When Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) first stumbles into Geppetto’s home, the tinkerer is applying the finishing touches to a new puppet while singing a sad tune about moments that will never be. Next to the toy is a black and white photograph of a young child dressed in lederhosen and a feather cap — an outfit exactly like the one which the puppet is wearing. This is not a coincidence, either, as Geppetto asks his kitten, Figaro, whether or not the likeness is notable. The kitten whines in response, but Geppetto states that they look perfectly alike.
Next, the clockmaker then denies a customer in want of one of his cuckoo clocks because his creations are too important to him to consider selling. When finally left alone, Geppetto confesses to an empty room that the cuckoo clocks were beloved by a woman in his life, whose name he speaks in a hushed, reverent voice. Our third big clue comes when Geppetto wraps up for the evening. He takes the photograph of the young boy from his work desk and, before placing it on his bedside table, says, “goodnight, birthday boy,” and gently kisses the frame.
With these things in mind, we can paint our own picture — once upon a time, Geppetto presumably had a wife and a son. What occurred to them is unknown, but the end result is that they are no longer in his life, and that he aches deeply from the emptiness left by their leaving. He’s still holding onto mementos and pictures. He’s even still making birthday gifts for the child. That yearning love stirs his sleeping wish to the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), and suddenly the story of “Pinocchio” makes a lot more sense.