Live-Action Pinocchio's Biggest Changes To Disney's Original Movie

Warning: Spoilers ahead for PinocchioDisney's live-action remake of their 1940 classic, Pinocchio, has premiered on streaming to celebrate 2022's Disney+ Day, and it's made some small and major changes to the original movie. Directed by Back to the Future's Robert Zemeckis, and starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto, 2022's Pinocchio mostly stays faithful to the look and feel of the 1940 original. However, due to cultural changes in what's acceptable to show on screen, some key elements have been excised or changed for the new movie.


Pinocchio is the latest live-action remake of Disney's animated back-catalog, following in the footsteps of The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, and Beauty and the Beast. As with those remakes, Zemeckis' Pinocchio blends more photorealistic CGI characters with real-life actors to update the classic story for new audiences. At the core, the live-action Pinocchio is still the story of a wooden puppet who wishes to be a real boy, but with a runtime of 111 minutes, compared to the original's 91 minutes, there are several additional elements and changes.

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The design of the CGI Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan) echoes the original movie, unlike the more photorealist and less personable recreations of classic Disney characters like The Lion King's Simba or The Jungle Book's Baloo. One of the most surprising things that remains the same in the live-action Pinocchio is that the character of Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key) is still an anthropomorphized fox even in the remake's more realistic world. Although, in a world of blue fairies and talking grasshoppers it's perhaps not all that surprising after all. So with Jiminy Cricket, the Blue Fairy, Honest John, Geppetto's cat Figaro and fish Cleo all present in the Pinocchio remake, what changes have Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Chris Weitz made to the original movie?

Geppetto Has A Tragic Backstory

Tom Hanks' Geppetto has a tragic backstory in the Pinocchio remake

The original 1940 Pinocchio doesn't dwell on Geppetto's reasoning for wishing upon a star for a real boy, something that the live-action remake addresses. When audiences are first introduced to Tom Hanks as Geppetto, he's singing a song, entitled "When He Was Here With Me" as he works on the marionette that will become Pinocchio. As he sings and paints, Geppetto looks at a framed photo of a young boy, who it's clear from the song, is no longer with Geppetto. The fate of Geppetto's missing son is never expanded upon, but when Pinocchio fails to return home, his anxiety at leaving the shop for the first time since an unnamed event suggests a traumatic incident in his past, where he may have lost his wife and son.

The Cuckoo Clocks Are All Disney Easter Eggs

Disney easter egg clocks in the live-action Pinocchio remake

Geppetto's workshop is full of Disney Easter Eggs, continuing a recent studio trend. When all the cuckoo clocks in his workshop go off at once, wooden replicas of Woody from Toy Story, Roger Rabbit, and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty can all be seen emerging from the clocks. There are more clocks that refer to the vast catalog of Disney movies that have followed in the footsteps of the original Pinocchio, first released in theaters 82 years ago. Given the movie's release date of Disney+ day, it's hardly surprising that Pinocchio includes this tribute to Disney's rich history of animated movies.

Controversial Clock Gets A Modern Update

Controversial cuckoo clock changed in Pinocchio remake

One of the few clocks to remain in Geppetto's workshop from the original Pinocchio is the darkest one; the angry mother spanking her child on the hour, every hour. However, it's been given a twist for the more enlightened times of 2022. This time, when the clock strikes the hour, the clockwork mother raises a hand to spank her wooden child, but is interrupted by a wooden policeman. It's one of a few modern updates to the original movie's different times morality.

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The Blue Fairy Sings "When You Wish Upon A Star"

Cynthia Erivo sings When You Wish Upon A Star in Pinocchio remake

Written for the original Pinocchio by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, "When You Wish Upon A Star" has since become the Walt Disney Company's signature theme tune. In the original Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) sings the song at the opening of the movie. Wisely, Robert Zemeckis and Chris Weitz keep the song in the Pinocchio remake but with a twist. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Jiminy also opens the film by singing the song, he only does a couple of bars. It's not until Cynthia Erivo, as the Blue Fairy, appears in Geppetto's workshop that the iconic song gets a full performance, by the Blue Fairy, rather than by Jiminy Cricket.

Stromboli Is Even More Menacing

Stromboli in the 2022 Pinocchio remake

Stromboli is obviously still a villain in the original Pinocchio, locking the puppet in a birdcage and refusing to let him go home. However, the remake's Stromboli is much more menacing than the one in the original Pinocchio. He has a monstrous steampunk-style machine that operates the marionettes, and has broken and empty-looking marionettes hanging from the ceiling of his office. He's a much more nightmarish creation than the blustering showman of the original movie.

Pinocchio Gets A Girlfriend (Of Sorts)

Pinocchio and Sabina in the remake and Pinocchio scared of a female puppet in the original

One of the other puppets in Stromboli's marionette theater is Sabina, one of the Pinocchio remake's new characters. Unlike Pinocchio, Sabina's not magic, and is operated by Fabiana, a frustrated puppeteer who works tirelessly behind the scenes. It's Sabina who saves Pinocchio when he falls flat on his face, when in the original film, he fronts it out as part of the performance. Pinocchio and Sabina form a bond, which involves a lot of hand holding and dancing together. The strange relationship between Pinocchio and Sabina/Fabiana feels like potential set-up for a live-action sequel, especially when Fabiana takes over Stromboli's business at the end, converting it into a more inclusive operation.

Pleasure Island Is More Child-Safe

Sugar Mountain replaces Tobacco Row in the Pinocchio remake

Although the manner of his arrival on Pleasure Island is slightly different in the remake, Pinocchio still finds himself on Pleasure Island, which enslaves children by turning boys and girls into donkeys. However, there are some significant changes to the island that make it much more palatable for Disney+ films in 2022. There's still a focus on enabling destructive behavior and childhood gluttony, but the beer drunk by Pinocchio in the original is made clear to be root beer in the remake, while the dated Tobacco Row sequence, and Pinocchio's cigar smoking have wisely been excised altogether.

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Pinocchio On Water Skis

Pinocchio on jet skis in the 2022 remake

After narrowly avoiding being turned into a donkey and sent to the salt mines, Pinocchio returns home to find Geppetto has gone. In the original movie, a convenient magic note tells Pinocchio and Jiminy that Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo are inside a giant whale. In the remake, a talking seagull called Sofia, voiced by The Sopranos' Lorraine Bracco, informs the pair of Geppetto's whereabouts, and that he sold all his precious clocks to buy a boat to rescue his wooden son from Pleasure Island.

In both movies, this leads Pinocchio and Jiminy to launch a rescue mission. In the original, Pinocchio walks across the seabed and converses with the fishes, who help him reach Geppetto. In the new Disney live-action remake, they attach a rope to Sofia, who flies them across the sea as Pinocchio holds on for dear life and uses his wooden feet as water skis. Later in the movie, once they rescue Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo, Pinocchio also uses his magic wooden feet as propeller blades to outrun the giant sea monster, Monstro.

Monstro Is A Literal Sea Monster

Monstro the sea monster and Monstro the sperm whale in Pinocchio

In the original Pinocchio, everyone is swallowed up by Monstro, a giant sperm whale, and are forced to use all their smarts to escape digestion. As it's the exciting climax of the original movie, the same thing happens in the live-action Pinocchio remake. The main difference is that Monstro isn't a mere sperm whale in the remake. He's a terrifying sea monster which looks a bit like a sperm whale, but also has multiple tentacles and a giant protruding, spiky fin.

Geppetto Drowns Instead Of Pinocchio

Geppetto drowns in the remake and Pinocchio drowns in the original

As Pinocchio is a Tom Hanks movie, he gets more chances to shine than the original animated Geppetto. For example, there's slightly more focus given to his attempts to find Pinocchio when he fails to return home from school. He also flips roles with Pinocchio in the live-action remake's emotional climax, perhaps because a human being drowning is more realistic than a wooden puppet without lungs. It concludes Pinocchio's emotional arc, finally proving himself to be brave, honest, and unselfish. Presumably, the magic tears he sheds at Geppetto's apparent death are evidence of his emotional honesty. They also bring his human father back to life, and they walk off into the reassuring blue light at the end of the tunnel, happily ever after.

Pinocchio Doesn't Become A Real Boy (Or Does He?)

Both Pinocchios becoming real boys

The biggest change of all is in how the live-action Pinocchio remake ends. Geppetto tells Pinocchio that he's going to stop trying to mold him into the image of "somebody else" and says that the honest, unselfish, and brave puppet is exactly the "real boy" that he wants. A closing voiceover adds ambiguity to Pinocchio's transformation. In one of the final shots, his legs seemingly become flesh rather than pine as Jiminy Cricket tells the audience: "People say he was transformed into an honest-to-goodness real boy. But did that really happen?" It certainly did in the original 1940 film, when, after drowning, he's resurrected as a real-life boy. It might be that Robert Zemeckis and Chris Weitz wanted their version of Pinocchio to be about the importance of what's on the inside, rather than chasing a fantasy version of oneself. However, in leaving the transformation more ambiguous, the ending implies that Disney sees the sequel potential in this classic story.