Pinocchio review by Tom Blain

Watching Pinocchio this past week was in part nostalgic and in part a brand new experience. By brand new experience Im not referring to Disneys new blu-ray pressing (although it is quite a step up in picture quality), but rather how much I had forgotten about Disneys version of the Pinocchio story. There were a few things that I could easily recall. I remember Geppetto and his Italian-type accent and his crazy clock workshop. I remember Jiminy Cricket being Pinocchios sidekick (or rather conscience). I also remember Pinocchio singing I Have No Strings also and the belly of the whale towards the end. But the more I watched, the more I realized there were scenes and whole characters missing in my recollection. So much so that I couldnt even tell my wife what would happen next or who certain characters were and factored into the story.

Pinocchio was never really one of my favorite Disney cartoons which could be one of the reasons I dont remember too much. Re-watching it reminded me that it was extremely dark and creepy for a cartoon. As soon as Pinocchio leaves the friendly village home of Gepetto he is surrounded by the filth and evils of society. Lies. Deceit. Kidnapping. Theivery. Kids turning into donkeys. It made me not want to leave my home for a while. I mean even his father got swallowed by a whale. If an old man cant avoid getting swallowed in the sea WHAT ARE A 5 YEAR OLD BOYS CHANCES OF SURVIVAL!?!

The other reason I probably avoided re-watching Pinocchio is that the movie is all over the map in terms of story. The more I read about Pinocchio the book, the more I find that it is also one big set of tales and foibles of a wooden boy even moreso than the film. Now I do own the book, but like 90% of my library it goes unread. I do hope to give it a the ole bed-time story treatment some day but til then it grows dust. So my information base comes from what I can extract from Wikipedia is that the movie pleasantly skips over and re-paints many hodgey-podgey parts of the story but still keeps the overall idea of a miss-mash of vignettes and adventures in tact. There is still the Fox and Cat (one of the elements I forgot) but they lead Pinocchio on a different misadventure. There is a marionette theatre but in the book the directors name is Mangiafucco (did Walt Disney think that American audiences would identify with naming Italians after their food? Is that how we got Stromboli instead of Mangiafucco?), but the director gives Pinocchio gold and doesnt kidnap him. And there is even a Blue (rather Turquoise) Fairy that teaches Pinnochio about lies having long legs or long noses. Then there are some things that never happen in the Disney version (getting caught in a weasel trap stealing grapes, Island of Busy Bees, Pinocchio actually going to school). All of this is probably too much to squeeze into a simple Disney story that is already a bit convoluted.

My biggest hang-up with the Disney Pinocchio is how he and Jiminy Cricket find out about Geppeto being stuck in Monstros belly. One day they come home and find a note. The note says they are in the whales belly but who wrote the note? How do they know where to find this whale in a whole ocean? I remember even as a child thinking there was something weird and impossible about all of this. Not the fact that an old man can survive in a whales belly (thats a separate issue that Ill look past) but the fact that they can find a while in an entire sea and that someone knew to write a note about it and place it in Gepettos house there were some writers in Disney who had an impossible challenge of getting this to work and for me at age 5 it didnt work.

But if there is one thing I love about Pinocchio is that like many other early Disney animated films, it has a richness and an art to it. The background and cityscapes are heavily detailed and create a wild and imaginative world that kids and adults can gobble up and dream about. The creativity that went into each of Gepettos clocks reflects at talent for creativity in the Disney animation crews 30s and 40s. Watching the movie is more fun sometimes than actually paying attention to the story.

If you want to own Pinocchio, now is the time. Its on a Blu-ray + DVD set that provides tons of extras and a crisp picture. In most cases, these Disney offers usually go out of print fairly quickly so its tough to predict when the next Pinocchio offering will be.




5 out of 10 Jackasses
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