Pinocchio (1940)

Pinocchio has always been a bit of an enigma to me.

I know I watched it as a child, but anytime I would be browsing for a Disney movie to watch as I got older, I would pass this feature by.  I had seen it but didn’t have any overwhelming desire to see it again.

I didn’t realize just how long it’s been until I sat down and re-watched it.

Honestly, it was like watching it for the first time, for all I remembered.

Watching this movie as an adult, I find it amazing how much older films could get away with in movies that, for all intents and purposes, are meant for children.  What am I talking about, you might ask?

In this movie we see, among other things:

-Jiminy Cricket ogling a marionette can-can dancer

-Pinocchio smoking a cigar

-Pinocchio engaging in vandalism

-An evil-doer making plans to send a group of boys to “Pleasure Island” from which “no one ever comes back”

It’s surprising how much children weren’t shielded from in these early movies.  It seems to coincide perfectly with what was going on in comics, with darker overtones and blunt truth being the norm.

As a whole, this film seems less of a traditional Disney movie and more of a parable on what happens to naughty children.  Pinocchio is faced with a series of untrustworthy characters and goes along with what they want; as a result, he often finds himself in peril or, in one instance, sprouting donkey ears and a tail.

The movie aims to tell children that this is what happens when you don’t do what’s right, and choose to ignore your conscience (even if that conscience is a sentient cricket).

This storyline pushes the morality element pretty heavily, but what made it feel truly un-Disneylike was the fact that the host of bad guys in the film never get what’s coming to them.

Honest Jack, Stromboli, and any other number of side characters just disappear from the screen, never to been seen or heard from again.  There are no repercussions for their bad behavior; they simply get to go on doing what they do.

This is vastly different than which as become a standard trope in Disney movies, in which the villain inevitably meets their doom.  Although this certainly made the tale more realistic (as realistic as a story like Pinocchio can be), it lacked that certain Disney element that I’ve grown so accustomed to over the years.

The moral of Pinocchio seems to be simple: Children, do as you’re told and avoid strangers, for bad things will most certainly happen to you in you don’t.

It’s not the worst message in the world.  It’s certainly a cautionary one.  Still, it felt like more of a tale of morality than a classic Disney feature.

And yes, obviously I’m crazy. This is only the second Disney film, after all. This is considered classic.  It’s just a deviation from what would ultimately become the studio’s norm.  Is that a good or bad thing? That’s up to the viewer to decide.

What truly stood out during this movie, even moreso than the story, was the animation.  It was clear that, after the success of Snow White, the animators knew they had to produce something equally as amazing.  It seems their answer to this problem was to expand on techniques employed in Snow White and to create new and interesting visual effects via animation.

The Blue Fairy’s on-screen twinkle? Identical to the twinkle of the gemstones in the mines of the seven dwarfs.

We’re met with a host of different animation techniques as Disney flexes its muscles to show their audience what all they can do.  Overall, it’s rather impressive. In a world before digital animation, it’s astounding what could be done with some of the most simple equipment.  The visual effect of the movie as a whole is quite impressive.

And of course, who can forget everyone’s favorite animated whale:

Monstro, the massive whale that still causes nightmares.  Seriously Disney, way to scar a child for life.

I must be honest: Pinocchio is not my favorite Disney film ever.  I don’t have the same sentimental attachment to it as I do to other Disney features, nor do I get the same amount of enjoyment out of watching it now. Still, I can appreciate the beautiful animation, and I’m glad I finally re-watched such an iconic Disney film.

-Jess

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