by D.W. Lundberg

Thursday, April 28, 2011


My second foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. (For my Introduction/Part One, see here.) Again, do not hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/disagreements below.

Title: Pinocchio (1940; based on The Adventures Of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi)

The Plot: A wooden puppet boy, with a talking cricket as his guide, is led on a series of misadventures as he learns the value of leading a responsible life.

The Songs: "When You Wish Upon A Star," "Give A Little Whistle," "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life For Me)," "I've Got No Strings"

A Little History: Walt Disney's original idea for Pinocchio actually began to circulate in 1937, while Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs was still in production. Many story elements from Carlo Collodi's book had been incorporated into the story, but Disney decided to halt production after five months of work, to revamp the plot and make the characters more likeable. Pinocchio became less like his trouble-making literary counterpart and more like an innocent, with human characteristics; and animator Ward Kimball re-designed Jiminy Cricket to appear less insect-like. Voice actor Mel Blanc (best known as the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other characters from Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes gallery) was cast as Gideon the Cat, but Disney cut all of his recorded dialogue after it was decided the character should be mute.

How It Broke New Ground: Disney set out to integrate all the techniques he'd mastered during Snow White into the making of Pinocchio, only more so. It was shot entirely on the multiplane camera, sometimes using as many as twelve layers of animation at a time to give the images a greater sense of depth and three-dimensional movement, sometimes moving laterally through the frame (instead of straight downward, on a crane, as it was usually done). The backgrounds have a richer, more painterly pallette (attributed to animators Albert Hurter and Gustaf Tenggren), while the human and animal characters move with more dexterity and weight. Pinocchio is revered today, however, for its lavish effects animation – secondary animation which does not include the characters or background art (i.e., cigar smoke, fire, shadows, and the ripples and bubbles and splashes during the underwater sequences). Also the first animated film to win Oscars in a competitive category (for Best Song and Best Original Score).

How It Holds Up Today: Quickly now: How many times in Pinocchio do we learn that "a lie will keep growing and growing, until it's as plain as the nose on your face"? Answer: Once, and only once - in the back of Stromboli's traveling wagon, after which the ethereal Blue Fairy returns our wooden hero's elongated proboscis to its natural size. Such are the wonders of Disney's second full-length animated feature, with subtext and imagery so powerful they permeate the entire movie. One of the most beautiful animated pictures ever made, this is also one of the scariest: Lampwick's screams of "Mama! Maaaaaa-maaaaaaaaa!" as he morphs into a donkey on Pleasure Island, plus the final encounter with Monstro the Whale, still haunt many fans to this day. And if the plot feels a bit episodic, well, maybe that's the point: like us, Pinocchio learns from his mistakes in fits and starts, a trait that seems to resonate the older and wiser we get. The songs are some of the best ever written for Disney, and Jiminy Cricket continues that time- honored tradition of loveable side characters who keep the movie from becoming too heavy-handed and serious. Still, Pinocchio was regarded as a financial failure upon its original release, recouping only two-thirds of its $2 million budget.

Grade: A

1 comment:

  1. Another cute movie! I don't think it's up their with my most favorites of Disney, but good none the less!