Leading article: Stripping off isn't always best

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So we are all invited to applaud the Royal Opera for applying some ideological paint stripper to the much loved legend of Pinocchio. The new ballet, opening on Friday, according to advance publicity, will eschew the sentimentality of the 1940 Walt Disney film - which formed most of our ideas about the little fellow with the long nose - and present something darker and closer to the spirit of the original adventures as they first appeared in an Italian newspaper in the 1880s.

It could be goodbye to Jiminy Cricket in his top hat, and hello to social realism about the life of impoverished Italian children in the 19th century.

Without casting doubt on the Royal Opera's intentions in its forthcoming production, it's worth asking what's wrong with saccharine sweet, heavily built-up legends? Most children - rightly - don't want to know that Santa Claus was a stern Orthodox bishop in Asia Minor who never climbed down a chimney in his life. In this strangely puritanical age, it is fashionable to dismiss anything not "original" as somehow illegitimate. So two cheers for the heretics who like their legends heavily refined, covered in sugar - and Disneyfied to boot. Like those overloaded cakes that go on sale at Christmas, they're comfort food for dark times - and quite harmless in small quantities.

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