Land of Toys
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 for boys, although girls are lured there as well in some versions. 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. Its real use is for a slave trade.
Located in the fictional land of Cocagne, Pleasure Island serves as a haven for wayward boys, 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 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. 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. Boys there play hide-and-seek, whistle, watch puppets in canvas theatres, play shuttlecock, bounce on balls, trundle hoops and ride wooden horses. They never have to do any work or learn anything, and the graffiti on all the walls is proof of that. As a result, almost as a natural consequence, they become donkeys (in Italian culture, the donkey is symbolic of ignorance and stupidity).
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 chance to make a living but hard labor, and there are plenty of people (like the ruthless coachman) who will try and take advantage of that.
The segment from Pleasure Island in the film version is much more of 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 inn, and they mention how Pleasure Island has been outlawed. 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 is shown as more 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. Also, it is unknown how the other boys were turned into donkeys. One possibility though is that they may have been turned into donkeys by a magic potion. As, Lampwick and Pinocchio turned into donkeys after drinking beer and smoking cigars. 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. Pinocchio and Lampwick are the last ones to be affected since they spent most of their time playing pool, something relatively innocuous, while occasionally smoking and drinking, whereas the other bad boys immediately engaged in acts of vandalism. Jiminy Cricket remains unaffected 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. The mute donkeys nevertheless retain their human minds, as they appear able to understand the Coachman when he tests them.
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 in salt mines or circuses. The ones that can still talk (as in the case of one named Alexander) are thrown into a pen where other talking donkeys plead in vain for mercy. It is not clear what happens to them after this - except that there is no mercy. Unlike in the original text, where the transformation would automatically complete itself once started, the curse in the film occurs gradually. It can be slowed with reduced misbehavior; Lampwick and Pinocchio were the last affected because they engaged in less misbehavior than the other boys. It can even be stopped if the victim escapes before it is complete; Pinocchio is able to escape from the island with only a donkey's ears and tail.
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. Lorenzini's evil schemes are thwarted when Pinocchio reveals his plans 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 to drink the water by the human Pinocchio who tells them that if they drink the water while holding a rock, it will transform it in pure gold. As result, the two thieves are turned into a real fox and a real cat (though this scene happens offscreen).
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, steals 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.
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.