Maybe it’s because we’re getting a little too paranoid about the “fragile” state of our children’s minds, or maybe it’s just that creepy stories make the best kids films, but it seems many of our favourite cinematic experiences from our pre-teen years were inspired by dark and sinister books and experiences.
As a child, you never look at a film like Dumbo and say “Gee, those crows are pretty racially insensitive depictions” or a film like Snow White and say “Gee, that poor unmarried girl will never be complete without a man.” Instead, you just watch and enjoy the movies, secure in the knowledge that the girl always gets the prince and they live happily ever after. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some REALLY dark inspirations behind those movies.
Come with me now into the sinister world of classic children’s movies. But remember, what you are about to read cannot be unlearned…
10. Pinocchio (1940)
Pinocchio is a 1940 animated film produced by the Walt Disney company. The plot revolves around a puppet named Pinocchio who is created by Geppetto, a poverty-stricken wood carver. Pinocchio is brought to life by the Blue Fairy who informs the puppet that he can become a real boy if he proves himself worthy. Pinocchio’s quest to become a human being takes him through many locations and many tribulations until he is ultimately successful in the end. Along the way, we are introduced to a large group of characters with varying degrees of morality including Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio’s conscience).
Disney’s Pinocchio is based on the 19th century book The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. The book version of Pinocchio is quite different from Disney’s toned-down tale.
As a result of his selfish and lazy tendencies, Pinocchio often finds himself in dire straits. On one occasion, he is convinced by a pair of bandits (the infamous pair known as The Fox and the Cat) that planting gold coins in a field will result in a money tree to greatly increase Pinocchio’s wealth. Always one to take the easy way out, the naive marionette is relieved of his money and hung by the neck in a tree. Pinocchio survives the hanging thanks to The Fairy With Turquoise Hair (The Blue Fairy).
The Fairy With Turquoise Hair is intended as a benevolent character in the book. Introduced as a suicidal little girl who tells Pinocchio she is dead and waiting for her coffin, the Fairy is next referenced when Pinocchio returns to the Fairy’s home to find a tombstone blaming him for her death. Eventually the once-dead Fairy (is she a ghost or a zombie?) appears at opportune moments in Pinocchio’s life and rescues him from his foibles, finally turning him into a little boy.
Other dark imagery includes a block of wood screaming in pain as it is carved into the puppet, a talking cricket squashed by Pinocchio with a hammer, Pinocchio biting off the paw of the Cat, Pinocchio burning off his own feet, a giant shark that swallows Pinocchio and Geppetto (along with a tuna that tells the wooden boy to sit back and wait to be digested), a guy who wants to drown the Pinocchio donkey and use its skin to make a drum, and a bunch of fish sent by the Fairy to eat away the flesh of the Pinocchio donkey.
The inspiration for the movie Pinocchio? The overall tone of The Adventures of Pinocchio is one of a dark and vile world populated with an endless supply of evil beings intent on destroying those who refuse to conform to societal norms. Along the way we get a suicidal fairy-zombie, a murdered talking cricket and his ghost, a drum made from donkey flesh, the donkey flesh being eaten by fish, screaming blocks of wood, a killer shark, and abject poverty. Wow.
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