Otherwise Known As: Barker
Premiered in: Pinocchio (1940)
Voiced By: Charles Judels
Inspiration: Mister Bumble from Oliver Twist
Now I know what you all are thinking. Why, out of the many villains in Disney’s Pinocchio, would I chose the one that, for lack of a better phrase, is by far the most unrecognized of the bunch? Well in the case of Monstro… he’s a whale. An admittedly large whale with an attitude to match but otherwise he’s just an animal doing what nature intended. True, he does so on a large and frightening scale but there you go. Next, the puppet master Strombolli was in the story for the span of an evening if even that much yet he didn’t really do anything that no one else would have done when presented with a living puppet.
Don’t look at me like that. If you weren’t going to sell the living puppet given to you by a couple of shifty characters, you’d likely burn it with napalm especially if you’ve seen films featuring a doll by name of Chucky.
Moving on, there’s “Honest John” Foulfellow and his feline sidekick/stooge Gideon. Admittedly, they are almost as recognized as Monstro, featuring in a lot of the Disney Parades and the like, but they, like so many Disney villains, get their comeuppance at the end of the story while the Coachman… doesn’t.
No joke. The Coachman gets away scott free of everything in the film and no other media, beside the NES game for Pinocchio, ever revealed his fate so it can be rightfully assumed that he’s still running Pleasure Island. At least, until a not-so-hostile takeover/refurbishment by one Mrs. Jessica Rabbit but that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get on with the review shall we?
The Coachman has one major motivation that drives his character. Namely, to gather up “stupid little boys” who then proceed to make “jackamules” (as said in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance) of themselves before the curse of the island turns them into literal mules that he then sells and/or uses as pack animals once they forget how to talk. If you really think about it, it’s almost scary how on an island with such a curse, the Coachman never once succumbs to the curse, particularly with how he treats the kids-turned-mules. Out of the entirety of Disney Villains, the Coachman is likely the only one to ever truly be successful at what he does.
True, Pinocchio does manage to escape but so what? The Coachman still kept tricking kids into making “jackamules” out of themselves and likely continued doing so for several years after. Speaking of, I would like to point out that it is a general consensus that the scene where the boy Lampwick turns into a donkey is one of, if not the most, frightening scene ever depicted by Disney. Hooves down.
As to the Coachman’s minions… They are a bunch of lifeless, nay, almost soulless shadowy figures that do as he commands to a machine-like degree. It is they and a few other minor facts that lead me to conclude that the coachman is likely a devil. Not the Devil mind you, that role was filled later on, but there is absolutely no way that the coachman is human. First off, as I said, how did he survive the curse of Pleasure Island otherwise? The thing can’t possibly have something so stupid as a maximum age requirement or something. Second, those creepy minions, not once do you ever see them fully and they are, most likely, golems given that their eyes glow in the dark. Thirdly, take a look back up at the top and count the fingers on the Coachman’s hands. He only has four. This wouldn’t be a major clue if it weren’t for the fact that every other human character throughout the film has the normal five-fingered hands.
However… if this is not enough for you to reach the same conclusion as I… If this was not enough for any of you to agree that the Coachman deserves a solid 5 out of 5… Then take a look at the picture below and tell me otherwise.