Pinocchio (1940)
Pinocchio (1940)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: February 23rd, 1940 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts Actors: Mel Blanc, Frankie Darro, Cliff Edwards, Dickie Jones, Evelyn Venable

 


 

“P

inocchio” is a grand adventure, abundant in creativity and innovation and positively unforgettable as just the second feature-length animated film from the legendary Walt Disney Productions. Stunning artistry and catchy tunes compliment the sublime character designs, each receiving so much humanity that it’s easy to forget that they’re merely a series of drawings. To this day, its inventiveness, playful humor, and ideal characterizations create a superior template for family films, which few competitors can successfully emulate.

The homeless yet loveable bug Jiminy Cricket (who looks absolutely nothing like a cricket) settles into the home of elderly toymaker Geppetto to narrate the tale of little Pinocchio. Geppetto’s newest creation is a wooden marionette that magically comes to life with the help of a wishing star and a shimmering cerulean fairy. The ligneous doll becomes animate (though not alive) in return for the happiness Geppetto has brought to so many others. But in order to become a real breathing boy, Pinocchio must prove his worth. Jiminy is assigned to watch over the child as a sort of conscience, a job that’s quickly put to the test the following morning when Pinocchio heads for school.

The dastardly, towering fox “Honest John” Worthington Foulfellow and his unintelligent, mute partner Gideon stumble upon the puppet-without-strings and rapidly plot to exploit him. Pinocchio is coerced into becoming a star and led to master showman Stromboli, a cruel puppeteer whose greed is matched only by his colossal waistline. “What does an actor need a conscience for anyway?” grumbles Jiminy, who continually abandons Pinocchio when he finds his way into trouble (always muttering things like “it looks pretty hopeless”). The Blue Fairy bails them both out, but temptation still waits at every turn; Pinocchio is once again tricked, this time into journeying to Pleasure Island, where bad kids can go to misbehave – and are turned into donkeys for slave labor. And his odyssey doesn’t stop there. Geppetto gets swallowed by Monstro the Whale during a ceaseless search for his missing wooden child, and it’s up to Pinocchio to come to the rescue.

It’s a monumental balancing act, filled with magic, fantasy, action, and humor (in a delightfully witty scene, Jiminy almost drowns in a bubble of air – while underwater). It also boasts several of the most frightening Disney villains ever crafted, from the storming Stromboli to the conniving Coachman to the massive Monstro. Even the donkey transformation undergone by Pinocchio’s brief troublemaking pal Lampwick is decidedly terrifying.

On the technical front, the animation is nothing short of masterful, using elaborate perspective shots that would be unique even in live-action filmmaking – especially considering the ones here are all simulated camera angles. And the pleasingly matching score won the Academy Award for 1940, while the most memorable song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” also took home an Oscar. At the heart of it all lies a carefully adapted story so imaginatively outlandish and filled with moral lessons and redemptive perils that it can be appreciated by all ages as a hugely entertaining, predominantly lighthearted, fairy tale classic (the source material by Carlo Collodi is decidedly more sinister).

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10