The history and vitality of Pinocchio have continued for over a hundred years. This character, both child and puppet, with the fascination of material brought miraculously to life, has passed through decades and geographical and cultural boundaries, and transmigrated from one form of expression to another, without losing the specific essence that makes him recognisable and loved by children and “ex children” all over the world.
This can be confirmed by the National Carlo Collodi Foundation, through the experience and cultural heritage it has accumulated in almost 60 years of activity disseminating and promoting awareness of the work of Carlo Lorenzini/Collodi.
On 7 July 1881, Carlo Collodi began publishing The Story of a Puppet in serial form in the “Giornale per i bambini”, one of the earliest Italian weekly magazines for children.
The story stopped – after nearly 4 months and 8 episodes – at Chapter 15, leaving Pinocchio hanging from a branch of the Giant Oak and perhaps dying
By popular demand from readers, the episodes were resumed on 16 February 1882 under the title The Adventures of Pinocchio, with which the narrative continued until its conclusion, in January 1883. Shortly after the appearance of the final episode, The Adventures of Pinocchio were published in a single volume, in February of the same year. By 1890, the year of Carlo Collodi’s death, it was already in its fifth edition. Since then, the spread of Pinocchio on the main markets for children’s book of the time, and from there throughout the world, was continuous and uninterrupted.
In 1891, it was published in Great Britain, with illustrations by Mazzanti, and met with enthusiastic reviews – no mean achievement in the land of children’s books.
Its first appearance in the United States was in 1898, with publication of the first US edition in 1901, translated and illustrated by Americans: Walter S. Cramp and Charles Copeland. From that time, well before the global success of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, the adventures of the puppet were one of the best loved children’s books for many Americans and an important step for many illustrators.
Together with those from Britain, the American editions contributed to the popularity of Pinocchio in countries more culturally distant from Italy, such as Iceland and Asian countries. In 1905, Otto Julius Bierbaum published a remake of the Adventures in Germany, entitled Zapfelkerns Abenteuer (= the Adventures of Pine Nut); the first French edition was published in 1902. Between 1911 and World War II, translations were made into all European languages and several languages of Asia, Africa and Oceania.
Everyone who worked with the new means of communication soon made use of Pinocchio: as well as creative stimulus, the success of the character and the story certainly provided support for the emergence of new forms of expression, with which the public needed to gain familiarity.
Thus, after launching a new kind of children’s book (new mainly in terms of the spirit that animated it) and a first stage adaptation in 1899, written by Gattesco Gatteschi and Enrico Guidotti and directed by Luigi Rasi, Pinocchio was adopted as a pioneer of cinema. In 1911, Count Giulio Cesare Antamoro featured him in a 45-minute hand-coloured silent film, starring Polidor, a famous variety actor of the time; an almost complete version of the film was rediscovered and restored in the 1990s.
In 1932, Pinocchio was the star of a film produced in Japan with an experimental technique using animated puppets (director Noburo Ofuji), while in the 1930s in Italy, several production experiments were made for full-length animated cartoon films based on the story of the puppet, including some in colour. The Walt Disney version of 1940 was also an occasion for trying out new film animation techniques. At the same time, numerous versions were produced in the Soviet Union, both in cartoons and with animated puppets, including The Golden Key, a reworked version of Pinocchio by Aleksey N. Tolstoy.
New versions of the Adventures of Pinocchio continue to be produced in film, theatre and online, as well as in publishing (illustrations, translations and adaptations), with seemingly inexhaustible interpretations, nuances and meanings. The power of inspiration and human truth that pervades the writing of Carlo Collodi is still very much alive.