At the end of the beautifully crafted, live-action remake of “Pinocchio,” a Disney production starring Tom Hanks, I almost fell out of my chair when the big moment we’d been waiting for became, well, something else.  

Sitting next to his wide-eyed adopted son, fresh off a dramatic rescue from a terrifying whale, Geppetto tells Pinocchio, “You will always be my real boy. There isn’t a single thing I would change about you.”

Not even his wooden hinges, Geppetto? And inhabiting a permanently fixed body that will never grow?

Apparently not.

Geppetto and Pinocchio hug. Then they walk away holding hands, as Jiminy Cricket says in the background: “Since then, many stories have been told about him. People say he was transformed into an honest-to-goodness real boy. Did that actually happen? Who knows. But I do know one thing for sure. In his heart, Pinocchio is as real as any real boy could ever be.”

If you look closely, you’ll catch a few fleeting seconds of a “real boy,” but it’s very easy to miss. And in fairness, the movie does a great job teaching honesty, unselfishness and bravery. But something gets lost when Disney decides it’s too radical to celebrate Pinocchio becoming something more than he was, which is the antithesis of the “you are perfect just the way you are” dogma so popular today.

Explaining the decision, the show’s co-writer Chris Weitz said, “Pinocchio doesn’t have to turn into a ‘real’ flesh-and-blood boy ... there is no need for him to end up a certain way physically for him to prove that.”

OK, fine. But it all starts to add up, which is why so many parents are mad at Disney these days.

As the mother of young boys, my wife gets annoyed at the only-girls-can-be-heroes policy of many new Disney movies — not to mention not allowing the word God to be used (unless it’s profanity) and the relentless push for LGBT representation in the animated features alone.

But despite the torrent of well-earned criticism of the company, let’s also celebrate Disney when it does something right.

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Is ‘The Mandalorian’ family friendly?

Recently, my boys and I finished Season 3 of “The Mandalorian,” the Disney+ live-action series set in the “Star Wars” universe.

To catch you up, the dark portrayal of Luke in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (after Disney took over the franchise) left a large portion of the “Star Wars” fan base frustrated. Rather than the triumphant, hopeful, believing protagonist, Luke was reimagined as a broken, “tragic character who has turned his back on everything he accomplished in the original trilogy” and “planning to die rather than correct his failures,” according to critic Matthew Kadish.

Continuing his lament, Kadish called this a “betrayal of everything that made the character one of the most iconic in cinema history” and something that “essentially ruined Luke for many fans.” 

Even Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker, admitted to some personal anxiety at this character shift, and said he told the director, “I hate what you’ve done with my character (which) represented hope … now, he’s sort of demoralized.”

Hamill later said this is “not my Luke Skywalker” — explaining, “Jedis don’t give up. I mean even if he (Luke) had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup. If he made a mistake, he would try and right that wrong.”

But like young Pinocchio, old Luke would be left to his old dismal fate — with redemption not even on the table. Sounds like par for the course for Disney, right?

While pivoting away from the moral elements that made so many people of faith fall in love with “Star Wars,” in one pivotal scene, Luke tries to “burn it all down,” including sacred Jedi texts and the Jedi temple — with Yoda ultimately helping him finish the job, saying, “Time it is for you to look past a pile of old books.”

The message is impossible to miss: Sacred tradition isn’t the point; focus instead on people around you, Luke.

For people who grew up with church lessons comparing the “dark side” to evil, and “the force” to God’s power, this all felt more than a little sad.  

But then something almost miraculous happened. Jon Favreau (of Marvel fame) approached Disney producers with a blunt proposition: “I can save Star Wars.”

And that’s exactly what most people agree he has done in recent years, as families like mine have again fallen in love with the “Star Wars” mythos. And it comes without cursing and the kind of graphic violence that makes me tell our boys “this isn’t for us.” It’s also been striking the way tradition and faith is portrayed now, in sharp contrast to the earlier movies.   

Early in the recent season, my dad texted our family, “Wow, the symbolism is so interesting. Din Djarin needs to bathe in the living waters to be redeemed and forgiven so he can become a Mandalorian again.” 

There’s more. “The Creed teaches us of redemption,” the hero says. And after finally bathing in the living waters, Din Djarin, played by Pedro Pascal, promises, “I swear on my name and the names of the ancestors. That I shall walk the Way of the Mand’alor. And the words of the Creed shall be forever forged in my heart. This is the Way.” 

I couldn’t help thinking, while watching this, “Yeah, just wait — what are the chances these Hollywood producers won’t have him chucking all this out the window by the end?”

And sure enough, another Mandalorian, Bo-Katan, does tell Din Djarin after his recommitment, “I honestly think it’s adorable that you actually believe these children’s stories. But there is nothing magic about the waters.”

But Din Djarin pushes back: “Without the Creed, what are we? What do we stand for? Our people are scattered like stars in the galaxy. The Creed is how we survived.”

The rest of the series highlights his single-minded focus on fulfilling his commitments, alongside his apprentice; they both learn about being made strong through adversity and trials. Even even Bo-Katan eventually realizes, “We must walk the Way together. All Mandalorians. Mandalorians are stronger together.”

And as if to speak to America’s own roiling divisions, she adds, “Mandalore has always been too powerful for any enemy to defeat. It is always our own division that destroys us.”

This was a pleasant surprise, to encounter entertainment that reminds us of our own deepest commitments, rather than relentlessly undermining them. So while there is still much to criticize about Disney (there was, after all, no redemption for Gina Carano in the series), let’s give credit where credit is due. Thanks, Disney and Jon. And keep up the good work.

Jacob Hess is the former editor of Public Square Magazine and writes at Publish Peace on Substack. He has worked to promote liberal-conservative understanding since the publication of “You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong)” with Phil Neisser. With Carrie Skarda, Kyle Anderson and Ty Mansfield, he also authored “The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints.”