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Pinocchio (1940)

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This film has been preserved in the National Film Registry in 1994.

"Ideas come from curiousity."
Walt Disney
"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage."
Walt Disney


Pinocchio
Pinocchio.jpg
🎵When you wish upon a star🎵
Genre: Adventure
Directed By: Hamilton Luske
Ben Sharpsteen
Written By: Ted Sears
Otto Englander
Webb Smith
William Cotterell
Joseph Sabo
Erdman Penner
Starring: Dickie Jones
Cliff Edwards
Christian Rub
Evelyn Venable
Walter Catlett
Charles Judels
Distributed By: RKO Radio Pictures
Release Date: February 23, 1940
Runtime: 88 minutes
Country: United States


Pinocchio is a 1940 animated musical fantasy adventure film, and the second entry on the official Walt Disney animated canon, after the success of Snow White. It was based on the children's book of the same name by Carlo Collodi. In April 2015, a live-action adaptation directed by Robert Zemeckis had officially entered development and began filming in March 2021, which premiered exclusively on Disney+ in September 8, 2022 for the same date for Disney+ Day 2022. The remake was not well-received, as it got negative reviews.

Plot

When the woodworker Geppetto (Christian Rub) sees a falling star, he wishes that the puppet he just finished, Pinocchio (Dickie Jones), could become a real boy. In the night, the Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) grants Geppetto's wish and asks Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) to serve as the wooden boy's conscience. But the naive and trusting Pinocchio falls into the clutches of the wicked Honest John (Walter Catlett), who leads him astray to the sinister Stromboli and the sinful Pleasure Island.

Why It Wishes Upon A Star

  1. In Carlo Collodi's original work, the plot lacked a clear straightforward story line, and due to being assembled from bits and pieces tended to be repetitive, inconsistent and didn't have unity or logical flow. The film adaptation takes all the best elements of the fairy tale, but it also turns them into a more focused storyline.
  2. The animation's every bit as good as you'd expect from Disney.
    • A standout would be the scenes in Geppetto’s workshop, filled with his imaginative carved toys and clocks, which are atmospheric, charming, and endlessly inventive.
    • Like the Fleischer Studios, the effects animation was decent, giving realistic movement to vehicles, machinery and natural elements such as rain, lightning, smoke, shadows and water.
    • All of the major characters have unique movements and animation styles:
      • When Pinocchio is still a lifeless puppet, Geppetto moves him around the workshop, and he dangles and swings like the wooden object he is. When he comes to life a few minutes later, he’s still a jointed wooden contrivance, but his movements are those of a sentient being—and when he becomes a real boy at film’s end, the transformation is so complete that he moves like a real boy.
      • Jiminy Cricket nimbly leaps from point to point and old Geppetto moves with a slower, stiffer gait
    • The film's filled with torce de force sequences, with the artists being aided at times by scale models, and being able to experiment with effects, and explore new techniques (often discarding months of work). Monstro the Whale's animation for example, involved a process with pencil drawings to chalk on colored paper to "a tracing-dyeing-photographing process on a newly developed type of sensitive film"
  3. Another important factor is the work Disney's writers had done on the script. Like Collodi's 1883 novel -- which despite being a whimsical fantasy, dealt with heavy themes such as dismemberment and death -- the film's not afraid to get absolutely dark and grisly, but the darker tone makes it really stand out among the Disney canon. Even though the film removes most of the book's violence (i.e.: Pinocchio having his feet burnt off and being hung by the neck on a tree overnight), some sequences are made even more frightening. But yet, despite the generally darker tone compared to the rest of the Disney canon, there are still plenty of good jokes throughout, and it knows how to balance the dark and light tone, with neither side overstaying its welcome.
    • In the film, Pinocchio encounters drinking, smoking and gambling on Pleasure Island, which isn't stated the book. Also, while the book's take on the island had the puppet stay on the island for five months, the film condenses it into one terrifying night, giving the film a narrative momentum that's often missing from Snow White.
    • Stromboli is a shown to be more evil in the film than his book's counterpart.
    • Monstro the Whale's instantly darkens the film's tone
  4. Nearly all of the main characters are memorable in their own right.
    1. Despite being a wooden puppet come to life, Pinocchio is actually a very realistic character, being more willing to be naughty when influenced by others instead of being incorruptibly pure from the start to the end of the movie.
      • Even better is that Pinocchio is changed to be more likeable and very friendly in this adaptation in stark contrast to the unlikable brat he is in the book, where he outright killed the unnamed talking Cricket and is given multiple "last chances".
    2. The humorous deuteragonist, Jiminy Cricket, stole the show. He serves as Pinocchio's closest friend, but also as a conscience and moral center who's there to get Pinocchio back on track and safe from danger or bad influence. In the original book, Pinocchio kills a talking cricket with a mallet within the first few chapters, but he plays a far larger role in the film adaptation. For starters, he becomes the narrator and gains a more appealing design, and he even goes through impressive character development where he's initally inept at his job and nearly gives up or turns his back on Pinocchio a couple of times, but proves his worth by saving Pinocchio from Pleasure Island's fate and risking death to help Geppetto.
    3. Geppetto is a kind-hearted woodworker who winds up having to become a protective father figure
    4. In particular, it has some of the best -- and definitely most terrifying -- villains in any Disney animated film
      • The Fox (Honest John Worthington Foulfellow) and Cat (Gideon) are the first antagonists featured in the film. And yet, despite being essentially being comic reliefs, they're still shown to be quite sinister and untrusting, while also having limits to what they'll do.
      • Stromboli, despite his rather limited screen time is a total scene-stealer with his style of humor, despite -- as previously mentioned -- being more evil his the literature counterpart. He's also a symbolic form of how not everyone can be trusted.
      • The Coachman -- who's by far the evilest villain in the film, and that says a lot -- is a symbolic form of how exploitative the world can be toward innocents (troublemakers or not)
      • Monstro the Whale (a shark originally) is one of the unforgettable monsters in animation.
  5. Memorable soundtrack of songs which might just be an improvement over those in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
    • "When You Wish Upon a Star" in particular is a noteworthy stand-out (produced in 1939). So much that it since then became the theme song for the Disney company nowadays. It even won a competitive Academy Award, with earing two for Best Music, Original Score and for Best Music, Original Song.
    • "I've Got No Strings" evoks the ethnic humor of vaudevile, and goes through three variations: Dutch, French and Russian. In the film itself, it's a tour de force of animation artistry, melding several types of movements almost seemlessly, including dancing marionettes, Pinocchio's awkward gestures, Stromboli's sweeping arms, among others.
  6. A very heartwarming ending, with Pinocchio sacrificing himself to save his "father" and Jiminy, and being rewarded by being brought back to life as a real boy.
  7. The voice acting is really great. It was shown the Mr. Disney used celebrities to provide voices for the characters
    • Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, a former vaudevillian from various early sound films, provides the voice of Jiminy Cricket with his warm personality bring the character to life.
    • Walter Catlett, another vaudevillian voiced Honest John and sang "An Actor's Life for Me"
    • Frankie Darro, a child star in silent films, was voiced Lampwick
    • Dickie Jones, who had a long carrer in bit films and in Westerns (mostly with Gene Autry), had a career highlight with his role as the titular puppet boy
    • Evelyn Venable, a stage actress with success in RKO, did one of her final film roles as the Blue Fairy

Bad Qualities

  1. A few scenes (eg. Stromboli locking Pinocchio in a birdcage, donkeys being sold by the Coachman to slave labor in salt mines and circuses and Lampwick's donkey transformation) may be little too intense for younger viewers of G-rated movie.
  2. It features kids smoking and drinking, which is pretty inappropriate for a family film nowadays. Though to be fair, people were still deciding what was suitable for children and what wasn't at the time, and the kids end up being turned into donkeys for bad behaviour after engage in violent brawls, drink unhealthy amounts of magical alcohol, gamble, go on rides, and generally abuse their privileges for Pleasure Island, thus giving the message that this is something they shouldn't be doing.
  3. None of the film's villains, including Foulfellow and Gideon, Stromboli, and especially the Coachman (Monstro is the only antagonist to get anything resembling karma, and he's a whale), receive any onscreen punishment or harsh consequences, though this can be a perfect, yet controversial, example that life is realistically unfair and bad people can get away with their actions sometimes (although the Coachman’s fate in the video game adaptation features Pinocchio knocking him over the cliff); however, it can also be assumed that Foulfellow and Gideon were likely arrested offscreen after Geppetto learned about Pinocchio being on Pleasure Island and that Stromboli reacted to Pinocchio’s disappearance in a raging outburst, but the Coachman still got away with his crimes.
  4. Stromboli was actually seen eating his food with a knife, which is very dangerous and painful since he could've cut the inside of his mouth, thus believing that he would've been killed at first. In fact, kids would probably get confused and try to mimic Stromboli and eventually harm themselves.
  5. Although still cute, adorable, and likable, Pinocchio himself can be rather naïve, though that is understandable since he's only a young child and he was practically (or literally) born yesterday in the events of the film.

Reception

Like several of Disney's other films in the early 1940s, Pinocchio was well-reviewed, but ended up as a box office bomb and an overall financial failure due to World War II preventing any wide release outside of North America.

Critical analysis of Pinocchio identifies it as a simple morality tale that teaches children of the benefits of hard work and middle-class values. Although it became the first animated feature to win a competitive Academy Award – winning two for Best Music, Original Score and for Best Music, Original Song for "When You Wish Upon a Star" – it was initially a box office disaster. It eventually made a profit in its 1945 reissue, and is considered one of the greatest animated films ever made. The film and characters are still prevalent in popular culture, featuring at various Disney parks and in other forms of entertainment.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has the website's highest rating of 100%, meaning every single one of the 56 reviews of the reviews from contemporary, to modern re-appraisals, on the site are positive, with an average rating of 9.1/10. The general consensus of the film on the site is "Ambitious, adventurous, and sometimes frightening, Pinocchio arguably represents the pinnacle of Disney's collected works - it's beautifully crafted and emotionally resonant.". On Metacritic, Pinocchio has a weighted score of 99 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". It is currently the highest-rated animated film on the site, as well as the highest-rated Disney animated film.

In 1994, Pinocchio was added to the United States National Film Registry for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Trivia

  • The first Oswald short to ever be produced, Poor Papa, can be found on the Signature Edition Blu-Ray of this film.
  • Unlike Snow White, which was a short story that the writers could expand and experiment with, Pinocchio was based on a novel with a very fixed, although episodic, story. Therefore, the story went through drastic changes before reaching its final incarnation. In the original novel, Pinocchio is a cold, rude, ungrateful, inhuman brat that often repels sympathy and only learns his lessons the hard way. The writers decided to modernize the character and depict him similar to Edgar Bergen's dummy Charlie McCarthy, but equally as rambunctious as the puppet in the book. The story was still being developed in the early stages of animation.


Walt Disney Feature Animation (currently known as Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Movies:

The Golden Age

Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs - Pinocchio - Fantasia - Dumbo - Bambi

The War-Time Era

Saludos Amigos - The Three Caballeros - Make Mine Music - Fun and Fancy Free - Melody Time - The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

The Silver Age

Cinderella - Alice in Wonderland - Peter Pan - Lady and the Tramp - Sleeping Beauty - 101 Dalmatians - The Sword in the Stone

The Bronze Age

The Jungle Book - The Aristocats - Robin Hood - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - The Rescuers - The Fox and the Hound - The Black Cauldron - The Great Mouse Detective - Oliver & Company

Disney Renaissance

The Little Mermaid - The Rescuers Down Under - Beauty and the Beast - Aladdin - The Lion King - Pocahontas - The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Hercules - Mulan - Tarzan

Post-Renaissance

Fantasia 2000 - Dinosaur - The Emperor's New Groove - Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Lilo & Stitch - Treasure Planet - Brother Bear - Home on the Range - Chicken Little - Meet the Robinsons - Bolt

Disney Revival

The Princess and the Frog - Tangled - Winnie the Pooh - Wreck-It Ralph - Frozen - Big Hero 6 - Zootopia - Moana - Ralph Breaks the Internet - Frozen 2 - Raya and the Last Dragon - Encanto

The Film

Pinocchio

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