Monday, February 4, 2013

Seek the Original: Pinocchio

92% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!


The Adventures of Pinocchio
by Carlo Collodi


One day a woodcutter happens upon a piece of wood that begs him not to cut it. After giving it a few whacks and causing it great pain, the woodcutter sells it to a woodcarver named Geppetto. He carves himself a marionette, intending to perform with it and earn some money. But the marionette gets up and runs away. Geppetto warns Pinocchio not to run away, for bad things happen to boys who run away. Sure enough Geppetto is arrested, for the people think he's abusing the boy, and Pinocchio returns home, intent on getting rest and then leaving forever so he won't have to go to school like every other boy. He just wants to have fun all the time! But a talking cricket in the house warns him that boys who play all the time and never study will either end up in prison or the hospital. Pinocchio doesn't want to hear it, so he kills the cricket.

Now he's starving and has no way to feed himself. He tries to make food, but can't, so he goes out into the village and begs. Someone in a house throws a bucket of water on him, Pinocchio goes back home to dry his feet over a fire, falls asleep and wakes up to discover his wooden feet have burned away! Oh, what misfortune he has brought upon himself, dear reader, by running away from home and getting his father arrested! Now he has no way to feed himself and must surly be the most wicked boy in the world!

But his father is released from jail and comes home. He makes new feet for his son, then food, but the wooden boy turns his nose up at the food he's offered at first.

Pinocchio promises to be good, and swears to go to school. Instead he goes to a puppet show and is briefly captured and about to be used for firewood. Instead, the owner shows mercy on him and gives Pinocchio five gold coins. He intends to take them home, but then he meets a cat and fox who trick him into taking him to the Field of Wonders, where Pinocchio can plant his money in the ground and it will grow into a vine that will yield him thousands of gold coins!

But on the way he is hanged by thieves and left for dead. A fairy rescues him and promises to be his mother, but Pinocchio is very sick and refuses to take the medicine the fairy offers because it tastes bad. He wants to eat nothing but sugar instead. It's only when four black rabbits carrying a coffin for the puppet march in that Pinocchio takes the medicine and gets better. The fairy reminds Pinocchio that all boys should know that good medicine will save them from much pain and even death later in life.

The fairy sends for his father, but Pinocchio doesn't want to wait; he goes on the path to meet him. But then he meets the cat and fox again, and instead of staying on the path he goes with them to the field. He plants the money, discovers the cat and the fox stole it from him, and realizes the error of listening to false promises and running away from home and making his father worry so much. Pinocchio is put in jail for four months for being so stupid that he had his money stolen from him.

This happens over and over and over. People preach to Pinocchio all the time, but he doesn't listen, and it leads him to trouble.

While wandering on the road he gets hungry and reaches up to take some grapes from a field, only to be caught in a weasel trap. He feels sorry for himself until a friendly glowworm appears and reminds Pinocchio that he caused his own misfortune by trying to steal grapes that were not his.

There's always a talking animal around to remind Pinocchio of how it's all his fault and what a wicked little boy he is. It's like being in church. Over and over Pinocchio doesn't listen to people who know better and ends up in trouble.

He's made to be a guard dog for the farmer and is tempted to take a bribe from the weasels who want to steal the farmer's chickens, but does not, and is rewarded with his freedom, showing all little boys that there is reward for faithful obedience.

Pinocchio finds the fairy has died of grief waiting for him to return, and hears from a pigeon that his father is making a boat to sail to the New World to look for him. Pinocchio rides the pigeon to the shore, but finds his father has already set sail and disappears in the waves. Pinocchio swims to find him, and reaches the island of Busy-Bees, where everybody works and nobody is poor. Nobody will give him anything; they ask him to work for food and money, but Pinocchio hates to work because it's so hard and he just wants to be a little boy and have fun.

He finds the fairy alive after all, but older now, and tells her he's tired of being a puppet and wants to be a real boy. The fairy says that if he's good, he will become one. Pinocchio actually goes to school and is faithful in his studies. The fairy warns him not to keep hanging around those bad kids for they will rub off on him. Sure enough they lead him into trouble. One of them, named Lamp-wick, leads Pinocchio to the Land of Toys, where boys can play all week and never have to work.

But all boys who never go to school or do work become little more than donkeys to society (only useful for menial tasks, discarded once used up), and sure enough all that time Pinocchio and his friend spend playing and ignoring responsibility turns them into donkeys and they are sold off. Pinocchio ends up in a circus, where he injures himself and is resold to a new owner who wants to slaughter him and use his skin for a drum. His new owner drowns Pinocchio, and the fish eat his flesh all the way down to the bone, which changes him back into a wooden puppet.

Pinocchio is swallowed by a giant shark, where he meets his father, who had been living in the shark for years after being swallowed the day Pinocchio saw him disappear. They escape, but his father is old and helpless now, and he finds out the fairy is now old and in the hospital. Pinocchio finally takes responsibility and starts working, learning a valuable lesson that all little boys must care for their elderly parents when they are too old to work. Now, at last, Pinocchio becomes a real boy, and he can look forward to a happy fulfilling life of working for a living and obeying the laws of society.

Happily ever after??

Talk about cramming morals down your throat on every page! This is not a fairytale; it's all about the reality of life! It's a weird book, full of grotesque imagery, and it proves that we censor so much from our children these days. Kid's books of yesteryear shoved the horror of reality in their faces and said "be ready for this!" Kid's entertainment today tells them "the world is such a happy and fun place!" Modern society has turned us into a bunch of wussies!

They're good lessons to learn. Life isn't all fun and games. Be prepared to work for your food. Don't listen to false promises and don't hang around bad people. I get the need to instill the reality of the world into kid's minds, but wow! This book is enough to ruin your kid's childhood. It shoves reality down their throat and makes them like it.

Obey the rules. Obey your elders. Take care of your parents when they are old. Do not disobey. Your elders know what's best. Good little boys don't run away from home. Good little boys study and learn to earn a living so they won't be poor later in life. Obey the rules of society. Conform. Beware of deceivers who promise wealth for no work. Beware of who you associate with, for they will influence you... Get it, little boys? GET IT!? DO YOU UNDERSTAND??!! ALLOW ME TO BEAT IT INTO YOUR HEADS ONE MORE TIME! YOU MUST WORK FOR A LIVING! LIFE WILL NOT BE EASY SO DO NOT BE LAZY! DO NOT RUN AWAY FROM HOME! GO TO SCHOOL AND CHOOSE AN OCCUPATION OR YOU WILL STARVE! THIS IS HOW THE WORLD WORKS! OBEY AUTHORITY! OBEY!

Reader discretion is advised. This book is meant to prepare little boys for the reality of life in 1800's Italy. Things have become a little less harsh in modern times, but the basic principles have not changed. Obey the rules of society, little boys... obey.


Compare that to...


Pinocchio (1940)
Disney


Geppetto is a toymaker, and one night he builds a wooden puppet and names it Pinocchio. After much padding, he sees the wishing star out the window and wishes Pinocchio were a real boy. The good fairy appears, saying that because Geppetto gave so much joy to so many others, his wish is granted. Sort of. She brings the puppet to life, but the task of becoming a real boy is up to him. If he is brave, truthful and unselfish, he will become real. To help him with this, she appoints the talking cricket (named Jiminy) to be his guide and conscious.

Well, once Geppetto overcomes his shock, he rolls with it, and sends Pinocchio to school. Of course a wooden puppet walking around by itself stands out (even more than a man-sized fox and cat walking down the street in a world of humans). The fox, named Honest John in the film, sees Pinocchio and sells him to a puppet show, promising him fame and fortune. Jiminy warns him against this, but his reasons are vague at best, and pretty much comes down to just do as I say. Pinocchio is about to tell them no, he has to go to school, but he ends up leaving with the fox anyway.

The director keeps Pinocchio prisoner and promises to tour the world and make lots of money off him. The fairy rescues him and Jiminy, and they escape, but before they make it home, the fox snatches Pinocchio again and "convinces" him to go to Pleasure Island for a vacation. It's a place where boys can be boys, smoking and drinking and destroying things and speaking with inner-city accents and stuff.

But every boy who goes there turns into a donkey for some reason, and Pinocchio begins to change, too. Jiminy helps him escape and they swim back home. A pigeon delivers a note to tell him his father has been swallowed by a whale while out at sea looking for him. So Pinocchio and Jiminy go under the sea (pun intended) and look for the whale. They find Geppetto, escape the whale, outwit the whale as it tries to kill them, and for all his bravery and unselfishness, Pinocchio becomes a real boy!

Well it does stick to the original story more than I expected, but other than names and character designs and setting, the movie is the total opposite of the book.

To become a real boy, Pinocchio only has to be brave and unselfish. This vague requirement dilutes the point of the story. Pinocchio is supposed to be an object lesson for little boys, shoving the reality of the world down their throats and warning them against straying from the rules of society. The movie, ironically, shows this happy, musical, whimsical world and doesn't do much with moralizing. But after reading the disturbing sledgehammering of life lessons that was the book, the soft adventure of the movie is refreshing.

It does a little with the moral side of things, but Pinocchio is only tempted to stray twice. The first time the fox leads him astray, Pinocchio simply doesn't know any better. In the book, there's no question Pinocchio knows exactly what the right thing to do is, but he chooses to do something else and the talking animals are there to remind him that he made a bad choice and his suffering now is his own fault. In the film, he really doesn't know any better, and his conscious doesn't do a good job preparing him for the realities of the world.

The second time he's led astray by the fox, he's pretty much kidnapped. In the book, Lamp-wick leads Pinocchio into temptation. Pinocchio knows what the Land of Toys is, and it sounds like his kind of place! He knows it's the wrong decision, but he goes anyway. In the film, Pinocchio doesn't make the choice to go, and the movie doesn't explain why he turns into a donkey. The book makes this very clear: all little boys who don't go to school and learn how to live according to the laws of society become useful only for hard physical labor. They're stupid, stubborn and never amount to anything. Donkeys. The movie doesn't explain this, and it looks very strange just letting the image stand on its own.

Though the movie does a better job explaining why Pinocchio's nose grows the ONE TIME he tells a lie. Yeah, why does everyone make such a big deal about his nose growing? He only tells lies in ONE SCENE. In the book it only happens a couple times as well, and the explanation the fairy gives is pretty weak: "Lies, my boy, are known in a moment. There are two kinds of lies, lies with short legs and lies with long noses. Yours, just now, happen to have long noses."

The movie explains that a lie grows bigger and bigger until it becomes as plain as the nose on your face. Much clearer metaphor there, but it's such a minor detail of the story. Why has it become the focus of Pinocchio's character? An image is a powerful thing I guess.

The movie is more of a comedy/adventure than a moral tale. The heavy moralizing is tiresome and grotesque in the book. The movie replaces it with animated whimsy to pad out the story. The animation is impressive, even by today's standards. To think, all of that was done by hand, and it looks wonderful... thanks to a small army of Disney animator slaves...

It succeeds in being a colorful spectacle, but presents the entirely wrong message from what the author wanted to convey.

"When you wish upon a star, your dreams will come true."

That's the movie's message, but it's the exact opposite of what the book is trying to tell little boys. The book wants boys to know that you MUST WORK FOR A LIVING! YOU MUST BEWARE OF DECEIVERS! YOU MUST GO TO SCHOOL AND STUDY AND WORK FOR A LIVING OR YOU WILL BE POOR SOMEDAY! DREAMS WILL NOT COME TRUE BY WISHING FOR THEM; YOU MUST WORK TO MAKE THEM HAPPEN!!

Sounds like a Republican convention doesn't it? Well, at least it doesn't promise all that hard work will make you rich. It only promises you'll make a living and won't starve. The Disney film portrays the wrong sentiment. It could have made the point with the donkeys, but it doesn't even try.

And of course, we know whales don't behave this way. They don't eat fish and they don't attack people who try to escape from their bellies. It's all for adventure and spectacle. Disney changed the story into a comedic adventure instead of the moral lesson it was intended to be. It's still pretty watchable today, especially for kids. Again, I think it shows just how much we DON'T tell our kids these days. We don't prepare them for the realities of life. We let them watch movies like this instead.

I blame Disney himself. If not for Disney, cartoons in America might still be for adults.

The movie is for kids, and it's a pretty good watch, though any moral lesson is so unfocused it may as well not even be there. Wait 'til they're adults before letting them read the book. It's not for today's children; it tells the truth too well, and you have to be an adult to understand this was the truth for life in the 1800's.

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