Honest John and Gideon are the first antagonists to appear in Disney's 1940 animated feature film Pinocchio. They are a pair of con men in the village Pinocchio and Geppetto reside in. They are best known for manipulating victims into their schemes in exchange for money, though they're no strangers to darker tasks.
The duo is based off the Fox and Cat characters from the original collection of Pinocchio stories by Carlo Collodi. Although their personalties remain more or less the same, their roles in the Disney film were greatly altered. In Carlo Collodi's story, Honest John is an unnamed sly fox that pretends to be lame but later gets his comeuppance by actually becoming lame and even losing his tail, having sold it for money. Gideon was originally a cat who pretended to be blind until ultimately gaining that disability as a comeuppance. They plead for Pinocchio to give them food, but Pinocchio will give them nothing, as he claims that they have earned their fates.
In the film, the fates of Honest John and Gideon were ultimately removed, as the two con men would have been arrested when they attempt to swindle Pinocchio for the third time, and the pair were taken into custody. This was all cut for some reason.
Gideon was going to be voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc, but the company decided to delete all of his lines preferring a mute sidekick performance though he has 3 hiccups in the film, all voiced by Mel Blanc, for which he did receive payment (quipping afterwards that is it was the most expensive hiccup he ever recorded). He is said to be inspired by Harpo Marx, the silent member of the Marx Brothers.
Honest John is how many foxes are portrayed: as sly and sneaky. He is also very smart and deceiving. He has taken the "easy road" to success and is very undereducated. As a result, he can barely read or write. He is also not immune to being swindled himself, as Stromboli bought Pinocchio from him for far less than a living puppet would be worth. Besides being illiterate, he also cannot spell; when he tried to spell Pinocchio's name, he could only reach up to P-I-N.
He is remarkably persuasive and can convince almost anybody to do what he wants. His plans are reliable and clever but are often inadvertently spoiled by his sidekick, Gideon. He is also not unwilling to kill in order to make money, and is largely without conscience, fearing only the law. He has, however, reacted with horror at the Coachman's plans of forcing children into slavery and breaking the law, revealing that his immorality does have some limit.
Unlike his buddy, Gideon is very dim-witted, punchdrunk, and daffy. Without his boss Honest John, Gideon would most likely be performing petty theft and pick-pocketing. Like Honest John, however, Gideon has followed the 'easy road', and has no education and thusly cannot read or write. He also seems to be a tad bit more malicious than Honest John, as seen when he planned to knock Pinocchio unconscious with his mallet in order to kidnap him and sell him to Stromboli, only to be stopped by Honest John who wanted to take a more humane approach. Moreover, the dopey cat takes it upon himself to resort to brute force if he feels that Honest John's plans don't seem to work via sly persuasiveness, as when Pinocchio tried to decline the fox's offer to go to Pleasure Island, Gideon, armed with his mallet, quickly blocked the boy's path with the intent of knocking him out, until Honest John continued to coax the boy into finally going.
Gideon's wardrobe describes that he is dimwitted, compared to Honest John. Although the attire of both crooks is equally ragged and worn-out (patches on their pants and elbow sleeves, and tearings on their hats, gloves, and capes, etc.), Gideon wears long, baggy clothing while Honest John wears more proper and civilized clothing.
Honest John and Gideon are out taking a stroll while recalling a scam involving the famous puppeteer Stromboli when they notice a living puppet. At first glance, they don't realize it, but soon enough, Honest John cooks up a new get-rich-quick scheme, namely selling Pinocchio to Stromboli. Honest John and Gideon "befriend" Pinocchio, telling him that the life of an actor is the best life and to not go to school. Foulfellow's persuasive words of the "easy road" to success convinces the puppet and they head off to Stromboli's caravan.
Later on, Honest John and Gideon are seen at the Red Lobster Inn speaking with the Coachman for a proposition. The crafty fox at first recalls the success of his latest scam: selling Pinocchio to Stromboli as his star attraction. He further emphasizes this success by flaunting off the proceeds he made out of it before finally asking the Coachman about his plan. The job is to collect "stupid little boys" and gather them up to the Coachman to take to Pleasure Island. Honest John, who seems to have a good idea of what happens there, fears the worst if the law catches them or the boy who they collect try something collecting these boys but the Coachman reassures him that all loose ends have been tied, so no risk is involved because the boys collected "never come back... as... BOYS!!!!". At this instant, the Coachman reveals his true evil face, and Honest John and Gideon are both horrified and are reluctant but still agree to go along with their new boss's plan (as he has promised to pay them handsomely).
During their hunt for stupid little boys, Honest John and Gideon run into Pinocchio once again. To trick the boy this time, they act as doctors and dupe the puppet into believing he has an "allergy". Honest John claims the only cure is a vacation to Pleasure Island and offers him a ticket (a playing card, the ace of spades). Despite Pinocchio's desire to return home, he ends up letting them take him to the Coachman's coach. The duo's final fate remains unknown afterward, as they are not seen again for the remainder of the film, but are later mentioned by Pinocchio when he befriends Lampwick.
Honest John makes a cameo in the Bonkers series in a couple of mugshots on a computer, implying that he is a criminal in the series.
The two have made many cameos along with many other Disney characters in House of Mouse, usually sitting together. In "Jiminy Cricket", Honest John and Gideon were used as examples of temptations by Jiminy. In "Pete's One-Man Show", a life-sized cutout of Honest John (along with several other Disney characters) was used to trick Pete into thinking the club had a full house. In "Mickey vs. Shelby", Honest John and Gideon made a cameo with The Coachman. Honest John and Gideon also made a cameo appearance in a crowd shot on Mickey's House of Villains, but for some reason did not take part in the takeover, as Stromboli was the only villain from Pinocchio to take part in the takeover during "It's Our House Now".
Honest John and Gideon made recurring appearances in the live-action wrap-around skits alongside the other costumed characters and celebrity guests.
In the ABC fantasy/drama, Honest John and Gideon don't appear. However, they are represented by the characters Martin (portrayed by Harry Groener) and Myrna (portrayed by Carolyn Hennesy).
They are the parents of Jiminy (before he became a cricket) and were, like in the film, con artists. Their son, however, disapproved of their selfish crimes and was constantly forced to partake in their cruel agendas. One day, however, Jiminy obtains a potion from Rumplestiltskin, capable of putting an end to his parents' thefts.
Later that evening, Jiminy's parents begin another one of their schemes. After a young couple offers them hospitality for the evening, his parents warn about a false plague. Terrified, the poor couple forfeits most of their possessions to pay for the "cure" Jiminy's parents have. As they leave, Jiminy stands up to the crooks and throws Rumplestiltskin's potion onto them. Unfortunately, however, it has no effect. Jiminy soon realizes his parents switched the potion and gave it to the poor couple. Once he rushes back into their home to save them, he finds the couple magically transformed into puppets. Seeing this, Martin and Myrna laugh cruelly at the fate that befell the family, coming out victorious.
Characters Emma and Graham also stroll past a store called Worthington’s Haberdashery, a probable reference to Honest John's other name, J. Worthington Foulfellow.
In comics (specifically internationally) Honest John and Gideon are occasional antagonists to various Disney characters including Donald Duck and Snow White, often trying to swindle them. They could also be seen with other Disney villains, as well, such as Captain Hook and the Big Bad Wolf.
Unlike the film, Gideon actually talks in the comic stories.
Danish comics follows the adventures of Pinocchio outside of the film, with Foulfellow and Gideon serving as antagonists.
Honest John and Gideon would appear on the original Disney storybook and record of Mickey's Christmas Carol as the two charity collectors who try to solicit a donation from Scrooge (Uncle Scrooge) at the beginning (an inside gag being that Gideon for once gets to speak and the two acting out of character). When it was redone as a 1983 cartoon featurette, they would be replaced by Water Rat and Mole.
In the Disney adaption of the story, Honest John and Gideon swindle Prince John into buying "an invisible robe" fit for a king.
Honest John and Gideon appear in the fifth installment of the popular book series. They are featured as members of the Disney Villains legion known as the Overtakers and battle Finn in chapter six of Shell Game.
In the Pinocchio game, Honest John and Gideon appear as enemies during the first stage, as Pinocchio makes his way for school. Like the film, they manage to manipulate him into becoming an actor and sells him off the Stromboli; leading to the next stage.
Honest John is mentioned in this game.
- Pinocchio: "Mr. Honest John took me to see Mr. Stromboli. But he was real mean."
Honest John and Gideon have made numerous appearances in the Disney theme parks around the world as meetable characters. They are usually seen individually or with each other.
Audio-animatronic versions of them appear in the Pinocchio's Daring Journey attraction.
The duo also takes part in Unleash the Villains at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Honest John is also part of the featured Halloween season meet-and-greet session along with other Disney villains.
In Mickey's Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Honest John can be seen alongside a legion of Disney villains. Unlike other parades, he is seen alone without Gideon.
In the former Magic Kingdom parade, Celebrate A Dreams Come True Parade, Honest John and Gideon were seen alongside half boy/half donkey children strolling behind Mickey Mouse's float with Pinocchio/Snow White's following behind them.
- Honest John and Gideon have the distinction of being the first Disney villains with a musical number with "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee".
- Collodi, the author of the original Italian story of "Pinocchio", was said to have based the Fox and the Cat on a notorious local con artist and thief named Gatto ("Cat" in Italian).
- Honest John and Gideon were originally planned to appear in the Mickey and the Beanstalk sequence of Fun and Fancy Free as the con-artists who sell Mickey the magic beans.
- The duo were originally set to appear in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days due to their popularity in a Pinocchio-based world. The idea was dropped due to space restrictions.
- Honest John and Gideon are the only villains in the film to appear, disappear, and return in later scenes.