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Why 1940’s Pinocchio remains the most terrifying movie of Disney

by Clover Shaw
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Disney continues to make live-action remakes of Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio. It will be available on Disney+ on September 8th. The first Disney adaptation of the story was released in 1940. It was the second animated feature Disney produced after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Carlo Collodi, an Italian author, created this first living puppet in his children’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio. It published as a serial later in 1881-1882.

This book is a widely translated in the world and has been the inspiration for many adaptations on stage and screen. Disney’s 1940s adaptation is still the most famous, even though it takes away from the original novel. Many still see it as one of the greatest animated movies ever made.
As animated Disney movies have done so many times, it continues to be a delight to audiences around the globe. But what has stood out most is its highly terrifying aspects. Disney is best known for making family-friendly films, but they have also produced horror-inducing animations, and Pinocchio is undoubtedly the scariest.

Pinocchio’s transformation from charming to sinister

The film opens with Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards), a cheerful, chirpy character who tells a charming tale about how wishes come true. Jiminy is a Disney legend. His intelligence and a quick wit make him a charming narrator. The movie then introduces Gepetto, a whimsical elderly woodworker (Christian Rub). Cleo, the playful Goldfish (Pinto Kolvig), and Figaro, the clingy cat (Clarence Nash), provide plenty of laughter in its early stages.

The movie’s initial one-third is about delightful events and charming characters. However, the puppet story takes a sharp turn when Honest John (Walter Catlett) appears on the screen with Gideon the Cat (Mel Blanc). The moment Honest sees the walking and talking puppet and cries out, “A wooden boy!” the movie’s tone switches.

Most of the humorous instances of the movie revolve around the dim-witted Gideon. Otherwise, the remaining plot is a highly sinister shadow over the animation that once was a pleasant, child-friendly movie.

The movie deals with various disturbing topics, including kidnapping, abusive behavior, and slavery, at a rapid pace. The makers have tried that the movie is disguised and implied so as not to be obvious to younger viewers. However, the real-life threats and fears that suddenly surround the puppet’s innocent, simple-minded mind are truly alarming. This is a very negative view of the world of children. It’s also a way for people with bad intentions to shamelessly take away their child’s innocence.

Watching Stromboli, the jolly puppet master (Charles Judels), switching from hugging Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) to shoving him into a cage is nightmarish. Pinocchio’s frightened tears are incredibly moving, but the most terrifying sequence is on the obtusely named Pleasure Island. Again, Honest John, Gideon, and others are involved. They convince Pinocchio that Pleasure Island is worth the risk, despite the terrible consequences. Although they don’t know what Pleasure Island holds for them, they are alarmed at the Coachman. He convinces them to take him along with other disobedient boys. Gideon and Honest John are not the most intimidating villains in the movie. However, they are responsible for placing Pinocchio in the most dangerous situations. They are cowardly and funny, while the Coachman is cruel and twisted.

Pinocchio is a loose adaptation from its source material. Another adaptation of Pinocchio is scheduled for release this year. This version will be a stop motion animation by Guillermo del Toro, a visionary director. Del Toro is never afraid to tackle the darkest aspects of the story. He could capture Collodi’s tone better than any other.

Pinocchio pushed the boundaries, even though a precise interpretation of the book might have been too difficult for Disney’s target audience. This sudden shift in tonality is quite impactful. There are also many scenes in the middle third that belong to the horror genre. Although the film is family-friendly due to its humor, Pinocchio will remain Disney at its most frightening.



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