The story of Pinocchio was written in 1881, yet the message is very relevant in today’s cultural landscape. When Pinocchio’s tormentors ask him, “Why would you want to be real, when you can be famous?” it feels like the writer knew we’d be living in a world centered around likes and followers as opposed to substance and hard work. Disney’s reboot of the 1940 film stars award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo along with legendary actor Tom Hanks and brilliant newcomer Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, as the talking puppet that magically comes to life.
Erivo cleverly plays a slightly androgynous-looking blue fairy, a role that was previously tapped for blonde, blue-eyed actresses. Earlier this year, Erivo spoke candidly about how monumental snagging this role was for her and, more importantly, young Black and Brown children who have never seen themselves in such a coveted role.
“I love that I’m playing this role as myself, with my bald head and all,” Erivo stated proudly.
Although Disney was intentional about adding diversity to the film, the authenticity to the story remains true. Pinocchio takes on challenge after challenge, and thwarts distractions and villains galore all in a quest to become “real” and make his father, the puppet maker, proud. While the story is geared toward children, the overall message is one that transcends age, gender, race and background. The blue fairy instructs Pinocchio on the keys to becoming “real,” which is to show up in life as brave, truthful and unselfish. Those three timeless characteristics written about in the 1880s still ring true today.
The all-new “Pinocchio” premiered Sept. 8 on Disney Plus. Check out the full interview with lead actor Benjamin Evan Ainsworth here: