Stromboli is the second antagonist of Pinocchio. He is Pinocchio's arch-nemesis.
Stromboli is a puppeteer and showman whose primary concern is making money. As such, he is delighted to buy Pinocchio from Honest John and Gideon. Later, Stromboli infuriatingly locks Pinocchio in a cage to make certain that he doesn’t return home.
He was voiced by the late Charles Judels.
An Actor's Life for Me
Stromboli is first referred to in the film by J. Worthington Foulfellow, who notices a poster advertising that "that old rascal's back in town." Foulfellow fondly recalls trying to sell Gideon, with strings tied to his arms and feet, to the puppet master. When they see Pinocchio on his way to school, Foulfellow realizes that Stromboli would pay handsomely for a moving puppet without strings. They befriend the wooden boy and, convincing him that the theater is "the easy road to success," take him to Stromboli's Caravan, singing Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life for Me) as they go, with Jiminy in pursuit.
I've Got No Strings
That evening, Stromboli is first seen, announcing his show to a large crowd that has gathered around the caravan. The puppet master advertises Pinocchio as "the only puppet who can sing and dance without the aid of strings." He conducts the band (unseen, below the stage) while Pinocchio and the puppets perform I've Got No Strings. However, Pinocchio accidentally trips and falls his nose first onto the stage; Stromboli is initially furious at the puppet's clumsiness, but lets him continue after realizing that the audience is delighted. After the completion of the show, Stromboli walks onto the stage and accepts both the audience's applause and their money.
Stromboli's True Nature
Later that night, Stromboli is counting the day's substantial earnings while enjoying a meal of link sausage. He gives Pinocchio a worthless metal washer for his efforts, but when the puppet tries to return to Geppetto's workshop, Stromboli locks him in a cage. The puppet master enthuses they will tour the great capitals of the world and that Pinocchio will make him lots of money. When the puppet is too old to perform, Stromboli will use him for firewood. Horrified, Pinocchio demands for his freedom, but he is instantly silenced when Stromboli violently stomps the whole caravan, which shooked everything inside, bellowing at him to “SHUT-A UP!”, threatening to “knock-a him (you) silly!” before sadistically bidding him good night. Laughing evilly, he leaves Pinocchio alone with the lifeless puppets in the dark carriage and then begins to drive the caravan.
Jiminy comes to Pinocchio's aid, but is unable to free him; it is the Blue Fairy, giving him a second chance, who opens the cage, allowing Pinocchio and Jiminy to escape. Afterwords, Stromboli is not seen again throughout the rest of the film (though it can perhaps be assumed that he reacted to Pinocchio's absence in a typical emotional and angry outburst and probably went bankrupt), but he is mentioned two times by Foulfellow in the Red Lobster Inn with Gideon and the Coachman and by Pinocchio when he encounters Foulfellow and Gideon again. It can also be applied that his defeat could be unsuccessful of earning a lot of money.
Behind the Scenes
Hamilton Luske directed live-action footage of most of the characters in the film as reference for the animators. The performance model for Stromboli was story man T. Hee, who was rather corpulent at the time and who was dressed in full gypsy attire provided by the Character Model Department. Luske later admitted that this reference footage was underacted, but felt that it was necessary to keep Stromboli's animator, Vladimir Tytla, from doing "too many things."
It is thought by some that casting Tytla as animator of Stromboli was typecasting of a sort - like the puppet master, Tytla was tall, imposing, vibrant in personality and of ethnic origin. While working on Stromboli's animation of the character, Tytla would act out each sequence in his room - this performance could be heard throughout the studio; Eric Larson "thought the walls would fall in".
Despite his limited screen time, Stromboli is one of Disney's most infamous and acclaimed villains. He was one of six Disney villains to be nominated for a position in AFI's 'AFI’s 50 Greatest Villains list' (though did not appear on the final list) and was ranked 22nd in fan site Ultimate Disney's countdown of the most popular Disney Villains (one better than Pete, but one under the Horned King. The character has been praised by critics for possessing the ability to instill both laughter (when he shakes his rear-end at the words "Con-stan-tino-polee") and fear (threatening to turn Pinocchio into firewood) in audiences. Pierre Lamber has stated that "Tytla's innate sense of force is revealed in all its magnitude in the creation of the character of Stromboli," and animation historian Charles Solomon refers to the puppet master as "the grandest of all Disney heavies" while John Canemaker describes Stromboli as "an overweight monster of mercurial moods, capable of wine-soaked, garlic-breathed Old World charm one second, and knife-wielding, chop-you-up-for-firewood threats the next."
During the premiere of Pinocchio, Frank Thomas sat in front of W. C. Fields, who, upon Stromboli's entrance, muttered to whoever was with him that the puppet master "moves too much". Thomas felt the reason for this was that Stromboli was too big and powerful. Michael Barrier agrees with Fields' criticism, considering Stromboli a "poorly conceived character" whose "passion has no roots... there is nothing in Stromboli of what could have made him truly terrifying." Leonard Maltin disagrees, considering Pinocchio's encounter with the showman to be the wooden boy's "first taste of the seamy side of life... (Stromboli) tosses his hatchet into the remnants of another ragged marionette, now a pile of splinters and sawdust, a meekly smiling face the only reminder of its former 'life'." Though the character's traits are mostly Italian, characteristics such as Stromboli's facial expressions, obsession with wealth, and long black "goat's beard" have led to associations with Jewish stereotypes (particularly Hollywood moguls) and accusations of anti-Semitism.
- Stromboli is sometimes thought to be the hidden secondary, tertiary, and a minor antagonist in the film. This may not be quite true as Stromboli basically drove the plot and was more of an adversary to Pinocchio, than any other villains of this film.
- Stromboli has a bit of a temper and often loses it. He angrily curses in Italian gibberish when he loses his temper.
- Stromboli's name literally means "fire-eater" (an equivalent character with this name appears in Collodi's original story). Though eccentric and entertaining, Stromboli is also a threatening and imposing villain - for this reason, he is often cited as one of Disney's greatest villains.
- He ranked #22 in the Top 30 Disney Villains (one better than Peg Leg Pete but one under Horned King).
- In the original Italian story of Pinocchio, Stromboli was called Mangiafuoco ("Fire-Eater"), and though he seemed intimidating and vicious, yet he had a compassionate side and even gives Pinocchio the gift of five gold pieces (of which he is cheated by the Fox and the Cat later on).
- Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999) ISBN 13-978-0-19-516729-0
- Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, "The Disney Villain" (Hyperion, United States, 1993) ISBN 1-56282-792-8
- Pierre Lambert, Pinocchio (Hyperion, Spain, 1995) ISBN 0-7868-6247-5
- Charles Solomon, "The History of Animation Enchanted Drawings" (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1989) ISBN 0-394-54684-9
- Leonard Maltin, The Disney Films (Disney Editions, New York, 2000) ISBN 078688527-0