Pinocchio Primer

by Artistic Director Karen Kain

It is my pleasure to share some information about this exciting world premiere.

The Pinocchio Story

One of the most popular and most frequently revived and adapted children’s stories of all time, the book known the world over as simply Pinocchio, began life as a novel called The Adventures of Pinocchio, published in 1883 by the Italian writer Carlo Collodi. 

The essential premise of the story is well-known: Pinocchio is a wooden puppet who has been built by a village woodcarver named Geppetto. Although made of wood, Pinocchio dreams of becoming an actual boy. Pinocchio has a variety of adventures, and when he lies or finds himself in a difficult situation, his nose has an uncomfortable tendency to grow.

Although the story of Pinocchio has been cocooned in sentiment and had its narrative altered over the years, particularly through numerous film and television adaptations, the book was initially intended as a fairly stern moral fable about responsibility and truth-telling, with tragic overtones and implications. In an earlier version of the story, Collodi even had Pinocchio hanged at the end, a less than subtle warning against his irreverent and reckless behaviour. 

The accepted text with which most people are familiar, is less harshly moralistic. Pinocchio’s adventures land him in and out of surreally troublesome situations, some comical and some frightening, and in the end, having learned the virtues of proper childhood conduct, is finally transformed, thanks to the intervention of a magical Fairy, into a real boy.

The Ballet

Will Tuckett’s approach to the Pinocchio story has been to locate a middle ground between the sentimental morality tale that has defined many versions of the narrative (such as the well-known Disney animated film adaptation) and the darker tones of the original (in which, for instance, Pinocchio kills the beloved character known in the Disney version as Jiminy Cricket). The emphasis is on celebrating the often wildly anarchic, pre-moral imaginative universe of young children, jettisoning some of the original’s darker episodes and reveling in the book’s potential for sheer fantasy and escapism.

As for the original’s moralizing and didacticism? That will still be there, but soft-pedaled rather than pronounced. This is a family ballet, to be sure, but one that is open to everyone who simply loves the incomparable experience of wonderful, inventive theatre. In Mr. Tuckett’s own words, “I think there will always be a place for and a desire to see theatre and dance as a way of escaping things for a couple of hours and to me there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Some Pinocchio Facts and Figures

Will Tuckett wanted to give a nod to the Canadian component in this current production of Pinocchio, so he included some amusingly iconic elements from the Great White North. The ballet includes 23 lumberjacks, each with his own axe, 1 Mountie, 2 beavers, 1 moose, 4 raccoons, 1 Nova Scotia lighthouse and 2 Niagara Falls tourists.

Pinocchio is the third ballet in The National Ballet of Canada’s repertoire in which characters fly. The others are La Fille mal gardee and The Red Shoes.

Number of roles performed by 43 dancers in each show: 153

Number of wigs in Pinocchio: 40

Pairs of glasses worn by characters in Pinocchio: 18

Number of feathers in the Blue Fairy’s wings: 520

Number of trees, ranging in height from 6 to 30 feet, enchanted by the Blue Fairy: 12

Funland is inspired by Coney Island, circa the late 1950s/early 1960s.

Karen Kain, C.C.
Artistic Director

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