friendly. The stop-motion animation is visually beautiful and fits the story well. The characters are imperfect but realistic. Most importantly, the writing perfectly balances the original story and del Toro’s interpretation.

“The Adventures of Pinocchio” was written by Carlo Collodi. Collodi’s story was inherently political. In it, he advocated for education, the human right to food and water, and critiqued corruption and social class. When Disney released their animated “Pinocchio” movie in 1940, the message changed. The lesson learned was less focused on the importance of education and more on the importance of conformity. Pinocchio’s character arc ended with him learning he shouldn’t drink, smoke, break things or do any of the “bad” deeds that he was allowed to do on Pleasure Island. There’s nothing wrong with this lesson, but the movie fails to show kids why those misdeeds were bad and the  Pinocchio learns is he should be obedient. 

Once again, del Toro offers a new perspective. In his “Pinocchio,” the wooden puppet does not learn that his personhood comes from being an obedient boy. Instead, he becomes a real boy when he learns to love and trust the people around him. Even more compelling, his disobedience is what makes him human. 

Del Toro’s movie is set in Mussolini’s 1930s fascist Italy. The paternal structure of obeying the father becomes a larger metaphor for fascism. One of Pinocchio’s most human moments is when he disobeys Count Volpe, one of his father figures, and at the same time, disobeys Mussolini and his fascist rule. Also, instead of going to Pleasure Island, del Toro sends Pinocchio to a youth army camp. The setting of WWII and fascist Italy adds a layer of complexity to the story that makes it much more interesting and realistic than the sanitized Disney movie. Suddenly, there is value to disobedience. Questioning authority and knowing when to break the rules are the crucial lessons Pinocchio learns. 

Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” is a treat for the eyes, ears and soul. If you decide to watch any of the “Pinocchio” movies released this year, choose del Toro’s. 

On this blog, members of the Carmel High School chapter of the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists (and the occasional guest writer) produce curations of all facets of popular culture, from TV shows to music to novels to technology. We hope our readers always leave with something new to muse over. Click here to read more from MUSE.