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Disney’s Musical Theatre: Pinocchio (Part Two)

When compared to Snow White, Walt’s second film Pinocchio has a greater and more diverse musical history. From the many deleted songs in the film to its rich musical history in other forms both on and off the stage, Pinocchio has stayed at the forefront of the musical worlds’ mind since its debut into cinemas in 1940.

There were several songs deleted from the original film of Pinocchio. The first of these is a song called “As I Was Sayin’ to the Duchess”. This song would have been sung by the fox instead of “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee”. In Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic, author J. B. Kaufman points out that this song slowed the film down, whereas Hi-Diddle helped to move the plot along and ended up in the film instead. Another of these songs was “Rolling Along to Pleasure Island.” This song was going to be sung by the boys on the way to Pleasure Island but was too upbeat for the nature of the circumstances and consequently, was cut. “Three Cheers for Anything” was another song that would have been sung by the Pleasure Island boys, this one about causing mischief. One song written for the film but used instead in Fun and Fancy Free was called “I’m a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow” and was sung by Jiminy Cricket. The most forgotten deleted scene was one called “Straight Ahead.” Before Jiminy became a major part of the story, the Blue Fairy had a song about being focused and disciplined, saying “your smartest choice is straight ahead”. Pinocchio took this advice literally which caused all sorts of problems.

In addition to the deleted songs, there were several songs that were publicly released but not put in the film. These “exploitation” songs were part of the marketing for the film and there were a total of three released: Jiminy Cricket, Monstro the Whale, and Honest John.

In the year 2000, The Wonderful World of Disney premiered a television musical spin-off of Pinocchio, titled Geppetto. This live-action film, not unlike the later theatrical remakes of Disney animated classics, took the original story and presented it from the perspective of Geppetto. This concept would be repeated almost 15 years later with Disney’s Maleficent. One of the early live-action remakes, it is often forgotten and not talked about due to its less than stellar quality. However, great talent went into making it, with performances by Drew Carey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and original songs written by Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz, best known for writing Broadway musical Wicked. He also contributed the lyrics to Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame from Disney animation. Whether intentional or not, several concepts from the original deleted songs were used in this film.

In Geppetto, one of the major musical numbers is titled “Pleasure Island” and is sung by the Ringleader, played here by Usher. This strange number is all about causing chaos, in the vein of the deleted song “Three Cheers for Anything.” The Blue Fairy also has a much bigger role and several songs, including a duet with Geppetto. There are other interesting songs including a new villain song for Stromboli, several solos for Geppetto, and more. The standouts in this film include the opening number “Toys” and the closing number titled “Since I Gave My Heart Away. “The film also includes “I’ve Got No Strings, from the original animated movie.” Though this television film is quite cheesy and mostly unnecessary, it is a fun watch merely to see this reimagining of the classic film and hear the always-talented Stephen Schwartz’s original songs. This musical film was later adapted for the stage, titled My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale and can be licensed to perform for schools and theatres. This version of the story includes all of the songs from the film, including “When You Wish Upon a Star,” a new version of the song “And Son” and a newly written song titled “Rise and Shine.

The other stage version of Pinocchio made in association with Disney was the recent stage production performed at the Royal National Theatre in London in 2017. This play by Dennis Kelly included the songs from the original animated movie with new arrangements and a new script.

There is also a live-action remake in development from acclaimed director Robert Zemeckis. It is unknown at this point if it will be a musical or whether they will use original songs or write new ones. Whatever the case may be, it seems the musical impact of Pinocchio is still far-reaching and not slowing down. I look forward to seeing how this film will continue to shape popular culture, in music, film, and theatre.


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