It all starts with Geppetto, an insane Italian who believes that his puppet becomes sentient.
Okay; we jest. This is a Disney flick, after all. There's magic and good-heartedness…but that doesn't diminish the fact that Geppetto is bluer than the Blue Fairy when we first meet him.
Geppetto is a kindly old woodworker who lives alone. Although he doesn't have a family, he has a close bond with his cat Figaro and fish Cleo. Yeah: he's a legit lonely guy.
One night, Geppetto looks into the night sky and sees a wishing star, so he asks the heavens to transform his puppet, Pinocchio, into a real boy.
Stop dreaming, pal. That's never going to happen.
To our utter shock, however, the heavens listen to Geppetto's wish. The mystical Blue Fairy comes down and breathes life into the wooden puppet. She doesn't fully transform him into a human, though: before that happens, Pinocchio must prove himself "brave, truthful, and unselfish." To that end, she grabs a cricket named Jiminy and dubs him the kid's new conscience.
In a deeply questionable move, Geppetto sends the one-day-old Pinocchio off to his first day of school the next day. Seems soon, right? Either way, Pinocchio gets snagged by two con artists named Honest John and Gideon, and sold to a puppeteer named the Great Stromboli.
Pinocchio is a big hit as Stromboli's stringless wonder, but he realizes that he's in trouble when Stromboli locks him in a cage as soon as the show is over. Jiminy mounts a valiant but doomed rescue effort, and both dudes are saved in the nick of time by the Blue Fairy.
What a classy lady.
Unfortunately, Pinocchio goes about two minutes before once again being snagged by John and Gideon. This time they're working for the Coachman, a shady character who brings disobedient boys to a place called Pleasure Island. Because that's not super creepy.
Pleasure Island actually seems great at first. As we learn, however, the island is just an elaborate way to transform boys into donkeys for sale. That's what you call an entrepreneurial spirit. Luckily, Pinocchio escapes before he lands on four hooves…though he does sprout a donkey's ears and tail.
Pinocchio finally makes it home, but he's met with a surprising sight—the house is empty. The Blue Fairy sends him a letter explaining that Geppetto was swallowed by the whale Monstro while searching for Pinocchio, but that he's thankfully still alive. With that, Pinocchio and Jiminy set off on the most dangerous undersea mission of all time.
It doesn't take them long to find Monstro, and it takes even less time for Pinocchio to get swallowed by Monstro. Oh well. It was a good effort.
Inside Monstro's belly, Geppetto and Pinocchio share a warm reunion. Pinocchio has a plan, though: if they can create a bunch of smoke, they can force Monstro to cough and expel them from his stomach.
It works like a charm. Geppetto and Pinocchio desperately try to row away in their makeshift raft, but Monstro destroys it and leaves our heroes stranded. In the end, Pinocchio sacrifices his life so Geppetto can make it safely to shore.
But that's not the end, folks. After Geppetto brings Pinocchio back home, the Blue Fairy magically brings him back to life. And even that's not all—she also finally awards him his humanity. Geppetto and Pinocchio boogie down to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Meanwhile, Jiminy is validated for his efforts too—the Blue Fairy gives him a shiny gold badge that reads "Official Conscience." Not too bad for a couple days of work, huh?