Review: Pinocchio

Pinocchio (1940)

Starring: Cliff Edwards, Dickie Jones, and Christian Rub

Directed By: Ben Sharpsteen (Supervising Director)

Written By: Carlo Collodi, et al.

A little personal trivia from me: while moving beyond the usual “mama, “”dada,” etc in learning to speak, I started saying two more complex words around the same time. The first one was “universe,” and the second one was “Pinocchio.” Yes, I was always weird, but that’s neither here nor there. Needless to say, I have always been a big fan of this particular Disney movie (though I grew up on many others as well). However, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve watched Pinocchio’s first days of life. Let’s see how it holds up.

We start out somewhere in Italy where a lonely wood worker named Geppetto (Rub) is building a marionette. Although obviously talented in his work (we see great examples of wood clocks and music boxes), Geppetto is without a family besides his cat Figaro and fish Cleo. After creating the wooden puppet and naming him “Pinocchio,” he wonders out loud how great it would be if Pinocchio were real. That night, the wishing star appears and he wishes for his longing to be true in a very famous scene. After Geppetto falls asleep, the beautiful Blue Fairy comes to grant Geppetto’s wish. However, Pinocchio(Jones)  isn’t quite real just yet, only animated wood. He must learn how to tell right from wrong first, but he’ll have a cricket named Jiminy (Edwards) to act as his conscience to help him out.

Of course, being literally born yesterday, Pinocchio is very naive and susceptible to smooth talk. While on his way to school (Jiminy overslept, doh!), Pinocchio runs into Honest John and Gideon, two con men (er, animals), who trick Pinocchio into going into show business rather than going to school. This sets up a series of events where Jiminy has to save Pinocchio multiple times (he does get some help from the Blue Fairy, though) and somehow attempt to rescue Geppetto from Monstro the whale. All of this happens while Pinocchio is on his quest to become a real boy. Does Pinocchio ever become a real boy? What do you think?

Pinocchio was the second feature length movie that the visionary Walt Disney produced. As expected, the animation is nearly perfect. It still amazes me how much time and effort must have been put into this by so many people to accomplish this, especially since this was still relatively new to everyone involved (with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs being the only experience beforehand). The animation is just wonderful and special note needs to be made about the Monstro sequence. It is extremely exciting and even though I know how it ends, I couldn’t help but to get emotionally invested in the outcome.

Being a musical, we must discuss the songs. Surprisingly, there are only four songs in the entire film. “Give a Little Whistle” (a Jiminy and Pinocchio song) is of average Disney fare and decent toe-tapper. Honest John’s “Hi-Diddle-Dee” is one that’s always gotten stuck in my head; very catchy. Pinocchio’s showcase song is the famous “I’ve Got No Strings,” it’s a great one and the sequence is very clever. Lastly (but not least), is Jiminy’s “When You Wish Upon a Star.” This is arguably my favorite Disney song ever and it’s become the theme song for Disney and it’s amusement parks. Watch after the Super Bowl, the song plays during the annual “I’m going to Disneyland/Disneyworld” commercial.

The moral message of Pinocchio is handled somewhat heavy-handedly. However, the message is meant for kids (I know I got it at a young age), but it also doesn’t get in way of the overall charm of the film. There may be some issue with the punishment Pinocchio gets throughout the movie. It’s true that Pinocchio doesn’t really realize what he’s doing, so he doesn’t really know when he’s being bad nor does he understand what that means. That said, he does choose to disregard the advice Jiminy gives him. This is why he gets “punished,” but in comparison to some of the characters, his naivety allows Pinocchio is avoid the brunt of it all.

Bottom Line: I will freely admit being biased in this case. I love Disney movies and Pinocchio was always one of my favorites they ever made. That opinion stands with this most recent viewing. I simply love this film and I look forward to sharing it with my own future children one day just as my parents shared it with me.

10/10 (Highest Recommendation).

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