By 1937, Walt Disney Studios had been making animated shorts for over a decade. They’d become very successful but were still seen as a silly kids studio by most of Hollywood. With the smash success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that changed. The film made over $8 million dollars in its initial run, garnered lots of critical praise, and won an honorary Oscar.
With all that success, Disney quickly moved into making his second full-length animated feature, Pinocchio. Based upon an Italian children’s novel, Pinocchio tells the story of a wooden puppet that is given life by a Blue Fairy and is told he can become a real boy if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. Though Pinocchio was critically praised, it bombed at the box office, losing a great deal of money for Disney. Over time, Pinocchio has become beloved by fans all over the world and is now considered one of the greatest animated features of all time.
I’d not seen the film in a very long time, likely since I was but a child, yet it still held a strong impression on me. Its tells a very simple moral lessons - always tell the truth, let your conscience be your guide - but it tells them in a decidedly imaginative way. What boy or girl will tell a lie after seeing the film and not check their nose to see if its grown? Who won’t think twice about living for their own pleasure and not think about turning into a jackass?
For those who have never seen or perhaps forgotten the delights of its simple yet effecting plot, I’ll bring the basics. Geppetto is a wood-worker who lives a simple life with his pet cat and fish delighting his local village with wonderful wood carvings of delightful clocks and imaginative toys. One night as he goes to bed, he wishes upon a star that his latest creation, a puppet of a little boy, might come to life and be his son. As he sleeps, a Blue Fairy grants him his wish and Pinocchio comes to life, but he is still made of wood. The Fairy promises that if Pinocchio proves his worth he will become a real little boy and recruits Jiminy Cricket to be his conscience.
Geppetto is thrilled when he awakes to find Pinocchio alive and there are some marvelously tender scenes between them. But Geppetto is not quite the mindful father he should be and sends Pinocchio off to school the very next day with hardly a lesson given on what to expect. Jiminy Cricket likewise proves to be a rather lousy conscience as Pinocchio is quickly taken off course by a couple of streetwise animals who sell Pinocchio to Stomboli, a slave-driving puppet master. The Fairy frees our young hero and he promises to be good from now on. No sooner than he’s out does he get talked into going to Pleasure Island where he and his fellow boys engage in all sorts of vices such as smoking, gambling, drinking, and vandalism.
After a night’s debauchery the boys find themselves turning into donkeys and being sold into slavery. Pinocchio manages to escape, only partially turned, but returns home to find it empty. The Blue Fairy sends a bird who tells him that Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale. For once, Pinocchio does an unselfish deed and zooms out in a raft and saves his father. For his bravery, the Blue Fairy turns him in to a real boy.
The joy of watching Pinocchio as an adult lies within seeing how it still entrances children. I watched it with my five-year-old daughter who has become so used to watching modern CGI-filled animation with its ADD-infused action sequences and candy-crushing games on our tablet that I worried she wouldn’t warm to something so ancient and almost foreign in construct. She was enthralled. She was delighted with the early comic scenes and pulled the covers up over her head when the whale attacked. No doubt she’ll be rubbing her nose the next time she thinks to tell a lie.
It was just as wonderful to me at 41 as it was to her, aged 5. The animation is incredible, considering how new it was to make a feature-length film at that time. It's filled with depth and detail and fills the screen with realistic worlds.
This release is part of the Disney's The Signature Collection and presents Pinocchio for the first time as a digital copy, plus a few new supplements. It comes with Blu-ray and DVD disks. The audio and video look and sound superb though it should be noted that its the same transfer featured in previous Blu-ray editions of the film.
New to this release is an updated music video of "Wish Upon a Star" featuring JR Aquino, Tanner Patrci, and Alex G and a making-of feature of that video. More interesting to those of us not interested in pop-music renditions of classic songs are a vocalized recreation of story meetings between Disney and his animation team on crafting the Pleasure Island sequence. Also included is archival footage featuring Walt Disney discussing Pinocchio plus “Poor Papa,” a vintage animated short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Supplements previously included in Blu-ray releases include audio commentary from Leonard Maltin, plus numerous making-of documentaries and various featurettes.
Pinocchio is an all-time classic animated film that has enthralled audiences around the world for decades. This Signature Collection release looks and sounds great and offers a few extra supplementals. However, the transfer and most of the extras were previously included in other releases and I can’t say that the new material here is enough to make it worth a repurchase. But if you don’t previously own the film, this is a great release.