Dr. Toon: Altered States
In this ending, known as Sequence 12, Geppetto has been washed ashore, seemingly lifeless after the harrowing escape from Monstro the Whale. Pinocchio desperately wades up toward the shore as Cleo, Figaro and Jiminy Cricket float in to the beach. Jiminy sees the woodcarver and weeps against a stone at Pinocchio's fruitless attempts to revive Geppetto. The anguished puppet cries over his father's body: "It's all my fault! Look what I've done to him. I don't deserve to have him back!"
Geppetto is suddenly bathed in shining light (generated by the unseen Blue Fairy) and begins to awaken, moaning, "Save yourself, Pinocchio." The light extends over Pinocchio with dramatic effect as Geppetto exclaims, "Pinocchio! What has happened to you?" The next drawing reveals Pinocchio to be a real boy; Jiminy Cricket rejoices, Figaro kisses Cleo and the group dances merrily down the beach. Jiminy stops to thank his Wishing Star, which is reflected in his shiny new badge (Official Conscience -- 18 KT). Cut to the star itself. The End.
When one considers the emotional weight of the film up to this point, the ending is too forced, too abrupt. There is also the sense of deus ex machina with the Blue Fairy accomplishing two miracles within seconds of each other (not to mention coming up with a gold badge in the bargain). Since it is Geppetto who "dies," there is no real sense of sacrifice on Pinocchio's part, merely remorse on the puppet's part at having continued a long line of screw-ups. Pinocchio, in this version, becomes a real boy just for making a good effort and falling short.
Now consider the released ending, so much more satisfying and emotionally engaging. A semiconscious Geppetto washes up first, whispering, "Save yourself, Pinocchio." It is Jiminy Cricket who finds the puppet face down in a tidal pool. After a long held shot, the scene fades to the interior of Geppetto's shop, where Pinocchio lies on the bed while a grieving Geppetto whispers, "My brave little boy."Jiminy Cricket cries beside a candle while Figaro and Cleo mourn side-by-side. Only after we are left to grieve along with them is the Blue Fairy heard in voice-over. A brilliant aura surrounds Pinocchio as she intones," Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy. Arise, Pinocchio, arise." Thus, both Geppetto and the Blue Fairy attest to Pinocchio's bravery, validating his resurrection as a living boy.
Noted animation historian Michael Barrier is less than enthralled with the released ending, writing in his book Hollywood Cartoons that the film's coda suggests "clumsy manipulation." Barrier is accurate in noting that a puppet who has just spent an extensive sequence submerged under the sea would not drown of a sudden, nor would he be killed by a crack to his solid pine noggin. Barrier seems to see this scene as a contrived device that enables the Blue Fairy to conveniently revive Pinocchio and turn him into a real boy.
As deep as my respect runs for Mr. Barrier, I disagree with all of the above. It's true that Pinocchio is a wooden puppet with neither lungs nor brain. But haven't we spent an entire film suspending disbelief in the service of fantasy? Pinocchio is a fairy tale, after all, not CSI. Boys can't really turn into donkeys, and crickets don't stand upright and talk. Also consider that Pinocchio does have an inorganic semblance of life, and that is all he has to hang on to until he can be converted into flesh and blood. If it can be bestowed magically, then it can be extinguished as well, and Pinocchio gives it up selflessly. It is the idea of ultimate sacrifice that matters, not its plausibility.