The Real Story Behind Pinocchio Is Making People Question Their Childhood

Since Disney released its first feature-length movie in 1937, it has continually revolutionized animated film. Nearly every entry in their catalogue is a true classic, not to mention each one draws inspiration from a unique source — even if it is dark and bizarre.

Despite its age, 1940’s Pinocchio remains one of the most enduring Disney stories. However, even the biggest film buffs don’t know about its nightmarish origins. Let’s just say that Disney had to pull a lot of strings to make this puppet friendly for the silver screen.

In large part due to the beloved Disney animated classic, Pinocchio is a cultural icon. Kids all over the world instantly relate to the puppet who only wants to be a real boy. But, as it turns out, there’s a lot more to this story than Disney fans realize.

Gabe’s Chronicles of Disney World

For one thing, Pinocchio is not a Disney original character. Instead, his earliest appearance dates back to 1881, in a tale that sees the living marionette endure a much darker and more twisted series of adventures.

Italian author Carlo Collodi detailed the puppet boy’s adventures throughout issues of children’s magazines. In contrast to Disney’s warm and fuzzy adaption, Carlo seemed more interested in really using the story to teach a lesson. 

Not only does Carlo eventually reward characters for doing good, but he also goes out of his way to punish any immoral act in the story. All in all, his fairy tale resembles the sinister tone of the writings of the Brothers Grimm.

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For starters, Collodi’s Geppetto doesn’t explicitly wish for Pinocchio to come to life. He’s just a poor beggar carving a marionette, which gains consciousness on its own. From the moment the lonely man starts carving, Pinocchio’s nose begins to take shape and grow.


Though Collodi doesn’t have the Blue Fairy endow Pinocchio with life, she does appear — in a way. Called the Fairy with Turquoise Hair, she pops up sporadically to guide him. And, to add a layer of creepiness, she describes herself as a dead girl who was never buried.


Disney’s Pinocchio makes his fair share of mistakes, which endanger himself and his loved ones. But the original goes out of his way to be rude and selfish. For everyone around Pinocchio, there are a lot of strings attached.

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The puppet does more than just lie to Geppetto. He exploits him financially, selling off his meager possessions for a theater ticket and other frivolities. When the police witness Pinocchio’s antics, they accuse Geppetto of negligence and toss the adoptive father in jail.

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Jiminy Cricket serves as Pinocchio’s conscience and famously sings about wishing upon stars. The Collodi novel, however, doesn’t even name him. That’s probably a wise choice since the talking cricket doesn’t have much of a role in the story.

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The cricket does appear, spouting advice to the misbehaving Pinocchio, but he is having none of it. Channeling his inner Thor, the puppet nonchalantly grabs one of Geppetto’s hammers and hurls it at the wall. It pulverizes the poor insect.


Collodi likely devised these unlikeable moments to set up Pinocchio’s eventual redemption, though that’s not all. They also help readers feel less guilty for Pinocchio when terrible things happen to him.

The Disney adaptation sees the puppet trapped on Pleasure Island, where misbehaving boys turn into donkeys and get sold into slavery. Luckily, Pinocchio’s transformation halts after he receives a donkey tail and ears.


Collodi, however, has the protagonist fully morph into a donkey. When an old man tries to drown Pinocchio so he can skin him, the puppet gets out of danger through disturbing means: fish devour all the donkey flesh around him, leaving the puppet unharmed.

Just like in the animated movie, the novel introduces a conniving Fox and Cat who try to con Pinocchio. For family audiences, Walt Disney and company left out their most bloodthirsty plots.

The book includes a scene — which Collodi planned as the original ending — where the Fox and Cat attempt to murder Pinocchio. Disguised as bandits, they ambush him in the forest and hang him from a tree. Fortunately, the Fairy later shows up to rescue him.

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Despite their very different paths, both the novel and Disney film reach the same destination. The Fairy uses her magic to fulfill Pinocchio’s wish by turning him into a real boy.


Moreover, the variations in these stories of Pinocchio only enrich his legend. They give writers and filmmakers more space to project their own visions, which explain the many other film adaptations released over the years.

No matter which version is your favorite, there’s no denying that the puppet is one of the most enduring pop culture icons ever. If you claim you haven’t heard of Pinocchio, there’s a good chance your nose will start growing.

Vladimir Menkov

While Disney may base its movies on some fantastical source material, the filmmakers draw frequently on reality to make these hit films, too. Some of Disney’s most unbelievable moments were rooted in reality…

1. The Fire Extinguisher Scene in WALL-E: During the part in which WALL-E and Eve dance in space, WALL-E is seen using a fire extinguisher to move around in zero gravity. When asked if this was a realistic use of the device, astronaut Roberta Clark confirmed that it was totally possible (and totally awesome).

2. The Shipwreck in The Little Mermaid: At the beginning of the film, we follow Ariel as she explores a sunken ship. According to a maritime expert at Texas A&M University, both the build of the ship – a Spanish galleon – and the timeline at which it deteriorated, were completely accurate.

3. Elsa’s Iciness in Frozen: Ice-queen powers aside, the real reason Elsa was always so cold in the film could’ve been due to her social isolation. Studies have found that social exclusion and loneliness may actually cause a person to feel colder than those who interact often with others. I guess the cold did bother her…

4. Roar Practice in The Lion King: While it may have seemed silly for Simba to work on his roar, the slight variations in a lion’s vocalization can mean the difference between a simple greeting and a challenge for dominance. No wonder Simba had to work so hard to make sure his roar was just right!

5. Pilot Lingo in The Incredibles: During the scene where Elastigirl flies a plane, she uses real terminology when talking over the radio. Director Brad Bird said that Holly Hunter, who is the voice of Elastigirl, was adamant about learning the proper lingo.

6. Memories in Inside Out: The human mind isn’t full of animated characters, but the film wasn’t too far off in illustrating how memories function. Individual neurons in the brain recall memories in response to audio and visual cues, allowing us to re-experience certain past emotions in the present.

7. Marlin’s Journey in Finding Nemo: It’s safe to say that any parent would swim the ocean to find their lost child, but Marlin’s journey was actually not that uncommon. In reality, baby clownfish will often travel hundreds of miles across the sea to join up with other clownfish.

There’s another slice of life scene in this movie, too. When Marlin and Dory ride the EAC (East Australian Current) alongside the lovable sea turtles, Crush and Squirt, they’re actually mimicking a what lot of fish do in order to travel long distances faster.

8. Chief Tui’s Tattoo in Moana: In Samoan tradition, any man who wanted to be a Matai, or chief, was required to get a pe’a tattoo. This tattoo denotes a man of great importance; it’s no wonder, then, that Moana’s father had one.

9. Kitchen Scenes in Ratatouille: According to a number of French chefs and food experts, the film’s portrayal of life in a high-end restaurant was spot on. Pixar spent time researching sounds and movements in French kitchens to get the film just right.

10. Wasabi’s Plasma Board in Big Hero 6: The board that Wasabi uses to slice paper-thin apples may seem like science fiction, but in reality, this technology is already being used. Many microsurgeries are conducted using tiny plasma needles.

11. Punishment in The Emperor’s New Groove: Being thrown out the window might seem absurd, but it’s actually not. This was a common practice in Incan time, where gruesome punishments discouraged repeat offenders.

12. Night Howlers in Zootopia: The strange flower that turns animals “savage” in the film is actually based on the autumn crocus. Though it won’t necessarily drive the eater to madness, devouring any part of this flower may cause cardiac arrest in humans, and even deadlier effects in animals.

13. The Ammunition in Pirates of the Caribbean: In The Curse of the Black Pearl, the ammunition fired was based on the kind found on the wreckage of Blackbeard’s ship. According to scholars, pirates would fire glass, metal shards, and even utensils in an effort to preserve an enemy ship for capture.

14. Food Theft in A Bug’s Life: While Hopper and his gang were made out to be the bad guys, there’s another scarier insect: the butterfly. Rather than take food by force, butterfly larvae emit the same scent that ants do, tricking the ants into feeding and caring for them.

15. The Beasts in Hercules: The enemies Hercules defeats during the “Zero to Hero” montage are taken straight from the mythical figure’s 12 Labors. In the film, Hercules conquers the Nemean Lion, the Erymanthean Boar, and the Stymphlaian Birds.

16. Go Go’s Maglev Disks in Big Hero 6: Another true-to-life gadget used by one of the film’s heroes are these disks, whose technology is already being implemented by Japan’s frictionless maglev train. In the U.S., a train like this could travel from New York to Los Angeles in just seven hours!

17. The Biscuits in Brave: Pixar is known for its attention to even the smallest of details, and in this film, even the biscuits that Merida and her brothers try to steal are historically accurate. Known as Tipperary biscuits, these traditional Scottish sweets are made with spice, strawberry jam, and a cherry on top.

18. White Tunics in The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Those who committed crimes in Medieval Europe could “claim sanctuary” by staying with a church in order to avoid prosecution. To indicate their sanctuary status, the criminal would dress in a simple tunic with no hat or shoes, much like Phoebus and Esmerelda did at the end of the film.

19. Percy in Pocahontas: No, Percy wasn’t a real dog, but it was pretty common for nobles of the Victorian Era to carry around their pooches. At the time, parading a dog around like Governor Ratcliff did with Percy was considered to be a visible demonstration of man’s dominion over nature.

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