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The Origins of Pinocchio

VO: Rebecca Brayton
This iconic puppet made his debut in the 1883 famous children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio.” Written by Carlo Collodi, this famous fantasy tale is centred on a woodcarver that creates a marionette that comes to life, and soon desires to become a real boy. Adapted to the television and film many times over the years, this character remains best known for his portrayal in Disney\'s animated classic. Join as we explore the origins of Pinocchio.

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The Origins of Pinocchio

This puppet’s only wish is to become a real boy. Welcome to and today we’ll be taking a look at the origins of Pinocchio.

This famous puppet made his debut in an 1881 Italian serial, and the character was further developed two years later in the children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio.” Italian children’s writer Carlo Lorenzini originally brought Pinocchio to life, and was best known for captivating audiences under the pen name “Carlo Collodi.”

Collodi’s fantasy tale began with an aging woodcarver named Mister Antonio, who found a block of talking wood. Though he planned to use it for the leg of a table, he instead gave it to a younger woodcarver named Geppetto, who decided to use to it create a wooden puppet.

The talking wood soon became a troublemaking marionette with a life of its own, and the desire to become a real child. Despite his creator’s apparent dislike of children, and the puppet’s inability to stop causing problems, the craftsman grew fond of his creation. He even gave his puppet a name, which was likely derived from the Italian word “Nocchio,” meaning a knot of wood.

Pinocchio’s most iconic and beloved characteristic was his inability to lie without his nose sprouting from his head. This became a highly recognizable, popular and long-lasting element of the story, and is now part of popular culture.

Following the book’s success, various European artists adapted the character into their comics. Pinocchio likewise inspired several live action films and musicals. However, the most well-known interpretation dates from 1940, when the Walt Disney Animation Studios adapted the tale for its second animated feature.

In that motion picture, the characters and story underwent many creative tweaks. These included the introduction of Jiminy Cricket, who was based on a far less human-like cricket from the source material that spoke one phrase and was promptly squished. Pinocchio himself was remodeled to look more like a real boy, and he completely shed his rowdy, sarcastic and diabolical personality. Overall, the tale’s darker elements were eliminated, and the characters were made much more friendly and likeable.

In a departure from the original story, Disney’s tale had Pinocchio complete several tasks for the Blue Fairy in order to become a real boy. He was forced to prove he could be brave, was capable of being unselfish, was able to tell the truth and could judge right from wrong. Since he didn’t have a conscience, Jiminy Cricket was given the job.

In another change from the source material, Disney’s Geppetto was ready to accept and love the wooden puppet as his own son almost immediately. However, Pinocchio was misled by several characters who led him down a dark path of gambling, smoking and drinking at Pleasure Island. That magical place was imbued with the power to turn misbehaving boys into donkeys.

Fortunately, Pinocchio escaped and discovered that Geppetto had ventured out to rescue him, but was swallowed by a whale. Determined to save his father, the puppet traveled to the bottom of the sea, where he sacrificed his own life to save Geppetto’s. Due to this selfless act, the Blue Fairy brought Pinocchio back to life as a real boy.

Though this journey differed from that presented in the original literary work, both versions shared many similarities.

Pinocchio is an iconic character, and the star of a fantasy tale about self discovery and self improvement. He remains a popular literary icon, even if he is best recognized for his animated incarnation.

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