Friday, April 3, 2009
Pinocchio: Scared Straight
I hadn't seen Disney's "Pinocchio" in years, but I've never forgotten how much it freaked me out as a kid. Back then, I believed it was possible for toys to come to life and that they weren't always benevolent.
But I'm a sucker for the classics, so I bought the two-disc, 70th anniversary edition of "Pinocchio" and watched it with the family last night. I'm always astonished by how gorgeously animated those old Disney movies are, considering that they were done entirely by hand. For cinephiles, the new DVD is worth every penny.
However, "Pinocchio" ought to have the subtitle "Scared Straight," because it is one frightening movie. My children, having been raised in the don't-ever-talk-to-strangers era, were extremely frustrated with Pinocchio for letting Honest John chat him up and lure him to Stromboli's puppet theater. At one point, my son yelled at the TV, "Man, what is wrong with you?" I explained to him that Pinocchio wasn't all that bright, but he wasn't placated.
And what about the creepy bastard who rounds up "stupid little boys" and carts them off to "Pleasure Island?" The literal interpretation is horrifying enough ("I'm a donkey!"), but that subplot takes on a whole other meaning when you're watching it as an adult in 2009. I'd also forgotten that, after saving Gepetto from a raging whale, Pinocchio (temporarily) dies and is shown face-down in pool of water. Jesus. By the time the fairy showed up to turn him into a real boy, I was emotionally drained.
My friend M. pointed out that Disney is an expert at haunting people's dreams well into adulthood. There's that whole Bambi's-mom-dies scene, Cinderella getting locked in an attic, the eerily possessed sorcerer's brooms, Mufasa's death-by-trampling, and on and on and on. On the bright side, the temporary trauma might make a kid think twice about blowing off school or talking to cigar-smoking foxes. It's just a thought.