Wed, 08 Jul 2020


Directors: Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen
Screenplay: Aurelius Battaglia, William Cottrell, Otto Englander, Erdman Penner, Joseph Sabo, Ted Sears, and Webb Smith (based novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi)
Voices: Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Geppetto), Evelyn Venable (The Blue Fairy), Don Brodie (Barker), Walter Catlett (J. Worthington Foulfellow), Frankie Darro (Lampwick), Charles Judels (Stromboli), Frankie Darro (Lampwick)
MPAA Rating: G
Year of Release: 1940
Country: U.S.
Pinocchio: Signature Collection Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD


A morality tale about a wooden puppet who comes to life and must prove himself honest, brave, and unselfish in order to become a real boy, Pinocchio was Walt Disney's second foray into feature-length animation following the winning gamble of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), and it is also arguably the greatest of the studio's hand-drawn animated films-a technical and emotional marvel that has lost none of its charm, humor, or horror in the nearly eight decades since its initial theatrical release in 1940. Based on a serialized children's story by the Italian writer Carlo Collodi, the story concerns a lonely woodcarver named Gepetto (Christian Rub), who lives in his workshop with his kitten, Figaro, and his goldfish, Cleo (the prototypes for all the subsequent Disney animal sidekicks). When Gepetto wishes that his marionette puppet were a real boy, a magical Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) comes down from the sky and grants his wish. She gives life to Pinocchio (Dickie Jones), but informs the wooden boy that he must prove himself before his transformation to flesh and blood is complete.

The rest of the film follows Pinocchio as he succumbs time and time again to the human temptations of fame, glory, and the easy way out. Childlike and literally new to the world, Pinocchio is easily tempted, often because he is convinced that he is doing the "right thing," which makes him easy prey for con artists like Honest John (Walter Catlett) and hucksters like the traveling gypsy Stromboli (Charles Judels), both of whom promise Pinocchio great things that never quite happen. Although not as blatantly didactic as the original story, Pinocchio's recurrent narrative motif of temptation followed by punishment is clear enough and takes the film into some decidedly dark territory, especially when you consider that the victim of the film's violence is, for all intents and purposes, a child.

Chief among these is the disturbing, uneasy sequence in which Pinocchio is lured to a place call Pleasure Island along with countless other young boys. At first, it is darkly comical, as the young boys are given free reign to do whatever they want, which, for young boys, involves eating cake, drinking beer, smoking cigars, and destroying things (perhaps the most unsettling thing about the sequence is what it suggests about fundamental human nature freed from any restraints, as if Disney were making his own version of Lord of the Flies a decade and a half before that book's publication). Directors Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen (who worked separately on many of Disney's other animated classics, including Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp) slowly build levels of unease, suggesting with ominous imagery that something is not right.

We finally learn the horrible truth-that Pleasure Island is an elaborate trap and the boys are being transformed into donkeys and sold to salt mines and circuses-when Pinocchio's new friend, the obnoxious, overly confident Lampwick (Frankie Darro), is transformed into a pathetic, braying jackass in a shadowy sequence that would be perfectly at home in an expressionistic horror movie. The scene is rough and disturbing, but the most unsettling thing about it is that it is never resolved. That is, the boys of Pleasure Island are never rescued, and we are left to assume that they spend the rest of their lives unhappily slaving in the salt mines. (If Pinocchio were made today, the filmmakers would almost certainly feel an imperative to send the hero back to rescue them at the end of the film.)

Yet, Pinocchio constantly balances its darker elements with moments of humor and wit, most of which comes from Pinocchio's "conscience," a thoroughly modern and wise-cracking, but ultimately humble and attentive cricket named Jiminy (Cliff Edwards), who implores to the audience at the beginning of the film that we should believe in the magic of wishing upon a star. Jiminy is one of Disney's more memorable creations-far from just a sidekick, he is the story's narrator and the crucial link between the film and the audience (he often breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the viewer, something that was quite rare in 1940s cinema).

Of course, part of the film's pleasure is its visual appeal, having been brought to life with some of the most beautiful animation ever committed to film. Completely hand-drawn in the days before computer effects, Pinocchio is a dazzling mixture of realism and impressionism, replete with striking colors and exquisite characterizations. The artists play with elements of light and shadow, and they create vivid, three-dimensional landscapes in which the animated characters interact. One of the film's most striking innovations was a multiplane camera that allowed the artists to create a shifting three-dimension space, best exemplified in a stunning tracking shot early in the film in which the camera moves through Gepetto's small town, slipping under arches and winding down streets, which are populated with dozens of individual characters. It's the kind of sequence that makes it easy to forget you're watching an animated film.

Pinocchio ends with a particularly memorable action sequence, with Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket venturing into the ocean to save Gepetto from the belly of Monstro, an enormous and menacing whale. Watch the sequence carefully and note all the loving attention the artists have given to the ways in which waves and ocean currents move and the manner in which they render sunlight dancing on the ocean floor. This is a film that was put together with care and loving attention to detail, and not a single frame fails to captivate.

Pinocchio Signature Collection Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD
Aspect Ratio1.33:1

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • English DTS-HD Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural

  • French DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Subtitles English, French, Spanish

  • "Walt's Story Meetings: Pleasure Island" featurette
  • "In Walt's Words: Pinocchio" archival recordings and interviews
  • "The Pinocchio Project: When You Wish Upon a Star'" featurette
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Poor Papa restored and scored 1927 short
  • DisneyView

  • Audio commentary by film historian and critic Leonard Maltin, Disney animator Eric Goldberg, and film historian J. B. Kaufman

  • No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio documentary
  • Three deleted scenes
  • "The Sweat Box" featurette
  • "Gepettos Then and Now" featurette
  • Live Action Reference Footage
  • Three theatrical trailers (1940, 1984, 1992)
  • "When You Wish Upon a Star" music video by Meaghan Jette Martin
  • "A Wish Come True: The Making of Pinocchio"
  • Storyboard-to-film final comparison
  • DistributorWalt Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
    Release DateJanuary 31, 2017

    The new "Signature Collection" Blu-ray of Pinocchio features the same high-definition transfer we saw on the 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition Blu-ray released in 2009. It still looks absolutely fabulous-light years ahead of the previously available DVD. Restored to a pristine condition, but without losing any of the film-like appearance of the animation, the image is sharp and impressively rendered, which allows you to fully absorb all the nuances and fine detail that went into the animation. The Technicolor color scheme is appropriately bright and heavily saturated, and the contrast brings real depth to the image. The disc also gives you an option called "Disney View," which fills the black bars on either side of the image with frame-like paintings by Toby Bluth (I'm not sure why anyone would want to watch the film in that manner, but is available for those who do). We also get the same lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack, which sounds magnificent, even though the surround effects are somewhat limited, with the real spaciousness being given to the songs and musical numbers. For purists, a restored original monaural soundtrack is also available, and you can choose to watch the film in a "Sing-Along" mode.

    There are a few new supplements included in this edition, along with quite a bit of material from previous releases. New to the "Signature Collection" Blu-ray is the featurette "Walt's Story Meetings: Pleasure Island," which uses voice actors to read actual transcripts of Disney's meetings about the development of the Pleasure Island sequence. There are plenty of drawings and photographs from Disney's animation research library, along with new interviews with Pixar director Pete Docter and Disney historian and author J.B. Kaufman. We actually get to hear Walt himself in "In Walt's Words: Pinocchio," which includes excerpts from a 1956 interview with Disney about the making of the film. We also get "Poor Papa," a newly restored and scored Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short from 1927. Finally, we have "The Pinocchio Project: When You Wish Upon a Star,'" a featurette about how music influencers Alex G, Tanner Patrick, and JR Aquino from Disney's Maker Studios gathered in a creative workspace to create a new version of and music video for "When You Wish Upon a Star."

    There are also plenty of supplements from previous releases, as well. We still have the audio commentary by film historian and critic Leonard Maltin, Disney animator Eric Goldberg, and film historian J.B. Kaufman (who was working on a book about Pinocchio). The three of them provide a great deal of insight and detail into the film's inner workings, and you can tell by the passion in their voices how much they love and admire the film. No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio is a 55-minute retrospective documentary that features then-new and archival interviews with a host of film historians (including Maltin, Kaufman, and Russell Merritt), animation historians (including Jerry Beck and Michael Barrier), and Disney animators past and present, as well as Disney historian Brian Sibley and actor Dickie Jones, who voiced Pinocchio. The documentary shows us test animation and covers in good depth the unique contributions of each of the legendary artists who worked on the film. Also in this section are three deleted scenes (about 10 minutes total), each of which is recreated using existing storyboards from the Disney archives. These scenes include "The Story of the Grandfather Tree," in which Geppetto tells Pinocchio about the pine tree from which he is descended; "In the Belly of the Whale," a different version of Geppetto inside Monstro; and a slightly alternate ending. "The Sweat Box" featurette (6:30) traces the history of the titular projection room at the Disney studio where Walt critiqued story reels, rough animation, and dailies. The Live Action Reference Footage consists of about 10 minutes of footage that was shot to give the artists physical references for their animation. There is also a section on publicity that contains three theatrical trailers (the original 1940 trailer and re-release trailers from 1984 and 1992) and "Gepettos Then and Now," an 11-minute featurette about the art and craft of making wooden toys. Also from previous editions we have the "When You Wish Upon a Star" music video by Meaghan Jette Martin, a five-minute featurette "A Wish Come True: The Making of Pinocchio," and a storyboard-to-film comparison of the scene in which Geppetto finishes making Pinocchio.

    Take note that some stuff has been left out, as well, so you might want to hold onto the 2009 Blu-ray. Missing from this release are all of the various games and puzzles; "Pinocchio's Matter of Facts," a trivia track that gave bits of information about Pinocchio and other related subjects as you watched the movie; the extensive Pinocchio Art Galleries, consisting of "Visual Development," "Gustaf Tenggren Art," "Character Design," "Maquettes and Models," "Backgrounds & Layouts," "Storyboard Art," "Production Pictures," and "Live Action References"; and the deleted song called "Honest John" that was recorded in 1947 for promotional purposes. Also, while we still have the commentary, the disc does not offer the "Cine-Explore" option, which enhanced the commentary by showing the commentators in a screen-within-the-screen that was also used to show us sketches, storyboards, models, archival footage, and interviews with the animators who worked on the film.

    Copyright © 2017 James Kendrick

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Walt Disney Pictures Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (4)


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