The Adventures of Pinocchio: Production Notes

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Once upon a time there was a king! my little readers will say at once.
No, boys and girls. You are wrong. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood...
Le aventure di Pinocchio - Storia di un burattino
- Carlo Collodi

The father of Pinocchio was Carlo Collodi, a disillusioned veteran of Giuseppe Garibaldi's revolutionary army. when Collodi returned to his native Tuscany in 1861, he found that the Revolution had left Italy in the hands of a corrupt ruling class which offered him and his former comrades little more freedom than the usurping Austrians had formerly provided.

His criticisms of the new regime in "The Streetlight" and "Controversy," two newspapers he founded, received an icy reception. It was not until his mature years that he turned to writing exclusively for children, at the age of fifty, he translated Pierre Perrault's Contes de Ia Mere Oye (Mother Goose Tales) into Italian.

He then went on to tackle his own material. The success of Collodi's original story Giannetino (Little Johnnie) led to a series of Little Johnnie books which were filled with lessons for children while slyly propagating the author's political views under the guise of an entertaining tale.

Then in 1881, the editor of a new children's magazine invited Collodi to submit a story to the first issue of his Giomale di Bambini (The Children's Newspaper). Originally titled Tale of a Puppet, the series was an immediate hit and ran to 35 installments, before Collodi's textbook publisher brought it out in book form in 1883 under the title The Adventure of Pinocchio.

For Italian children's literature, The Adventure of Pinocchio marked a turn away from the kind of overt preachiness Collodi himself had practiced in the Little Johnnie books. The hero of those stories is a real little boy, as capable of selfish mischiefmaking as he is of feelings of devotion and contrition.

Pinocchio was immediately embraced by an adoring public who found a restless puppet easier to accept than a character that might remind them of their own flawed children.

Actually, the book hit close to home for many parents because Pinocchio brought new realism to children's literature. Most fairy-tales take place in a world of great castles, beautiful princesses and noble lords and ladies, but this was not a world which fired Collodi's imagination. Instead he set Pinocchio's adventures in the real Italy of the common people, teeming with satirically conceived and vividly described social types. As a result, the story became, in the words of one critic, a novel for children inspired by the author's attempt to recapture his own childhood.

With The Adventures of Pinocchio, and almost by accident, Collodi had finally won the fame that eluded him as a political journalist. But when The Adventure of Pinocchio began to be translated and adapted in America, it was subjected to the same treatment that befell Mark Twain's famed Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The story was watered down, and the adapters eliminated the more antisocial tendencies from the character of Pinocchio, whom Collodi had modeled on Punchinello, the Commedia del Me's resident anarchist.

Also banished was the extraordinary company of human and animal creatures that Collodi had designed to convey the social and political ills of post-revolutionary Italy. The effect of the censorship is obvious. Pinocchio's name has become synonymous with the kind of goody two-shoes wholesomeness which Carlo Collodi tried desperately to remove from children's literature. The original attraction to and reasons for the perennial popularity of his masterpiece have been all but forgotten.

Not that The Adventure of Pinocchio is a tale too harsh for children. Quite the contrary. It's a revered work of fiction. But it was the pinocchio-as-protagonist aspect of this classic that captured the attention of the producers of The Adventures of Pinocchio.

Intrigued by the story and not the myth which has been widely associated with Pinocchio, they turned to Collodi's source material for their inspiration. "Our film is very much in the spirit of Collodi's book," says writer-director Steve Barron. "It's a wonderful story which people have never really seen on the screen before."

Barron was introduced to the project by producers Donald Kushner and Peter Locke after they encouraged him to pursue the idea of telling the true story of Pinocchio. Barron, who suggested telling the story with an animatronic puppet, already had considerable experience with animatronics when he made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and he was a great fan of Collodi's book. "The essence of the story is a moral tale," says the director. "You see the birth of a boy who is going to grow to the age of twelve during the course of the film, even though his physical appearance stays the same. Over a very short period of time, he learns the morals that all boys and girls grapple with and discover during their innocent, formative years."

"ft is also the fish-out-of-water story of a misfit - somebody who isn't the same as everyone else, but is resilient and strong enough to prevail. People try to rob him and use him and tread on him and burn him. ..and he is able to overcome all that."

Barron had one choice for the role of Pinocchio's creator, Geppetto: Academy Award-winner Martin Landau (Ed Wood), who was delighted to accept.

"It's a great, classic story," explains Landau. "In the theatre, we love to play Hamlet or Lear. American actors usually don't get the opportunity to do that, so the closest one gets is to play something like this.. .which is a bona fide classic."

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