LIVE THE CLASSICS IN THE PARKS – Walt Disney’s Pinocchio

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Editor’s note: Live the Disney Classics is a column that unearths all the places where the official Disney Animated Classics canon can be experienced—from rides to shows to restaurants and more—in Disney Parks worldwide. Embarking on a journey through Disney history, each new Animated Classic release will be covered in chronological order. The second column sees Disney wishing upon a star with 1940’s “Pinocchio”…

Disney Animated Classic #2: “Pinocchio” (1940)

During production on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, Walt Disney was introduced by one of his animators to “The Adventures of Pinocchio”. Originally written in serial form across 1881 and 1882, this novel was by Italian author Carlo Collodi. Walt was instantly hooked and work began on the project, which was anticipated as the studio’s third full-length animation. Trouble with the complexity of animating deer in “Bambi” halted that film’s progress though, and so “Pinocchio” became Disney’s next focus. “Pinocchio” would also require a lot of work. Characters were changed, in order to make them more appealing to audiences. This included the softening of Pinocchio’s character and a fuller development of the cricket character: he would be given a name—Jiminy—and upgraded to Pinocchio’s guide and the film’s narrator. (In the original novel, Pinocchio squashes him with a hammer and he briefly comes back as a ghost—he’s less important to the plot, and the whole story is a lot darker!)

The studio’s expertise in animation leapt forward during production of “Pinocchio.” This was aided by techniques including maquettes, stop motion animation, and using live acting as a guide for accurately reproducing movement in animation. A serious amount of time was also invested in learning how to master animating the natural and magical elements necessary for “Pinocchio.” These ranged from storms to shadows to the Blue Fairy’s sparkle. One artist’s sole job for a year (he kept a diary) was to work out how to animate water—waves, bubbles, ripples and characters underwater—it had never really been done before!

Pinocchio character sketches

In the story, woodworker Geppetto fashions a puppet, who he names Pinocchio, and wishes for him to be a real boy. Overhearing his desire, the Blue Fairy brings Pinocchio to life as a wooden puppet and grants him Jiminy Cricket to be his conscience. Pinocchio falls in with the wrong crowd and is tempted away from school to Stromboli’s theater by Honest John and Gideon. Here, he is locked up in a cage when not performing, and when the Blue Fairy appears and asks why he is not in school, Pinocchio lies. And so his nose famously grows! After freeing him and restoring his regular nose, Pinocchio is again led astray by Honest John and Gideon, who have been paid to find naughty boys, and they convince him to visit Pleasure Island. Away from the disciplinary presence of adults, the boys go wild, smoking, drinking and gambling. Meanwhile, Jiminy discovers the startling truth that the boys will be transformed into donkeys and sold as slaves. He manages to warn Pinocchio and helps him to flee before his transformation is complete.

When they return to the workshop, they find Geppetto gone. A letter from the Blue Fairy (as a dove) informs them that he set out to find Pinocchio and has been swallowed by a giant whale, Monstro. Pinocchio jumps into the sea, desperate to find Geppetto, and manages to be reunited with his father after also being swallowed by Monstro. Inside the whale’s belly, Pinocchio devises a plan for escape whereby they force the whale into a sneeze with a feather. Their success angers the whale, who chases after their raft until it crashes. Pinocchio pulls Geppetto to safety in a cave, forcing Monstro to crash into the cliff nearby. Although Geppetto and Jiminy survive, as well as Figaro the cat and Cleo the goldfish (along for the adventure), Pinocchio washes up on the beach dead. However, the Blue Fairy decides that Pinocchio has proved himself “brave, truthful and unselfish” and so transforms him into a real boy. Jiminy Cricket is awarded a solid gold badge that deems him an official conscience.

Pinocchio and the Blue Fairy

Upon release, “Pinocchio” was a bit of a financial disaster. It was a blow to the studios, who were still buoyed by the success of “Snow White.” World War Two made international distribution very tricky, as well as denting the domestic market. However, its re-release in 1945 showed more promising box office results, which were only bolstered by regular re-issues in following decades. “Pinocchio” is highly regarded for both the quality of its animation and the overall production. Not only has it made several AFI lists, but in 1994 “Pinocchio” was added to the United States National Film Registry, having been deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. “Pinocchio” was also the first animation to win a competitive Oscar (it won two: Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star”).

Elements from “Pinocchio” have gone on to become a touchstone of the company, and none more so than “When You Wish Upon a Star”, which is linked to the studio’s castle logo at the beginning of films. It has also been used in numerous firework displays and live events in the parks.

So, where can you find “Pinocchio” in the Disney Parks?

Pinocchio at Walt Disney World, Florida

Pinocchio and Geppetto WDW Village Resort
Yes, that’s Pinocchio waterskiing at the former Disney’s Village Resort at Walt Disney World in 1983! Sadly, I don’t think they do that anymore.

Starting with Walt Disney World’s four parks in Florida, it goes without saying that you should see the influence of “Pinocchio” somewhere—and you do, although not nearly as obviously as in other Disney locations. For a start, there are no dedicated attractions—or even ones in which the film features—but fear not! In the Magic Kingdom, “Pinocchio” instead hosts his own dining venue: Pinocchio Village Haus. A quick-service location in Fantasyland, Pinocchio Village Haus rustles up flatbread pizzas and other Italian-American inspired favourites. The restaurant is styled like an Italian tavern, alongside flavours from the film’s characters and settings, including Stromboli and his theater, Honest John (boo, hiss!) and Pinocchio himself. Another place you can spot Pinocchio and pals—in person—at Magic Kingdom is during the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. He’s usually riding his own float (a giant whale), while Jiminy Cricket dances in front with other Disney cast members. Also, don’t forget to check out the hub in front of Cinderella Castle where the Partners statue is—Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket are among the surrounding smaller statues. This same configuration of statues can also be found at Disneyland in California and Tokyo.

Now at Epcot, Pinocchio used to be a reasonably secure bet for a meet and greet in Italy on the World Showcase. Sometimes he was even accompanied by Geppetto, Honest John and/or Gideon (boo, hiss!). These days, if you’re lucky enough to meet him at all, it’s more likely to maybe be next to The American Adventure or, more likely, by the International Gateway entrance—but even these options are now rarer.

Pinocchio and Honest John Foulfellow

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is similar for “Pinocchio” in that it only offers the increasingly unlikely chance for a meet and greet. Jiminy Cricket used to hold almost permanent court inside at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This seems to be in the past now though—but if you happen to visit the park during its week-long Earth Day celebrations (around April 22nd), then historically you have had the chance to encounter Jiminy at a special meet and greet.

Finally, Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers a little taste of “Pinocchio”, alongside many other favourite Disney films, in a bubble montage and character float appearance during its version of the nighttime spectacular Fantasmic!.

Pinocchio at the Disneyland Resort, California

Next stop is the Disneyland Resort in California, and this is where “Pinocchio” really starts to pack a punch, attractions-wise. It’s also all the more impressive seeing as all of “Pinocchio’s” influence is to be found in the one Disneyland park: there’s nothing Pinoke-shaped at Disney California Adventure! Starting with the film’s headline park attraction, Disneyland boasts Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, a classic dark ride in the vein of Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, as guests are transported through crucial scenes of the movie. Pinocchio’s ride focuses mainly on his misadventures (hence the ‘daring’), with Stromboli, Honest John and Gideon (you know the deal with these now—boo, hiss!), and Monstro all making significant appearances. It opened in 1983, an all-but identical version of the ride that had premiered at Tokyo Disneyland the previous month.

Another place to enjoy “Pinocchio” in Disneyland is during the linked experiences of the Casey Jr. Circus Train and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. These are separate ways of exploring miniaturized scenes from a whole raft of classic Disney animations, which includes the village from “Pinocchio” and, more specifically, Geppetto’s workshop. These rides were both opening day attractions at Disneyland in 1955. The boats take the journey at a slower pace, and have a cast member providing onboard narration. At the beginning of the ride, guests pass through a cave carved like the whale Monstro; his eyes open and close and sometimes steam shoots out from his blow hole!

In 2008, Disneyland’s iconic attraction “it’s a small world” underwent a refurbishment. A major new addition to the ride was the dolls of 29 Disney characters, each carefully placed in the country of their native origin. Pinocchio was, of course, placed in Italy!

As with WDW, Disneyland also has a “Pinocchio”-themed dining location, although Village Haus Restaurant is under temporary disguise. Since February 2017, and in celebration of the release of the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” film, it has been re-named Red Rose Taverne and suitable changes and re-brands have been made to its menu. Although an end date for this pop-up location has yet to be announced, the “Pinocchio” murals can still be seen on the walls.

The last place to catch a glimpse of “Pinocchio” in Disneyland is through the film’s sequence during Fantasmic!, featuring Jiminy Cricket and Monstro. Pinocchio himself should also appear on one of the character boats later on.

Pinocchio at the Tokyo Disney Resort

Pinocchio's Daring Journey Tokyo Disneyland

Heading to the East now, Tokyo Disneyland is the other park, alongside California’s original Disneyland, that can claim the most inspirations from “Pinocchio.” As mentioned earlier, it is home to the original version of Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. Alongside this headline attraction for the film, “Pinocchio” also makes an appearance on an iconic ride, just like at California’s Disneyland. Since its recent 2018 reopening, Pinocchio can also be found among the dolls of “it’s a small world” here, in the company of many (around 40!) of his other Disney friends. While you’re in Tokyo’s Fantasyland, make sure you keep an eye out for the “Pinocchio” fountain too!

Moving onto parades at the park, “Pinocchio” is currently part of two: Dreaming Up! and the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights. In Dreaming Up!, devised for the park’s 35th anniversary, you can catch glimpses of Jiminy Cricket, and Honest John and Gideon (boo, hiss!) too at ground level. Pinocchio sits behind them, up high on a colorful Alpine/Swiss clock inspired float. Dreamlights, meanwhile, has given a very special role to a hitherto barely seen character from “Pinocchio”: the Blue Fairy! She opens the proceedings as an impressively tall first float.

If you fancy somewhere “Pinocchio”-themed to make a purchase, Tokyo Disneyland also has you covered there, with two locations. At Pleasure Island Candies, you can seriously indulge your sweet tooth. Stromboli’s Wagon, on the other hand, is theater-themed and ready to meet all of your headband and Mickey ears needs (and there’s not a fearsome puppet master in site!)

In Tokyo Disneyland’s sister park, Tokyo DisneySea, you’ll have to search harder for “Pinocchio.” Fantasmic! is again one answer, through the Jiminy Cricket bubble sequence and a likely appearance from Pinocchio on a character float during the show’s finale. Jiminy Cricket has also been out and about in the past for meet and greet opportunities at Mediterranean Harbor, where music from “Pinocchio” plays on a loop. This has now been increased to daily appearances in the area—but by baddies Gideon and (Honest) John Worthington Foulfellow, to give him his full name.

Pinocchio at Disneyland Paris

Pinocchio and Stromboli, Pinocchio's Daring Journey

Off we go to Europe and Disneyland Paris! The main Disneyland park offers three ways to enjoy “Pinocchio.” The first is—again—as part of his own headline attraction, Les Voyages de Pinocchio, which is a virtual clone of the 1983 versions of Pinocchio’s Daring Journey at the California and Tokyo Disneyland parks. Paris’s opened later though, in 1992.

If you fancy catching a glimpse of the puppet in person, “Pinocchio” is also part of the current Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary Parade. You can usually spot him as part of the opening fanfare, dancing ground-level with the (random) likes of Aladdin and the Genie, Tigger, the Mad Hatter and Mary Poppins!

Finally, if you want to be inspired by how Pinocchio the puppet was first crafted, you can visit La Bottega di Geppetto, a woodcarver’s cottage that sells toys. This is probably the best place in any Disney park worldwide to find elusive “Pinocchio” merchandise! They tend to have Pinocchio and Figaro plushes at least, and you can enjoy the nods to Geppetto’s own workshop that surround you.

Pinocchio at Hong Kong Disneyland

Pinocchio Maze of Madness Hong Kong Disneyland

Heading back out to Asia, Hong Kong Disneyland has the smallest amount of “Pinocchio” (permanently) of any of the Disney resorts—but it has also hosted a totally unique experience! As with its Tokyo and California counterparts, Hong Kong Disneyland’s “it’s a small world” features Disney figurines including Pinocchio. More intriguingly though, it has produced a Mickey’s Very-Much-Scary Hallowe’en Party experience over the past couple of years. In 2017, Maze of Madness: The Nightmare Experiment Continues invited guests into a house filled with darker and more twisted versions of Disney favourites such as “Hercules” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Pinocchio featured as a chained slave in the Stromboli Caravan part of the building, begging visitors for help. Terrifying!

Pinocchio at Shanghai Disney Resort

Pinocchio Village Kitchen Shanghai DL

Shanghai Disneyland’s newer offerings relating to “Pinocchio” are—like in Hong Kong—also pretty skimpy. There are no attractions, but Pinocchio features in the resort’s parade, Mickey’s Storybook Express, near the end on a float with other assorted Disney characters.

Similarly to the Magic Kingdom’s Pinocchio Village Haus in WDW, Pinocchio Village Kitchen is a dining location at the Shanghai Disney park. Again, it has a tavern design and atmosphere, reflecting on “Pinocchio’s” Alpine setting, as well as several murals of the film. It also serves some pizzas like its Florida counterpart (but this time Mickey shaped!), although the rest of the cuisine is more oriental.

That marks the end of our travels through “Pinocchio” in the Disney Parks! Did we miss anything? Did we mention a favorite? Let us know in the comments below! Keep an eye out for the next column, which moves onto Disney’s second theatrical release of 1940…

If you like what you read here, why not check out the first column in this series, which is all about “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

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About the author

Tori Brazier

Walt Disney World devotee since 1992. Big on the films and soundtracks. If it's pins, plushes, bows, ears or somehow marketed as 'vintage', then I'm most likely obsessed. Gently dipping my toe into the waters of Disneybounding and Dapper Days. Don't talk to me about the closure of The Great Movie Ride...

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