His name in the original Italian story by Carlo Collodi was Mangiafuoco which literally means 'Fire-eater', while his animated counterpart is named after Stromboli, the Italian volcano (the food called "stromboli" is named for the same volcano).
Though eccentric and entertaining, Stromboli is also a very threatening and imposing villain; for this reason, he is often cited as one of Disney's greatest villains.
When he is first met, Stromboli only appeared to be a man trying to make money through puppets, rather fun but has a bit of a temper. After Pinocchio proves successful he reveals his true colors: brutal, cruel and vicious. When upset, he begins to curse in Italian and might not be that intelligent, as Foulfellow once said he passed Gideon off as a puppet to make a few bucks. Stromboli is presumably stingy as he only gives Honest John and Gideon a small bag of coins for Pinocchio.
Hamilton Luske directed live-action footage of most of the characters in the film as reference for the animators. The performance model for Stromboli was story man T. Hee, who was rather corpulent at the time and who was dressed in full gypsy attire provided by the Character Model Department. Luske later admitted that this reference footage was underacted, but felt that it was necessary to keep Stromboli's animator, Vladimir Tytla, from doing "too many things."
It is thought by some that casting Tytla as animator of Stromboli was typecasting of a sort - like the puppet master, Tytla was tall, imposing, vibrant in personality and of ethnic origin. While working on Stromboli's animation of the character, Tytla would act out each sequence in his room - this performance could be heard throughout the studio; Eric Larson "thought the walls would fall in".
Stromboli is first referred to in the film by Honest John, who notices a poster advertising that "that old rascal's back in town". Honest John fondly recalls trying to sell Gideon, with strings tied to his arms and feet, to the puppet master (though it's apparent that this ploy didn't work). When the two crooks see Pinocchio on his way to school, the fox realizes that Stromboli would pay handsomely for a moving puppet without strings. They befriend the little wooden boy and, convincing him that the theater is "the easy road to success", take him to Stromboli's Caravan, singing Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life For Me) as they go, with Jiminy Cricket in pursuit.
That evening, Stromboli is first seen, announcing his show to a large crowd that has gathered around the caravan. The puppet master advertises Pinocchio as "the only puppet who can sing and dance without the aid of strings". He conducts the band (unseen, below the stage) while Pinocchio and the puppets perform I've Got No Strings. Pinocchio trips and falls, nose first, onto the stage; Stromboli is initially furious at the puppet's clumsiness and even threatens him in the middle of the show, but lets him continue after realizing that the audience is delighted. After the completion of the show, Stromboli walks onto the stage and accepts both the audience's applause and their money.
Later that night, Stromboli is counting the day's substantial earnings while enjoying a meal of link sausage and praising Pinocchio on his performance. He discovers a metal washer among the money and rants angrily at the idea that it was passed off as a coin, before finally giving it to Pinocchio instead for his efforts. The puppet thanks him before trying to return home to Gepetto's Workshop, promising him that he would "be back in the morning", but the idea of Pinocchio ever leaving makes Stromboli burst into laughter.
Pinocchio, unaware of Stromboli's ulterior motives, laughs along with him until the man suddenly throws him in a cage and locks him in, declaring the puppet to now belongs to him. The puppet master enthuses that they will tour the great capitals of the world, and that Pinocchio will make him lots of money. When the puppet is too old to perform, Stromboli will use him for firewood. Laughing, he leaves Pinocchio alone with the lifeless puppets in the carriage, and the wooden boy hears the caravan start to move. Jiminy comes to Pinocchio's aid but is unable to free him; it is the Blue Fairy, giving him a second chance, who opens the cage, allowing the puppet and his conscience to escape. Stromboli is not seen again in the film (though it can perhaps be assumed that he reacted to Pinocchio's absence in a typical emotional outburst).
Stromboli made an appearance in House of Crime where he is seen arguing with Percival C. McLeach. Later that same episode, Stromboli was imprisoned with other Disney Villains as suspects of mysterious disappearances.
In the Game Boy game Pinocchio, Stromboli played a minor role and merely appeared in two cutscenes.
Stromboli was also featured as an enemy in the 1989 game Mickey Mouse.
In Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Stromboli appears in animatronic form as a character in The Float Yard, a graveyard of parade floats.
Stromboli is a hard to find character in the Disney Parks as a walkaround. Stromboli also appears in a limited amount of Disney Villains related merchandise.
He does appear in the Pinocchio's Daring Journey attractions at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, with the attraction beginning around his puppet theater with Pinocchio's performance immediately followed by Stromboli trapping Pinocchio in a cage.
Stromboli's Wagon is a shopping kiosk in Fantasyland, located nearby the attraction in the various parks. Stromboli makes a few appearances during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
In the former Tokyo Disneyland attraction, Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, Stromboli appears in the opening room when Pinocchio's portrait transforms into one of Stromboli, alongside the other hero paintings becoming the villainous counterparts.
Despite his limited screen time and the fact that there was also other key villains in the film (Honest John, Gideon, the Coachman, and Monstro), Stromboli is one of Disney's most infamous and acclaimed villains. He was one of 6 Disney villains to be nominated for a position in AFI's 'AFI’s 50 Greatest Villains list' (though did not appear on the final list) and was ranked twenty-second in fan site Ultimate Disney's countdown of the most popular Disney Villains. The character has been praised by critics for possessing the ability to instill both laughter (when he shakes his rump at the words "Con-stan-tino-pale") and fear (threatening to turn Pinocchio into firewood) in audiences. Art critic Pierre Lambert has stated that "Tytla's innate sense of force is revealed in all its magnitude in the creation of the character of Stromboli," and animation historian Charles Solomon refers to the puppet master as "the grandest of all Disney heavies", while John Canemaker describes Stromboli as "an overweight monster of mercurial moods, capable of wine-soaked, garlic-breathed Old World charm one second, and knife-wielding, chop-you-up-for-firewood threats the next." During the premiere of Pinocchio, Frank Thomas sat in front of W. C. Fields, who, upon Stromboli's entrance, muttered to whoever was with him that the puppet master "moves too much". Thomas felt the reason for this was that Stromboli was too big and powerful. Michael Barrier agrees with Fields' criticism, considering Stromboli a "poorly conceived character" whose "passion has no roots... there is nothing in Stromboli of what could have made him truly terrifying." Leonard Maltin disagrees, considering Pinocchio's encounter with the showman to be the wooden boy's "first taste of the seamy side of life... (Stromboli) tosses his hatchet into the remnants of another ragged marionette, now a pile of splinters and sawdust, a meekly smiling face the only reminder of its former 'life'."
- He is very different from the character in the original story - Mangiafuoco (or Fire-Eater) in the original book is portrayed as being initially gruff, but capable of showing kindness, and who gives Pinocchio money which he is supposed to bring to Geppetto.