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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Disneyear: Pinocchio (1940)

After the success of Snow White three years ago, we come to another landmark in Disney animation, Pinocchio. Another critical success as well as a financial one, this film became another staple in Disney animation. Let's take a look.

The story goes that one night a long time ago, a puppet maker in a village (I'm guessing in Italy) makes what he considers his best work yet: a little boy marionette he names "you-should-know-this-by-now". He makes a wish to a wishing star and wants nothing more than his puppet to be a real boy. Then suddenly, a Blue Fairy comes by and grants Gepetto his wish and appoints a little cricket named Jiminy Cricket to be the boy's conscience. The fairy also mentions that if Pinocchio learns right from wrong, he'll be a real boy. Together, the two overcome some obstacles so that Pinocchio can get his wish to be a real boy. After an exciting climax escaping a ferocious sperm whale, he sacrifices his own life to save his father. Seeing this, the Blue Fairy gives him life again, Jiminy receives an official conscience badge and they all lived happily ever after.

First off, I should point out that the animation in this film is simply beautiful. Some of Disney's best even. Right down from the first ten minutes, you get some really gorgeous imagery. Take a gander.

video

As weird as this premise sounds, the artists create this world for the movie where it doesn't have to make sense. I especially love it when Honest John (a fox) and his pal Gideon (a cat) are just walking down the street like normal people and are shocked to see a marionette skipping past them on his way to school. It's pretty damn hilarious when you think about it. There are more weird images than this in the film, like the nose growing when Pinocchio tells a lie or turning into a donkey when he's bad. But at least it has a purpose: it's there to teach lessons. And with visuals like that, they sort of stick to you like a burr to your sock.

Remember kids: lies grow until is as plain as the nose on your face!
The main characters are pretty good ones. Pinocchio himself is, forgive the pun, a real boy. He's curious, he wants to do good and bad things sometimes, but he's not rotten. What sets him apart is that he does learn his lessons in the end. So I really enjoy him. Then there's Jiminy Cricket. I find it interesting that people have mixed feelings for this character: you either love him or you hate him. Me? I always thought he was an ok character. Give him credit, the story is told in his perspective. I do kind of like his voice and I did find him pretty appealing both visually and as a character. He clearly does want to help his friend out, but appears easily frustrated when things don't quite go as planned, which makes him a little more interesting. I give animator Ward Kimball my props for him. Oh, and Milt Kahl for Pinocchio too. One more thing: Gepetto has a few funny moments too, so you may enjoy him.


Like Snow White, emotional simplicity is what makes this film endearing. The difference being that in Snow White, where if you have a dark/sad moment, things turned out alright in the end. Here, it's not always like that. The bad guys were never defeated, they're still out there doing what they do, like the coachman (who I consider the most underrated Disney villian). He kidnapped boys and turned them into donkeys where they got sold to miners. He also keeps the ones who can still talk and God knows what he's gonna do to them. And, you know what? HE'S STILL OUT THERE KIDNAPPING MORE KIDS!

Oh, and this isn't the creepiest face ever!
The songs are fun too, the best one being the title song When You Wish Upon a Star. The song's so famous that it's basically one of Disney's trademarks! Surprisingly, I hear it's causing some controversy over the theory that the song says just wishing for things will make everything ok. Well, I see it as more of a ray of hope, a bright light in an otherwise dark and melodramatic situation. After all, kids are much smarter than we give them credit for. They know things aren't going to be fine just for wishing for it to be ok. I've never meet anyone who took that idea seriously, so that argument is really invalid. I don't know, I guess someone needed something to complain about...

It's okay. Sing your heart out, Jiminy.
My final analysis: this a great film filled with atmosphere kids and adults will appreciate, good characters and music, and some really dark and creepy imagery. Just don't watch this with anyone squeamish... Sure, it's dark as hell, but we get that happy finale that we all want to see. It doesn't always make sense, but quite frankly, it doesn't have to. And that's alright with me.

Feel brave enough? Here's the creepiest scene in the whole film... Enjoy!

Hope this makes you feel better: the most beautiful scene.

3 comments:

Michael Sporn said...

The first 15 minutes of Pinocchio are as close to flawlessly perfect as any animated feature ever will be.
The film throughout is technically brilliant and artistically superior to anything anyone has done with a computer. (Or anything done since 1943.) it certainly deserves your focus. Thanks.

RetroBrian said...

I found it hilarious in Doug's review how he mentions Gideon and Honest John find it strange to see a walking wooden puppet without strings. However, no one mentions how there can be a fox and a cat walking around acting like human beings when they're the only fox and cat who do that. Of course, this is a Disney film and I guess we are made to believe that in Disney films, if a fox and a cat want to wear clothes and act like human beings, they can do so.

Pinocchio is another one of those familiar Disney classics. It wasn't a financial success like Snow White was, but it was something different. It was more lighthearted and I think kid friendly (come on, let's face it, most of us were probably scared of the wicked queen in Snow White during our youth) even though, yes, there are some dark moments. I think you need those moments to kind of balance the film and have it appeal to adults as much as kids.

Overall, great review. I think you could have gone a little more into detail with the story but that's okay. I think your reviews are meant for those of us who have the film, because if you meant it for someone who hasn't, there should have been a spoiler alert attached.

Rodan said...

I always thought this was one of the best constucted animated films there ever made. It captures my delight every time I see it.