If you were confused to learn recently that Pauly Shore is the voice of Pinocchio in an upcoming animated film about the wooden puppet, you’re not the only one. When Shore — the legendary actor and comedian who starred in a slew of Nineties hits from Biodome to Encino Man — was initially approached about the role, he thought the message might’ve been an error.
“I made my manager read the email two or three times,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Like, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’ And he was like, ‘No, no, they want you.'”
Thus began one of the stranger and more delightful collaborations in cinema history — one that resulted in a trailer that set TikTok on fire after its launch on Jan. 26. The trailer for Pinocchio: A True Story (which releases on DVD and VOD March 22) starts about the way you’d expect: with a shot of the elderly puppet-maker Geppetto lovingly crafting the movie’s eponymous wooden puppet while making gentle, parent-friendly jokes about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then the puppet comes to life (“I don’t believe my eyes!” Geppetto exclaims) and, in short order, hops onto a galloping horse. “Father, when can I leave to be on my owwwwn?” young Pinocchio drawls, sounding like a cross between a Nineties Valley skater kid and Lola Skumpy from Big Mouth. “I’ve got the whole world to see!”
The voice was a far cry from the high-pitched, childlike sound of Disney’s original 1940 Pinocchio — and a huge reason the trailer almost instantly went viral. LGBTQ celebrities picked up on the character’s seemingly effeminate undertone and ran with it. The singer Scott Hoying posted himself lip-synching to the audio with the caption “Pinocchio! More like Pinot, Glee, and being a hoe!” The film’s distributor, Lionsgate, got in on the joke, too, posting the clip and captioning it “the yassification of Pinocchio.”
the yassification of #pinocchio
An even bigger shock for fans: Finding out the man behind that voice was 54-year-old Shore. While Pinocchio is not Shore’s first foray into animation — he famously originated the role of Bobby Zimuruski, the Cheez Whiz-obsessed AV kid in Disney’s A Goofy Movie — a guy who made his name on MTV adopting the persona of the laid-back slacker himbo “The Weasel” doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice to play the lead character in a classic children’s story.
Shore found out the trailer was going viral a day before our call, when his friend Joey texted him a clip he’d seen on TikTok of someone mimicking him. Shore says he was “flattered” by the video, and later posted his own lip-synching version that got nearly one million views. Yet he was also clearly surprised by the attention.
“You go into different projects and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. “With A Goofy Movie years ago, I never knew it was going to be this big cult classic, with the whole Leaning Tower of Cheeza stuff. The same thing with this: I go into it with my heart and my soul and trying to have a good time. I didn’t know it was going to go viral.” When asked how he feels about the parodies by the LGBTQ community, Shore says simply, “I was in the West Hollywood Cub Scouts as a kid,” then laughs. “[I’ve] been around the gay community my whole life.”
Since appearing in the Lionsgate film Guest House in 2020, Shore says he’s maintained a relationship with the studio, doing multiple voiceover roles for their films, including a part in the English-language version of the Russian film My Sweet Monster. He credits that project with leading to his upcoming appearance in Pinocchio: A True Story (which was also made in Russia), though he says he has no idea why Lionsgate asked him to take on the role.
“Most of the time when people ask me to do voiceovers, I do them,” he adds. “It’s almost like stand-up comedy, where you get onstage and the audience tells you where to go. You just flow with the feeling. I flowed with the feeling of what I thought the boy was giving me as an actor.”
Shore recorded the role over Christmas last year. Although the voice has an undeniable Weasel-esque quality, he denies receiving any particular direction to that effect, saying he tried to make the character “silly and wacky and young and fun.” “Look at Robin Williams,” he notes. “He was very childlike. It’s just about bringing in your childlike quality to the room. And that’s what I did, or tried to do.”
With Pinocchio set to drop next month, Shore is already looking to future projects. He’s working on a four-part docuseries about the Nineties, as well as a memoir titled How’d You Expect Me To Turn Out? and a one-man show coming to New York City in April, which he characterizes as “my version of Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth,” about his childhood in Beverly Hills and growing up against the backdrop of L.A.’s legendary Comedy Store. (His mother, Mitzi Shore, who died in 2018, owned the comedy club).
He says he’s open to doing sequels or reboots of his most popular films, such as Biodome (which he says he is asked most often about) or Encino Man, though as of now there are no immediate plans to do so. “Until Disney wants to do Encino Man 2, it’s just chatter on the internet,” he says. Like much cultural ephemera from the Nineties which has been subject to historical revisionism in the aughts, both films, savaged by critics upon their release, have maintained cult followings — and Shore is proud of that fact: “I pat myself on the back all the time, saying, ‘Hey, man, despite what some people might have thought about your films, they’ve held up, and they make people happy.’ ”
For the time being, however, Shore is just waiting for what he refers to as his “Simon Rex [opportunity],” a reference to the former MTV VJ who had a career resurgence playing a washed-up porn star in Sean Baker’s Red Rocket last year. Whether Shore’s newfound status as a Gen-Z TikTok LGBTQ icon will result in that opportunity remains to be seen. “Every comedic, goofy kind of actor is always looking for that,” Shore says. “If you ask me what’s on the top of my list, that’s on the top of my list. Just to have a director say, ‘I’m gonna give this guy a shot that’s not what most people would expect, but that I would expect,’ because they see that. That would be beautiful.”