Before I discuss The Pinocchio Village Haus, the counter-service restaurant found in the Magic Kingdom, let me give you a little background about the marionette this eatery honors.
The original story of Pinocchio was written by Carlo Collodi of Italy. His story tells of a woodcarver named Geppetto who carves a marionette and dreams that someday his creation will become a real boy. The name “Pinocchio” means “pine eyes” in Italian. The first half of Collodi’s story was written as a serial during the years of 1881 and 1882. It was later expanded and completed as a children’s book in February 1883 (The Adventures of Pinocchio).
Initially, Collodi did not see children as the primary audience for his story as it dealt with more mature themes such as food, shelter, and the hardships of daily life. In fact, the tale takes on a very adult perspective at the end of the 15th chapter, the last of the serialized version of the story, when Pinocchio is gruesomely hanged for his many faults. It was Collodi’s publisher that requested the story be continued and Pinocchio be brought back to life and redeemed. Collodi agreed and introduced the Fairy with Turquoise Hair to perform this magic. It’s in the second half of the book that the tale begins to lean more toward children’s literature.
“The Adventures of Pinocchio” was brought to Walt’s attention in 1937, during the making of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Walt read the book and immediately knew he wanted to animate the story. Bambi was to be the studio’s second animated movie, but the book was proving difficult to adapt to film and would require more time than expected. The project was put on temporary hold. This opened up a spot for Pinocchio.
In the beginning, the Disney script writers used many of Collodi’s characters and plot points as described in his book. But this wasn’t working as the original tale was much too harsh. After Walt read some of the early drafts, he became unhappy with the direction the project was taking and put a halt to production until the story and characters could be rethought.
One of the first changes came to Pinocchio himself. Collodi’s character was a wisecracking sarcastic individual. He was tall and lanky, had a long pointy nose, and wore a dunce-like hat (see above). Walt realized that audiences would not be sympathetic to such a persona and would probably cheer his hanging. So Walt asked lead animator Milt Kahl to redesign his protagonist.
The revised character looked much more like a real boy. First, Pinocchio went from a tall, adult-like stature to a shorter, child-like height. The dunce cap became a Tyrolean hat. His long, thin nose was transformed into a much smaller and charming feature. And he went from five skinny fingers to four pudgy ones (a typical cartoon character adaptation). Only his arms and legs retained a puppet-like appearance with angular dimensions and joints at the elbows and knees. His personality also went under the knife and Pinocchio emerged as an innocent, naïve, and caring individual.
Jiminy Cricket also went through a transformation. In Collodi’s version, Jiminy was a minor character and far more cricket-like in appearance. He was known only as The Talking Cricket and was killed accidentally when Pinocchio threw a hammer at him.
Ward Kimball altered Jiminy’ s appearance to resemble a small, dapper man (minus ears). Ward would later say, “The only thing that makes him a cricket is because we call him one.”
“Pinocchio” was released on February 7, 1940 and received generally positive reviews. However, the movie did not make as much money as its predecessor “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” A large part of the movie’s financial failure was due to the outbreak of WWII which cut off the European and Asian markets to American films.
“When You Wish Upon a Star” became a major hit and won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. The melody has since become the representative song of The Walt Disney Company.
Disney offers copious amounts of information when it comes to the detailing of their rides and attractions. Books have been written on this subject. But when it comes to their restaurants and shops, facts are difficult to come by. This isn’t a purposeful withholding of information. Disney just figures that most people really aren’t all that interested in this aspect of theme park design. Because of this, I could find precious little “official” information on The Pinocchio Village Haus.
The Pinocchio Village Haus can be found at the back of Fantasyland. This is a major food facility in the Magic Kingdom and feeds thousands of people each day.
The original story of Pinocchio was set in the Tuscan region of Italy. So I’ve always found it interesting that the Imagineers chose Bavarian architecture to house this restaurant. Perhaps it was Pinocchio’s newly acquired Tyrolean hat that inspired the Disney film storytellers to move the film’s action to Northern Italy and the Alps.
The first three pictures below were taken from the movie “Pinocchio.” Here, the architecture hints at an Alpine village. However, the actual buildings of Fantasyland (pictures four and five) have a much stronger German feel than Italian. In addition, the Italian influence of the story is also downplayed at the Magic Kingdom with the inclusion of the German word “Haus” in the restaurant’s name.
I think the architecture of Disneyland’s Pinocchio attraction and its version of Village Haus Restaurant better captures the mood of the movie.
Despite the fact that the Imagineers used questionable (in my judgment) architecture for The Pinocchio Village Haus, it helps to understand their overall intent when designing Fantasyland. Fantasyland is a make-believe place. It is supposed to represent a quaint European village that encompasses a number of different regions, all protected by the walls of Cinderella Castle. For example, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Peter Pan, and “it’s a small world” feature a medieval tournament/tent look while Castle Couture, Sir Mickey’s, and Seven Dwarf’s Mine exhibit the attributes of English Tudor.
This next picture is looking above and beyond The Pinocchio Village Haus. If you’ll notice, you can see the castle wall surrounding this “village.” In addition, more castle walls are being built as part of the new Fantasyland expansion. As part of the backstory, as you pass through these walls, you leave the protection of the castle and enter the “countryside” of Fantasyland. This is where you’ll find the Dwarf’s Mine, and Beast’s and Prince Eric’s Castles.
It takes a large building to house a counter-service restaurant. However, a structure of this size would not have been found in medieval Europe. So the Imagineers designed the exterior to look like several buildings. This can be seen in the subtle changes in architecture from one “building” to the next and the different colored roofing tiles and shingles.
Upon closer examination, it would appear that some of these structures were designed as places of business while others, dwellings. Of course, during this era, most business owners lived above their shops. The numerous weather vanes atop the roofs would represent the various families living below. The word “Village” in the restaurant’s name also helps convey that these are numerous small structures, not one large building.
While researching this piece, I came across a picture I took from the Skyway in 1975. If you’ll notice, the shingles were much less colorful than they are today.
Outside of these shops and homes is the village square. This is marked by a fountain/well. Wells were often found in the middle of town and would be the place for the local citizenry to gather, gossip, trade, and obtain fresh water. There are also numerous tables and chairs in this area for outdoor dining.
Nearby is a bell tower – and this Disney version contains a real carillon. In days of old, bells were used to sound the hour and announce special events. The carillon at The Pinocchio Village Haus can be heard every quarter hour.
Often found near The Pinocchio Village Haus is Stromboli’s wagon. Here, you can purchase various Disney-themed souvenirs. However, due to the Fantasyland construction and space constraints, this villain’s cart is currently parked backstage.
The Pinocchio Village Haus has entrances on all sides of the building. In most cases, these are used for both in and out access. However, during busy times, cast members will man these doors for better crowd control. The main entrance (pictured below) will be used for entrance only while the side doors for exit only. In addition, people will not be allowed into the dining rooms until they have their food in hand. This may seem rather strange, but it actually helps keep more tables available. If guests are allowed to hold tables while waiting for others in their group to order meals, the table is “out of service” yet not being used for food consumption. Believe it or not, this is in your best interest.
The ordering area was designed to resemble a large, open-air courtyard (although completely indoors). A lighted ceiling represents the sky and it is lined with tiled and shingled roofs. Timbered walls, stained-glass windows, and ever-blooming flowerboxes complete the appearance of a village square. A stringless Pinocchio looks down from above with food and drink in hand.
The Pinocchio Village Haus has a number of dining rooms, each named for and themed after a particular character. The largest of these is the Stromboli Room.
I have read two different accounts pertaining to the function of this room – given that it exists in a real Alpine village. First, it could be a tavern. This can be deduced by the room’s décor, the chandeliers, and the mugs and beer steins found on the overhead shelving.
The other account states that this is an “outdoor” puppet theater. This can be reasoned by noticing several different aspects of the room. First, the large stained-glass windows that separate the Stromboli Room from the ordering counters feature marionettes in various poses. Second, the balcony on the other side of the room would be the puppeteer’s catwalk --- the area where he would control the marionettes. And finally, a large fresco on the wall which reads, “Stromboli presents Pinocchio the string-less puppet.”
Since I do not have access to the Imagineers thoughts on the subject, I have no idea which (if either) account is correct. But in the scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. The atmosphere is fun and lively in this room.
Other, smaller dining rooms flank both sides of the ordering area. Each of these rooms pays homage to a different “Pinocchio” character with colorful frescos. These rooms include The Blue Fairy, Geppetto, Cleo, Figaro, Jiminy Cricket, and Monstro. The following two pictures are of the Geppetto Room and the Jiminy Cricket Room, respectively.
Take a look at some of the charming frescos found throughout the restaurant. They tell the story of Pinocchio if you take the time to look at them all.
Instead of frescos, the Cleo Room features stained glass to give her a watery atmosphere. In addition, the room has a number of cuckoo clocks, something Geppetto enjoyed making.
J. Worthington Foulfellow (Honest John) and Gideon have not been forgotten and can be seen in this beautiful woodcarving.
Perhaps the most sought after dining area can be found in the Monstro Room. This is because several of the tables in this section of the restaurant sit beside windows that overlook the “it’s a small world” loading area. When the restaurant isn’t under “crowd control” measures, these are some of the first tables people will hold while others in their group order food.
But for me, the best tables can be found upstairs on the outside balcony. When the weather is nice, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal and watch the crowds below.
As with all Disney restaurants, the menu at The Pinocchio Village Haus is constantly changing. However, the offerings usually have an Italian leaning – which works well with the Pinocchio theme. Recently, flatbreads have been added to the menu. I’ve had the opportunity to try two, the Barbequed Chicken Flatbread and the Caprese Flatbread. Both were quite good and I would definitely order them again.
I’ve eaten at The Pinocchio Village Haus a number of times over the years and have always been pleased with the taste and quantity of the food – keeping in mind that this is a counter-service eatery and not a deluxe restaurant. To see the complete menu, click here.
If I have to find fault with this restaurant, it would be that it’s a popular place to eat. This means it will be crowded and very noisy if you dine at peak hours. This is another reason I seek out the balcony that only has five tables and is removed from the madding crowds.
The Pinocchio Village Haus usually opens each day at 11:00am. Closing times vary with park hours.
I’m going to end today’s blog in a rather unorthodox way – with pictures of my guest bathroom. However, as you will see, it does fit the topic at hand – Pinocchio.
When the Disney Stores first opened, they carried some high-end merchandise as well as traditional souvenirs. One day while browsing the store at Pier 39 in San Francisco, I came across a full-sized, fully functioning marionette of Pinocchio. I didn’t have a clue of what I’d do with him, but I knew I had to have him. Somehow, he ended up in my guest bathroom and a collection grew around him.
This first picture is an overall view of my current guest bath.
This next picture is a close-up of Pinocchio. The following photo is the ingenious way I figured out how to suspend and display him – from Mickey’s glove.
On the counter top I have several pictures and other related Pinocchio pieces.
These next several photos capture the pieces I’ve placed above the toilet. Cleo and Figaro are simple plush toys and Cleo has been placed in a cheap goldfish bowl.
On the opposite wall I have a number of 3D plates and pictures of other characters from the film. These pictures are nothing more than drawings I found in a child’s book. I framed these drawings with inexpensive frames and ready-cut matting I purchased at an art supply store.
I might be biased, put personally I think I’ve pulled off a classy bathroom using Disney characters.
People often ask me if Pinocchio is my favorite Disney character since I themed an entire room around him. Not really. I just fell in love with the marionette and had to figure out what to do with it.
Remember, when you wish upon a star, dreams come true.
The previous post in this blog was Backlot Express Restaurant.
The next post in this blog is Do You Pay Attention Quiz -- Questions.