Our next story is 1961’s “Pinocchio’s Christmas Story,” not be confused with the previous post about his Christmas Party all the back from 1939.
This story seems to be a re-telling of part of the movie, with Pinocchio still as a puppet in Gepetto’s workshop, learning to become a real boy with the help of Jiminy Cricket as his conscience. This story takes place around Christmas, and Gepetto is even helping Santa with making toys (Santa outsources?).
As in the movie, Pinocchio heads off to school, only to be stopped by Foulfellow the fox, who sells him to Stromboli the puppet master. Unlike the movie, however, Pinocchio is doing a Christmas show here instead, complete with a Santa hat and beard. He is a great success, but of course, Stromboli puts him in a cage at the end of the night, intending to keep his new moneymaking star.
Gepetto mopes and frets around his shop in worry, wondering where Pinocchio is, neglecting his toymaking duties. Jiminy sets out to find Pinocchio and briefly passes Foulfellow, who is buying ghoulish presents for his family. Despite Jiminy’s suspicions that the fox knows where Pinocchio is, nothing really comes of this, and it’s the last time we see Foulfellow in the story. The villain manages to get away with a Merry Christmas.
In desperation, Jiminy calls to the wishing star, summoning the Blue Fairy. She transports them to Pinocchio and frees him. However, there’s still a problem…
Remember those other puppets Stromboli has? They’re apparently alive, too! It kind of defeats the purpose of Pinocchio’s “novelty” of being alive himself (he might be able to move without strings, but he’s still a sentient piece of carved wood, which is pretty unusual).
This would kind of explain why the puppets all have different voices in the “I’ve Got No Strings” sequence of Pinocchio–I always wondered who was puppeteering them and providing the vocals, since Stromboli’s wagon is pretty small and aside from a suggested orchestra, there are no other crew members visible. But does this mean that all the puppets in the movie are aware of their situation?
Suddenly the already somewhat spooky Pinocchio scenes just got darker. First the donkeys, now this!
Well, the Blue Fairy frees the puppets of their strings. Stromboli attempts to stop their escape, but the Fairy easily hypnotizes him into thinking he’s sleepwalking and he lumbers back to bed.
The whole gang heads to Gepetto’s workshop where the freed puppets assist him in making toys. In the end, Santa Claus comes to pick up his merchandise and offers to give the puppets all a lift home while making his rounds.
“You’re free, children! Run back to your individual countries of origin!”
So everyone had a Merry Christmas, even Foulfellow. Interestingly regarding the multiracial puppets, this comic was written three years before Disney’s “it’s a small world” attraction premiered at the World’s Fair in 1964. Who knew?
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Disneys-Christmas-Classics-Frank-Reilly/dp/1684050065