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He is based on Mangiafuoco, the puppet master of the novel. Mangiafuoco was willing to burn Pinocchio because he ruined his show, but he spares him and gives him five gold coins. Basically, Stromboli would be the opposite of Mangiafuoco.
In the original film, he was voiced by the late Charles Judels, who also voiced the Coachman in the same film. In Disney on Parade, he was voiced by the late Thurl Ravenscroft, who also did the vocal sound effects of Monstro. In Pinocchio's Daring Journey, he was voiced by Ray Templin.
In his first appearances, Stromboli seemed like he was a cruel, selfish, greedy, but slightly moody puppeteer (and for the most part, he was). At first, Stromboli portrayed himself as a large, but friendly man but later on however, he was revealed to have another side to him, as a manipulative and obnoxious psychopath, and revealed to Pinocchio that he would use his chopped-up body as firewood once he was done with him. He does have a bad temper and often curses in Italian whenever he loses it. That gives a comedic side but he quickly loses it when his true intentions are revealed.
So Stromboli fits the classic bill of psychopathy: seemingly charming, but being greedy, violent, ruthless, and egotistical underneath his exterior. Though he did not possess many of the features many later Disney villains would possess, Stromboli managed to terrify many generations with his murderous and infanticidal declarations, hot-blooded temper, and even his sinister laugh.
He learned of a living puppet named Pinocchio from Honest John and Gideon. To that end, Stromboli planned for Pinocchio to perform in his show, which Pinocchio did with glee (in his famous "I have no strings" melody). With the show declared a success, Stromboli received lots of money and paid Honest John and Gideon a small percentage of it.
However, after the show had finished, Stromboli showed his true nature when Pinocchio wished to return home to Geppetto (though he would be back in the morning). Stromboli declared Pinocchio belonged to him now and locked him up into a birdcage, planning to tour the world to make money from his performances and chop him into firewood when he became too old to perform or if Pinocchio refuse to work. A horrified Pinocchio begs for his freedom, but he is violently silenced when Stromboli begins knocking the whole caravan (shaking everything inside) as he bellows at Pinocchio to “SHUT-A UP”, threatening to knock him silly. After bidding Pinocchio good night, Stromboli laughs maniacally as he exits.
Eventually, Pinocchio was freed from the cage by the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket. Stromboli is not seen again for the remainder of the film, following this encounter, but his marionette show is presumably bankrupt after realizing that Pinocchio has escaped.
House of Mouse
Stromboli made an appearance in the episode "House of Crime", where he is seen arguing with Percival C. McLeach. Later that same episode, Stromboli was imprisoned with other Disney Villains as suspects of mysterious disappearances.
Stromboli himself also made a cameo appearance in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in the House of Mouse and "Mickey vs. Shelby" during Mad Hatter's hat performance.
In Mickey's House of Villains, Stromboli joined the villains as they took over the House of Mouse. He is seen on the conga line behind Lucifer during the song "It's Our House Now!".
We've got to find Pinocchio before it's too late. Well, you know what happens to little boys on Pleasure Island. You don't want me to find him do you? Well, this time, I'll chain him up so he would never escape. And you, you'll be nothing more than firewood *laughs* Shh...
~ Stromboli to his ventriloquist dummy.
In the 2000 live-action semi-remake Geppetto, Stromboli was portrayed by Brent Spiner (Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation). Here, he is depicted as an arrogant, mendacious, exploitative, and obnoxious bully who constantly argues with his ventriloquist dummy.
In the movie, after learning that Pinocchio was a stringless puppet, Stromboli asked him if he liked to sing and dance. Geppetto refused to let him get involved in show business and that he should not talk to strangers. After getting in trouble, Pinocchio runs away from home to live with Stromboli as well as performing for his puppet show.
After the show, Stromboli and his ventriloquist dummy were counting the money made from the show. Pinocchio was seen locked in a cage. Stromboli refused to let him out, because it is a dark and cruel world out there and, more importantly, it is part of the contract he signed. When Geppetto came by, Stromboli covered Pinocchio's cage with a quilt and hid him outside. He lied to Geppetto that Pinocchio went off on his own. After he left, Stromboli discovers that Pinocchio did wander off and learns that he was headed to Pleasure Island. Knowing what really happens there, Stromboli and his dummy went off to retrieve him before his father does.
Later, the Blue Fairy shows Geppetto what Stromboli (redeeming in himself) is really like and what he really wants from Pinocchio. At Pleasure Island, Stromboli followed Pinocchio around, but the Ringmaster tells him that adults are not allowed there. When Pinocchio tries to get on the roller-coaster that would turn him and other boys into donkeys, Geppetto and Stromboli were fighting each other, only to have the fight broke up with Stromboli being escorted out of there (though Geppetto manages to dodge the stilt men).
Back in the toy shop, Stromboli had been waiting for them and that he showed Geppetto the contract Pinocchio signed. He pushed Geppetto aside, ransomed Pinocchio, and went off. After the Blue Fairy turned him into a real boy, Stromboli realized that no one would pay to see a real boy. In the end, he was repeatedly attacked by the Blue Fairy and fled.
He is ranked #22 in the Top 30 Disney Villains.
Despite his limited screen time, Stromboli went on to become one of Disney's most infamous and acclaimed villains.
In the original story written by Carlo Collodi, Stromboli was named Mangiafoco and was gruff yet kinder, ultimately feeling sympathy for Pinocchio and giving him money for Geppetto.
In Italian dub of Pinocchio, he is introduced as Stromboli, but the other characters called him Mangiafuoco.
He is unique among Disney Villains, as he has no evil henchman to do his evil bidding, that is, except for Honest John.
In some pages of a comic book named Disney Classic Cartoon Tales, which holds The Lion King, Pinocchio, and Bambi, his name is sometimes misspelled as Stromboli.
Chronologically, Stromboli was the first Disney movie villain to share that trait.
Stromboli appears in Shrek the Third joining Prince Charming in his band of villains. In fact, Charming told him about Pinocchio abandoning Stromboli's show to go find his father. In response, Stromboli sniffled "I hate that little wooden puppet.".
There is also a level in the Shrek the Third video game called "Stromboli's Workshop". He isn't seen, but it was revealed that he captured Pinocchio once more, prompting Shrek, Donkey, and Puss to rescue him. Stromboli also has an army of puppets identical to Pinocchio that Shrek must defeat.
Stromboli's caravan is a filmed model printed on cells and painted. A similar technique was used 21 years later in One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
According to video game designer Yōichi Kotabe, Stromboli partly inspired the physical design of the Mario antagonist Wario.
Stromboli can be interpreted as the evil counterpart of Geppetto. Both are puppeteers but while Geppetto truly cares about Pinocchio, seeing him as his son, Stromboli is flat-out abusive to Pinocchio and only wants to exploit him to make quick money, and kill him when he will be out of use or if he refuses to listen.