“The value of truth” – this was the headline of the Süddeutsche Zeitung on the very first weekend of this new year: apparently there will be three new film adaptations of “Pinocchio” in 2021. Among other things, the stop motion film directed by Guillermo del Toro is finally being tackled. It is to be a “stop-motion musical” starring Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett.

A children’s classic

We already dealt with the material of Pinocchio in an exhibition in 2016. The children’s classic Pinocchio’s Adventures is considered one of the most important texts in Italian literature. Written by the Italian writer and journalist Carlo Collodi (1862-1890), the story first appeared as a serialised novel in a children’s magazine. Although not a play, it is ideally suited for the puppet theatre stage. For the novel is about the metaphorical heart of puppet theatre: the creation and bringing to life of the puppet.

Special exhibition: Pinocchio and his brothers – a piece of wood comes to life

The special exhibition at the Museum of Theatre Puppets Lübeck was divided into two parts.  The first showed Pinocchio and other characters as rod puppets, marionettes and hand puppets as well as heroes of (puppet) animated films. We recreated eight key scenes from the Pinocchio story with sets of figures from various productions. One focus was on the work of the East German puppeteer Carl Schröder (1904-1997), for whom the story of the wooden boy was a lifelong theme and who also made a DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengeselschaft / East German state owned film production company) film about it. The juxtaposition of the different sets of figures made it clear how the story of Pinocchio ignited artists’ imagination – and what image they developed of the little wooden boy. A link was made clear from the special exhibition to the permanent exhibition regarding all the “brothers in the anarchic spirit” like Pinocchio’s historical role models Pulcinella, Kasper, Guignol and Mr. Punch.


Pinocchio and Geppetto in the special exhibition of the Museum of Theatre Puppets Luebeck 2016. Copyright: Olaf Malzahn

Pinocchio as Utopia

The loosely knit plot of Pinocchio has always exerted a great attraction on artists and writers. In the second part of the exhibition we explored reinterpretations of the story of the wooden boy.

Collodi’s novel inspired the Russian writer Alexei Tolstoy to write the fairy tale “The Little Golden Key or The Adventures of Burattino”. In Russia, therefore, there is an Russian version of  Pinocchio called Burattino.

The film version of the Soviet children’s book classic by director Alexander Ptushko was presented in the exhibition, as were the original film figures from 1939 by set designer Valentin Kadotschnikow. At the end of this film, Burattino escapes the despotic theatre director with his friends in an airship – a surprising twist! We were also able to show the utopian potential of the figure Pinocchio pictorially in the exhibition in more recent literary adaptations (e.g. in the graphic novel by Winshluss).

In 2016, del Toro’s stop-motion film was already under discussion, but unfortunately we were not yet able to exhibit any figures; they would have been an interesting contrast to the historical stop-motion figures from Moscow. So we are all the more excited this year!

A link to the trailer of one of the three top-class Pinocchio film adaptations this year