The Pinocchio's Journey ride opened on May 23, 1983 as part of the "new" fantasyland.
This ride's history actually begins in 1976, when it was decided to remove the old Fantasyland Theater and shoehorn the ride into it. It was all put in storage for a while before being revived for the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, after which, it then came to Disneyland a month and a half later as part of the complete overhaul of Fantasyland, and as the newest ride in Fantasyland, guests clamored to ride it, and Disney promoted it heavily.
However, the story of Pinocchio itself, which is a cautionary tale against carnivals and theme parks, and entertainment in general, seems to be a strange fit for a place like Disneyland. Consider the lyrics that Pinocchio sings along when he agrees to join Stromboli's Circus:
Hi diddle dee dee
An actor's life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold and a diamond chain
Hi diddle dee dee
You sleep till after two
You promenade a big cigar
You tour the world in a private car
You dine on chicken and caviar
An actor's life for me!
... And then consider the ride's scenes showing Pinocchio being seduced by Pleasure Island, a place where young boys can roam free, eating as much candy as they want, fighting in the "rough house", and even playing pool, smoking cigarettes and tobacco of all types, and trying alcohol, before being turned in to a donkey and being sold off to the salt mines. The message is clear - the actor's life of fun, and the seductive fun of theme parks - only leads you to a lifestyle of leisure at your own detriment.
And this is in line with the historical tale of Pinocchio also. Written serially by Carlo Collodi for a Children's weekly magazine in Italy, the story of Pinocchio was first told from 1881 to 1882. Pinocchio: The Story of a Puppet, was a cautionary tale, discouraging young readers from disobedience and dishonesty. The puppet's transformation from hedonistic self-preservation to sacrifice and humility have served to teach children and adults alike the principles that characterize humanity.
But the occurrences and consequences in the Collodi version were often much more severe than the Americanized, bubble gum incarnation, first brought to the big screen by Disney in 1940. In Collodi's original, Pinocchio murders the Wise Cricket (who later became known as Jiminy) with a hurled shoe.
The mischievous marionette was also rather cruel to his “father,” Gepetto, and often paid dire consequences for it. His feet burned clean off his ankles one night, and later, he was hung by townspeople he'd lied to.
Even under the squeaky-clean and colorful animated representation put forth by Disney, the fact remains that Pinocchio has enjoyed prolonged popularity over the years. He was quite the product pitch-puppet circa 1939 and 1940; and the list of products he endorsed included foods, candy, gum, paint, salt, razors, mouthwash, clothing and watches. He was the star of his own short-lived comic in 1939. But he seems a strange fit for a theme park.