Land of Toys
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The Land of Toys (Italian: Paese dei balocchi) is a fictional location in the Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883). It is disguised as a haven of freedom and anarchy for boys and occasionally girls. In the Disney film adaptation of the novel, the land is renamed as Pleasure Island. The size and nature of such location is unclear (the Disney adaptation depicts it as an amusement park, whereas the novel implies it is at least as large as a township); the ambiguity in the original name (paese can mean country or land, but also town or village) adds to the confusion. To its unsuspecting visitors, it appears to be a fantastic place where boys and girls can do whatever they want with no consequences or law. However, its real use is for a slave trade.
Located in the fictional land of Cocagne, Pleasure Island serves as a haven for wayward boys and girls, allowing them to act as they please without recrimination. However, the truer and more sinister purpose of Pleasure Island is eventually revealed as it begins to physically transform the boys and girls into donkeys, apparently by means of a curse.
The Land of Toys in the novel
The original take to the Land of Toys mixes the aspects of a morality tale with those of social critique. Children (depending upon the translation of the original Italian, the novel has included both boys and girls or only boys) are lured there by the promise of never having to go to school again and being able to spend their whole time having fun. In the novel, the ages of the children that are there are defined clearly as between the years eight to fourteen. Children there play hide-and-seek, whistle, watch puppets in canvas theatres, play shuttlecock, bounce on balls, trundle hoops and ride wooden horses, dress as characters, eat candy all day, and put on plays. They never have to do any work or learn anything, and the graffiti on all the walls is proof of that. Finally, after months of reckless abandonment, the true purpose of the land is revealed. As a result of their immodest behavior, and what is treated almost as a natural consequence, they become donkeys (in Italian culture, the donkey is symbolic of ignorance and stupidity).
The transformation is not instantaneous, but usually happens in the span of a single day. First the children's ears sprout out into those of a donkey. This first change seems to be an early symptom, for it is always several hours before the complete asinine change begins. Then, in a process which the book seems to describe as painful, the children are forced to the ground in a bipedal stance, unable to stand upright any longer. It is at this point of animalistic behavior that the children's minds seem to transform into that of unthinking beasts; they begin to lose speech and run around chaotically, braying, kicking and violently ripping off their human clothes until naked and fully transformed, usually in such a violent manner as to seem crazed. However, a piece of their human minds seems to remain in the fact that they are aware that they are being humiliated. Then, as they lash out in asinine instincts, children's hands and feet become hooves, their faces transform into equine muzzles, and they grow hair all over their bodies. The last thing that happens to them is the growth of donkey tails; this is considered the most humiliating segment of the transformation in the fact that it signals their absolute and irreversible transformation into donkeys.
Some commentators have said that the sudden, yet completely clean, (no graphic, obscene, or overtly scary descriptions are used) transformation can seem terrifying to younger children. Adaptations of the scene have been hailed as too frightening for certain age groups.
When framed in the context of the late 19th century, the chapters set in the Land of Toys also serve as social commentary: abandoning school means securing oneself a future with no other way to make a living but through hard back breaking labor, and there are plenty of people (like the ruthless coachman) who will try to take advantage of that.
The segment from Pleasure Island in the film version is a morality tale. The boys who are taken to the island go voluntarily with the promise of fun and unlimited freedom. It's clear, however, that Pleasure Island has some sort of bad reputation despite its name: Honest John and Gideon react in horror at the name when they meet the Coachman at the Red Lobster inn. While on the island, the boys are encouraged to commit acts of gluttony and vandalism, fight, drink beer, smoke cigars and gamble — all things that good little boys are not supposed to do. In short, the park was designed for boys to "make jackasses of themselves". The nature of the Coachman and of Pleasure Island itself are shown as preternatural and inherently evil. The first real indication of this occurs while the boys indulge themselves; the Coachman orders his henchmen, who are shown as terrifying dark ape-like silhouettes with no distinguishing features, to close and lock the entrance.
The transformation into a donkey is not instantaneous. When the boys arrive on the island, they remain human for some time, as their "jackass" behavior must build up sufficiently for the curse to activate. Jiminy Cricket remains completely unaffected the entire time, since he did not engage in such acts at all. The first indication of the transformation is when the boy's laughter is replaced with a donkey's braying, followed by the growth of donkey ears and a tail. The head, torso, and extremities come next, after which the boy is then forced into a quadrupedial stance. The final change is losing the ability of human speech.
Before the donkeys leave Pleasure Island, the Coachman checks them by asking their names to make sure they have lost their ability to vocalize, which signifies they are fully transformed. It is clear, however, that the mute donkeys still retain at least some human intelligence, as they appear able to understand the Coachman's commands. The donkeys that are fully transformed and can no longer vocalize (as in Lampwick's case) are stripped bare of their clothes, hurled into wooden crates, and then sent to work as slaves in salt mines or circuses. The ones that can still talk (as in the case of one named Alexander) are imprisoned until the transformation finishes; the talking donkeys beg for mercy but receive none, as the Coachman angrily remarks "you boys had your fun!" Unlike in the original text, where the transformation would automatically complete itself once started, the curse can also be stopped if the boy escapes before the transformation is complete, as revealed by the fact that Pinocchio is able to escape from the island with only a donkey's ears and tail and does not transform any further for the rest of the film. (This was a shortcut on the film's part, which allowed the producers to skip over some chapters.)
At some point, Mister Geppetto realizes that Pinocchio is on Pleasure Island, and ventures out to sea to rescue him, but is swallowed by Monstro, which sets up the climax of the film.
This version of Pleasure Island appears in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance in Pinocchio's homeworld, Prankster's Paradise.
The Adventures of Pinocchio
Pleasure Island is featured in The Adventures of Pinocchio, called "Terra Magica" (which means "Magic Land" in Italian) in this version. After Pinocchio's initial adventures, he ends up wandering in the woods where he encounters the human thieves Volpe and Felinet who trick him out of his money. After this betrayal, he is then lured onto a carriage driven by a sinister-looking coachman who takes him to Terra Magica with a load of other boys (including Lampwick, Pinocchio's friend). Terra Magica is actually owned by the evil Lorenzini, who is luring the boys to the place with promises of fun and then turning them into donkeys through drinking the park's cursed water while riding on a rollercoaster.
The transformation of boys into donkeys takes place in the span of a few minutes as the rollercoaster still roars down the track, giving the sequence an ominous and foreboding atmosphere. The rollercoaster is built in such a way that the boys' screams of joy and delight are timed perfectly by a loop in the track to force the cursed water into their mouths. Pinocchio, who had received holes in his wooden body earlier in the film, is spared. It was revealed earlier in the film that the cursed water transforms its drinker into an animal symbolic of his or her behavior. Therefore, the boys' "jackass" behavior causes them to actually physically transform into jackasses. The first revelation of this fate happens when, instead of screams of thrills and joy, Lampwick brays like an ass. After Lampwick's strange bray, the other boys in the car point out a donkey's tail growing out of Lampwick's pants and flapping in the wind. Then the other boys in the car begin to bray uncontrollably as their ears become like those of a donkey. Next, Lampwick's head morphs into a half-donkey-half-human face as he lets out an extremely realistic bray (compared to the previous human-sounding one). Suddenly, the boys begin to grope awkwardly with their hands as they become hooves. Finally with one more screaming bray (this time completely animalistic), Lampwick becomes a complete donkey. It seems that the transformation is somehow timed perfectly to coincide with the end of the rollercoaster. This could either be a way to somehow stimulate the transformation into fruition faster, or just to keep them inside and hidden while they transform in order to keep it from the other children in Terra Magica. Whatever the reason, the transformation always seems to completely finish by the end of the ride. Therefore, the new boys have absolutely transformed into donkeys (somehow their clothes also seem to disappear without explanation) by the time they enter the donkey holding cave at the end of the ride. The rollercoaster cars seem built not only with the boys in mind but also to fit standing donkeys as well. The donkeys simply walk out of the car at the end of the ride, seemingly unaware of what had happened to them.
Lorenzini's evil schemes are thwarted when Pinocchio reveals his plans to the other boys in the park and encourages Lampwick (turned into a donkey) to knock Lorenzini into the Park's cursed water, transforming him into a monstrous whale. Around the end of the movie, Volpe and Felinet are tricked into drinking the water by the human Pinocchio, who tells them that if they drink the water while holding a rock, it will transform it into pure gold. As a result, the two thieves are turned into a real fox and a real cat (though this scene happens offscreen). It said that the boys who were turned into donkeys were turned back to boys after doing hard and honest work.
The PC/ DVD-ROM game based on the film has a scene that takes place in Terra Magica as the main characters, a boy named Candlewick and a girl named Lumina, look for Pinocchio. In the game, Lumina and Candlewick are tricked into boarding the rollercoaster and therefore are subjected to only a fraction of the curse since they had not fully engaged in "jackass" behavior or drunk all of their water. Both Candlewick and Lumina lied and were extremely naughty, but only Lumina engaged in the full "jackass" activities; however, it may not have had a full effect on Lumina because she was a girl, though this is never confirmed. Perhaps one must drink a certain amount of the water to be fully affected, but this is also never confirmed. Whatever the reason, Lumina and Candlewick are only transformed halfway into donkeys and still retain human, as evidenced by Lumina saying that she understands Lorenzini's trick by looking at the half-transformed Candlewick and stating, "Lorenzini's trick is that he gets you to act like Jackasses, so that you turn into Jackasses." She is also the only one of the two to bray like an ass, which seems to confirm her more jackass-like behavior.
Pleasure Island is shown once more in the 2000 TV musical Geppetto. After Pinocchio escapes from Stromboli's puppet show, even though Stromboli kept him under a contract he signed, he boards a stagecoach full of boys to Pleasure Island. There, young boys break windows, eat cakes, pies, and candy for their suppers, play in the mud, run wildly, steal toys, and play pool. In this version, a rollercoaster turns the boys into donkeys, much like in the 1996 film version.
Pinocchio (2002 film)
In the 2002 Italian film Pinocchio, the Land of Toys is referred to as "Fun Forever Land" and plays the same role as the novel version.
Walt Disney World area
There was a shopping district at Walt Disney World under the title of Pleasure Island. It is never explicitly stated that the name came from Pinocchio, but due to Disney's animated film it is quite plausible that this is the case.
In other media
- The Pleasure Island theme was taken up again by science fiction author Cory Doctorow in his short story "Return to Pleasure Island", where it is told from the perspective of cotton-candy-vending Golems.
- The 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appears to pay tribute to Pleasure Island by showing an underground lair ran by the antagonistic Foot Clan, being a place of underage drinking, smoking, gambling, blasting offensive music and playing video games. The only skills that are taught are martial arts and how to move stolen goods.
- In some film versions of the story, Pinocchio is not fully transformed into a donkey. In the Disney version, for example, the transformation is arrested after he's grown donkey ears and a tail by his escape from the island. In The Adventures of Pinocchio, Pinocchio is not affected by the Terra Magica's cursed water, as it leaks out holes in his (wooden) chest. He grows donkey ears after riding the roller coaster. In Geppetto, the roller coaster is again the cause of Pinocchio's transformation, and the puppet does fully take on donkey form. But he turns back into human form when he later jumps overboard in an attempt to save Geppetto from being swallowed by the whale.