At this point, there are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and Disney live-action remakes of classic animated films. Several are heading to the big screen including, The Little Mermaid and Snow White, but the next one will be a direct-to-Disney+ remake of Pinocchio staring Tom Hanks as Geppetto. It looks to be a sweet little family movie, but that’s only because you haven’t it through. This movie is actually nightmare fuel.
It’s a story we all know, and everything about the recent trailers tells us it will be a pretty faithful retelling of the 1940 animated Disney film, but the transition to live-action from animation has opened a can of worms that have now crawled into my brain. There’s a question I have now asked the universe that has opened a Pandora’s box I can not close. When Pinocchio becomes a real boy at the end of the movie, just what is that going to look like on the screen? Think about it.
In a movie where everybody is animated, Pinocchio is still a cartoon when he's a living puppet and when he's a "real" boy, just like every other character in the film. But in the new Pinocchio, real people are played by real actors, and the walking puppet of Pinocchio is a CGI creation. So what happens when that changes?
Option 1. Pinocchio is A CGI Real Boy
We’ve seen what Pinocchio will look like in most of Pinocchio, and he looks exactly like what you would get if you asked any digital effects artist to transform the 2D animated character from the original film into a 3D CGI character. This is what Pinocchio will look like during basically the entire movie.
In the 1940 original, the walking and talking wooden boy simply sees his wooden parts transformed into real arms and legs. His wooden hinges become real knees and elbows. Pinocchio looks basically the same, but he’s now clearly human and not a walking puppet.
The movie could do this with the new Pinocchio as well, i.e. simply keep him a CGI character that looks more real than he did before because he now is made of skin and bone, and not wood. But in a live-action version of Pinocchio, that’s not what a real boy would look like. The whole point of these remakes is that characters are either played by real actors like in Cinderella or made to look as real as possible, as in The Lion King. Tom Hanks playing Geppetto is what real, live people look like in the universe of this film; they look like, well, people. So if the Disney+ movie goes for a version of the transformation that fits with the original film, Pinocchio won’t really look real, will he? He'll just look like a different CGI character.
Option 2. Pinocchio Becomes An Actual Real Human Actor
But then if that’s the case, does that mean that when Pinocchio becomes a real boy, he will transform from a CGI character into an actual real boy. Will he go from a CGI character voiced by an actor to, one would assume, the actual actor himself?
Pinocchio spends a significant portion of the story with other real children when he finds himself on Pleasure Island, and we've seen from the Pinocchio trailer that those boys, like all other human characters, are played by real actors. So it would make sense that when Pinocchio transforms he goes from CGI to being played by a person. It would likely be Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, the actor who's voicing Pinocchio through the film.
This feels like the most likely scenario. If Pinocchio is becoming a real boy, then he literally becomes real. But does the idea of watching this transformation scare the hell out of anybody else? This feels like it would be an utterly bizarre transformation. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth doesn’t really look like the CGI version of the character. Honestly, nobody does. This means the transformation is going to be quite significant, and in the end, he won’t really look like the character we’ve spent the movie with. He'll be real, but he won't be Pinocchio anymore; he's just some kid.
It feels like it would be odd if Pinocchio pronounces himself a real boy, but then doesn't look akin to Tom Hanks. It's true that the world of Pinocchio is a strange one, with people living alongside anthropomorphic animals, and this isn't treated as weird in the film. Still, the image of the animated Pinocchio being replaced by a human in the final seconds of the movie is hurting my brain. It just feels wrong.
Option 3. Pinocchio Becomes Some Weird Motion Capture Hybrid
But then there is a third option. Literally in between a fully CGI character and a real actor, we could see some sort of motion capture CGI character that looks like a CGI interpretation of a real person. This is a Robert Zemeckis movie, after all, and he loves performance capture. The filmmaker is capable of essentially anything when it comes to finding unique ways to use technology.
This could end up being the best of both worlds, but it could also be the worst of both. Maybe they’ll find a way to make Pinocchio look “real” while still making him look like the Pinocchio we know, or maybe he’ll look like neither thing. What if we get clearly CGI character that only resembles a person, and the uncanny valley is deep and wide?
Assuming that the new live-action Pinocchio remains true to the animated version, we are talking about a scene that will occur in literally the final seconds of the movie. Pinocchio transforms, the new family celebrates and the movie ends. But that also means how the movie ends is vital. It's going to be the last thing people see and the first thing they remember when they think of the movie later. If the transformation doesn't work, if it feels off in any way, it's going to potentially sour the entire experience.
I don’t know what “real boy” Pinocchio is going to look like and I know that I’ll be sitting through the entire movie on Disney+ just wondering how it’s going to end. What are they going to do? Whatever ending we get, it’s going to feel weird, but I may not sleep until I know the answer.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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