We sat down with San Francisco author Scott Mignola to find out what inspired him to write Pinocchio’s Forgotten Land, and what ground rules he set for himself in tinkering with a beloved classic. A few excerpts:



BP: So, why Pinocchio?


SM: [Laughs.] Why not Pinocchio? He’s embedded in our pop culture, he’s part of our vocabulary. In America, I think, we can credit Walt Disney for that. But I’ve always loved the original story, ever since I came across it as a kid, years after seeing the Disney movie. When I started thinking about doing my own Pinocchio book, my first thought was, Be true to the source; don’t reference anything that didn’t come directly from that. Then I just started building on what Collodi laid out. There was plenty there to explore.


DBP: Are the two very different, the original Italian story and the 1940 Disney movie?


SM: There are a lot of similarities, but the book has so much more to it. There are a lot more absurd situations and roadblocks that Pinocchio has to work his way around. You can’t fault Disney for taking dramatic license—for changing an asthmatic shark into a whale, or making Pinocchio a more sympathetic character. His charm in the book, really, is his sheer audacity. He’s just a self-centered kid, like we all were once. He sees something he wants and he forgets everything else and rushes off after it, totally heedless of the consequences. That’s why the story has such universal appeal, because we all know that character. He’s inside all of us.


DBP: Is he still like that in Pinocchio’s Forgotten Land, or has he matured?


SM: His priorities have shifted somewhat. He feels a responsibility to take care of Geppetto, who’s very much a father to him. He also has some financial responsibility, and he takes that seriously. That isn’t to say he can’t be distracted and get lured away into trouble. What fun would that be?


DBP: Your book, like its predecessor, has a strong moralistic tone. Was that intentional, or did it just happen?


SM: Again, that came from wanting to be true to the original, which was obviously designed to terrify children into behaving, showing them the most extreme consequences of disobedience and poor judgement. The plot was coming together right in the middle of the financial crisis, too, during the fallout from that. Everything you heard on the news was about bailouts, unemployment, people losing their homes, and that just seeped into the story. So in my book it’s less selfishness that leads Pinocchio astray than greed. His intentions are good, but he loses sight of himself, like all those corrupt mortgage lenders. So yes, he’s matured, but he still has a lot of growing up to do.


DBP: This isn’t your typical bedtime story. Were you writing for adults or for children, and what’s the difference?


SM: I don’t know that there’s a huge difference, really. Children are very sharp; they don’t want to be talked down to. In fiction you can talk to them about anything, but you do it under layers of fantasy and allegory, and by choosing your words carefully. I wouldn’t say I had a specific audience in mind while I was writing it. I just wanted to tell a good story that would appeal to everybody, and hopefully make kids want to pick it up again as adults and see the deeper layers. It wasn’t intended to be a lesson in fiscal responsibility. You know what’s great for that? Monopoly. I played Monopoly with my kids as soon as they could roll a pair of dice, and I beat them at it until they started picking up the tricks and playing more shrewdly. My daughter had Monopoly nightmares; nine years old, crying in her sleep. “Can I just pay you for spaces I landed on?” I was a monster, but I’d do it all again.