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Walt Disney’s Pinocchio: The real life Gepetto

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reprinted from Sunday Mercury News
Feb 20, 2009

A toymaker from Warwickshire has become a real life Geppetto after being filmed for Disney’s re-mastered version of Pinocchio in Hollywood. Cyril Hobbins, from Kenilworth, has been making wooden toys for 20 years and Disney approached him to feature on the new DVD.

Mr Hobbins said: “We had one amazing trip in Hollywood where I did the filming.”

He was filmed explaining the history of toys and how to make them as part of a special feature for the DVD, which will be launched next month. The 71-year-old added: “They recognise me as a Geppetto now.”

Mr Hobbins restored toys as part of his work for social services and it became his passion.

He said: “I wanted to do something creative that would last.

“I’ve done this for 20 years. I’ve made no money but I’ve been very happy and I’ve never grown up. As a child in the war we never had toys. We were deprived so we had to make our own.”

Mr Hobbins said he is interested in the “essence” of toys.

“I’m semi retired but I’m researching. Essentially my interest is unusual toys. It can even be something I have invented myself. It’s ongoing. It never stops, he said.

The toymaker has written a book – Traditional Wooden Toys: their history and how to make them – and is writing another one teaching children how to make toys from everyday items like paper, cardboard, clay, and drinking straws.

Many of his toys will go on display at St John’s House Museum in Warwick next week.

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