Pinocchio is a film about reconciling with the inner child. Analysis & Opinion
DISNEY’S Pinocchio is a film about reconciling with the inner child. It is a story about acceptance, redemption and restored hope. Disney’s rendition about the story of a wooden puppet who becomes a real boy is endearing and at times terrifying. On the surface it’s a journey about a naive child who is tempted by con-artists onto a path of unchecked play & instant gratification. Because the boy is not yet real he is rewarded an official conscience, Jiminy Cricket, who stays loyal to his promise by guiding the living puppet on his journey towards becoming real, and sticks by the boy’s side through his trials & tribulations. What we as adults fail to see, who out of our own convenience view animated film as child’s play, is that this story is entirely about a grown man.
Mister Gepetto, the puppet maker, is the true anti-hero of the famed fairy tale. Gepetto is the epitome of an adult child. Like most creatives he engages his imagination throughout the day, and though he appears to enjoy the company of his mastered artistry, he still longs for having a family, specifically a child. You have to wonder, at his age, why now? What prevented the dream from coming into fruition in the past? One can only imagine the extremes of real world experiences that convinced this man to choose to live life as a hermit in a world of wonder, escapism and illusion. Instead he prays, through a wish, for Pinocchio to become a real boy, as opposed to stepping out into society to find a willing companion who would happily see their mutual wishes through. It’s safer to stay within the confines of his cuckoo clock nest. Gepetto, who is seemingly an honest and well natured man, casts a wish upon a star. It’s at this moment where the adventure of his inner world begins & we’re introduced to his journey through the shadows. How he fairs through his inner voyage will determine the fate of a dream come true.
What are the shadows? Though the concept is difficult to understand, Kimberly Fosu writes -“ The shadow was first brought into the Western world by psychologist Carl Jung. He described it as the unconscious and disowned parts of our personalities that the ego fails to see, acknowledge, and accept. It is any aspect of ourselves that is not exposed to the light of our consciousness.
As children, we are born whole and complete, but that wholeness is short-lived. The shadow is born in our childhood as a byproduct of certain interactions we had with the people closest to us. Our caretakers make us believe that certain aspects of ourselves are good and others are not. The aspects that are seen as bad are rejected and, consequently, form the shadow.”
Kimberly Fosu. Shadow Work — A simple guide to transcending the darker aspects of yourself
Additionally, the shadow is a byproduct of the negligence of both our own developing conscience, and the awareness of the developing conscience of those around us. This points to the hard lived memories of our anti-hero. Unbeknownst to the viewer, Pinocchio serves as a symbol and embodiment of Gepetto’s past, his naïveté and his natural ignorance as an impressionable child.
On his way to school, Pinocchio is veered off his path by antagonists Honest John and Gideon, who play on the boys’ ingenuousness. As the boy gleefully admits his intention to attend school, Honest John (a fox), skillfully strips Pinocchio of his belongings and proceeds to distract him from his mission. The fox steals not only Pinocchio’s class book but also one of his most valuable and precious resources- his attention. The apple is often used as a metaphor for knowledge or the mind. As Honest John puts it, “school is the fountain of knowledge” and an apple is a fruit that stems from the seed of that fountain. With our attention we establish knowledge. Through our know how we’re prompted to take action and engage the world. New thoughts develop into new thinking patterns. New experiences broaden perspective and influence how we perceive the world, and consequently how we show up. Knowledge is key to solving one’s own problems; without knowledge we are left vulnerable and dependent on others for solutions. Nonetheless, Honest John chews right through Pinocchio’s apple and tosses it aside. Without regard, without consequence, without remorse. Gideon, the sidekick cat, is there to reinforce The Fox’s devious pitch, and together they steer Pinocchio into a darker dimension. He is sold to Strombolli to perform on his theatre stage.
What if in his younger days Gepetto was Honest John? What if Gepetto worked for Strombolli, the gypsy puppet master? What if Gepetto’s work contributed to the Coachman’s scheme by drawing in impressionable children with entertainment and then funneling them towards Pleasure Island, where they were eventually sorted and exploited for labor. Is it possible Gepetto regrets his past life and how he used his craft to make a living? After all he is a wood sculptor and a skilled puppeteer. Is it possible his skill was being used to exploit those most vulnerable by robbing children of their attention and driving a wedge between their conscience and their responsibilities? Is it possible Gepetto, though honest in his craft realized too late in his career the repercussions of his contribution? The thought is echoed when the Blue Fairy appears in Strombolli’s wagon to help Pinocchio escape. After being dishonest while explaining how he wound up locked in a cage, Pinocchio’s nose grows to great lengths at which point the Fairy explains, “A boy who won’t be good might just as well be made of wood.”
This is Gepetto’s wish, for Pinocchio, a metaphor for his inner child, to once again become real. He accepts he hasn’t been honest to himself or others. I know it’s hard to imagine, especially when Gepetto’s persona is so full of life and charisma at the start of the film, but the analogy can be drawn out. For example, when Gepetto is in the belly of the whale, he winds up there before Pinocchio. He is stuck, he is lost, he is remorseful and he is hopeless. Pinocchio, Gepetto’s only hope at this point, journeys into the belly of the beast to rescue him, to encourage him and overcome the terrifying obstacle of escaping Montro’s depths.
Being in the belly of the beast/monster suggests being in the middle of a bad or dangerous situation. Being in the belly of the whale represents the death of an ego, and the reemergence represents being reborn. ( Reference Joseph Campbell’s, Hero of a Thousand Faces ) A new persona- a stronger, honest and reliable persona, replaces the ego that was. Gepetto is saved and Pinocchio is dead, prompting the Blue Fairy to restore hope in Gepetto by granting him his wish. Gepetto has reconciled with his inner child. Alas, Pinocchio is now a real boy and Gepetto is redeemed. His craft is honest, and he creates with joy.
Furthermore, we can draw parallels to Walt Disney and his budding endeavor into the craft of animation. His earliest content features Alice’s Wonderland, a child who dreams of outlandish scenarios, and even shoots guns and smokes cigars in a cartoon world. Early in his business career Disney cultivated an ever expansive vision for the new, up and coming industry of animation. I think he realized early the potential of this developing craft. In the beginning the cartoons Disney helped produce where crude in skill, story and ambition but he redesigned his strategy and proceeded to build a kingdom on a dream come true. Had Disney been satisfied with his early results and working under contract he would have never abandoned his earlier productions of Alice and Oswald the Rabbit. He left his hometown for Burbank, California, and invested the rest of his waking life to the growth of his business and the evolution of an extremely marketable craft. Walt Disney, like Gepetto, got a second chance, and Pinocchio paints the motion picture for all to see. Or it could just be a story about a puppet who becomes a real boy and not an ass….
What’s true about us as adults is that we are forever becoming. Every moment, no matter how familiar, is a new experience. At every moment life is regenerating and we are collecting an experience that is new. In other words, our inner child is in all actuality you as you are in the present. You are that Boy, You are that Girl, You are that child as you are right now. As you experience new, you are in essence, being renewed. Not accepting, even as we age, that we are still becoming, or that today is a renewal, is closing yourself off to the opportunity to embrace and design a new life. At any moment we can veer into a lifestyle of healthier positive choices. A life where you’re no longer carrying the weight of the past. The awareness that today is a second a chance can eventually lead to a dream come true. It’s only through shadow work that you can reconcile with your inner child. We can consciously engage the world with a new perspective, fresh and free from the burdens of yesterday. Consider who Gepetto had to forgive to see his prayer through. Yes, there are Honest John’s and Gideon’s, Stromboli’s and darker still — Coachmen, who are only looking to take advantage of the vulnerable. These spirits deliberately choose to ignore their conscience ( i.e. Putin). Which is why it’s ever more important to show up in our highest light and with honest intention to serve as guides for others looking to improve their experience and the reality of our co-constructed world.
Gepetto is akin to “I” the main character in Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, which follows the story of an engineer who’s passion in life is to design aircraft. It is because he is so devoted to the dreamscape of designing the perfect airplane, that he is recruited by his country. They take full advantage of his unquestionable expertise. He is wholeheartedly invested as his nation produces The Mitsubishi A5M fighter and A6M Zero, aircrafts deployed during the second world war. “I” is concerned about the use and purpose of his designs, but in the end he accepts his role as a design engineer.
Case in point, the adult child who is focused on self-serving purpose before putting into perspective the effects that his ambitions truly has on society, is the anti-hero of our age. As a result, If we put in the effort to do some shadow work so that we are not at odds with one self we could reconcile with our inner child and with one another. If we pause for a moment and check in on the kid who once failed to comprehend the bigger picture, we might be able to service eachother with mutual respect and growth in mind. Reflecting on the challenges of the past isn’t for casting blame, rather its for understanding, accepting and forgiving- to clear the fog, and see clearly the truth of the present. Today is a new beginning. This next moment is renewal. We must recognize from mishaps come lessons, it’s part of the nature & reward that is our expanding consciousness and ever developing conscience. Self awareness and the awareness of others is a responsibility. It is up to us, as individuals, to see it sow.