Release Date: February 7th, 1940 (released nationally February 23rd)
Inspiration: “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi
Budget: $2.3 million
Domestic Gross: $84.2 million
Worldwide Gross: $121.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
IMDB Score: 7.4/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Inventor Gepetto creates a wooden marionette called Pinocchio. His wish for Pinocchio to be a real boy is unexpectedly granted by a fairy. The fairy assigns Jiminy Cricket to act as Pinocchio’s “conscience” and keep him out of trouble. Jiminy is not too successful in this endeavor and most of the film is spent with Pinocchio deep in trouble.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: So after watching what ended up being a great movie in Snow White, we move onto the sophomore entry in the Disney film canon and that is Pinocchio. This is another one of the movies that I have seen before, but it has been quite a long time that I have watched it so it will also be looked at with a relatively fresh perspective. This film has often been considered one of the greatest films that Disney has done and critics seemed to agree with the 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We will see if it can live up to that expectation in my eyes and I will see where it ranks in terms of the rest of the Disney film canon.
Voice Cast: We continue the trend of the voice actors not being credited for their work on the film which again is fine for now, but it will be interesting to see when it starts to turn and the actors do finally get credited. We once again have a few actors involved that were either in the twilight of their careers or in the case of the lead, some that would begin their careers even as a child. Case in point, the voice of Pinocchio was provided by Dickie Jones who at the time was 11 years old and had been acting since he was 7 including a role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It was a wise move by Disney to have a child voice Pinocchio as opposed to an adult as Jones brought the sense of youth and enthusiasm to Pinocchio, and he would also provide the voice of one of the boys turned into a donkey named Alexander. Austrian born actor Christian Rub was the voice of Gepetto and he had quite the wealth of experience going into this film, and he would bring a good fatherly figure voice to Gepetto. Musician and ukulele player Cliff Edwards would be cast as Jiminy Cricket and being a professional singer worked to his favor since he had to sing in the film, and he would become synonymous with the character as he continued to voice him in future appearances including another film down the line. Vaudevillian actor Walter Catlett voiced “Honest” John Foulfellow and having played various conmen throughout his career, he was a good choice to be the voice of the sly-talking fox as he cons Pinocchio twice. In a bit of a fun fact, veteran voice actor Mel Blanc was hired to play Gideon only for the decision to be made to have Gideon be a mute character after the success of Dopey in Snow White. The sole actress of the film Evelyn Venable played the Blue Fairy and she was a good voice for the character despite having very little time on the screen. Another veteran voice actor in Charles Judels provided the voice for both Stromboli and the Coachman, and he brought his experience into bringing two villains to the big screen and made them hated and feared. Finally aside from Stuart Buchanan who was the only returning actor from Snow White to be in this film as the announcer for Pleasure Island, the last voice actor was Frankie Darro who voiced Lampwick and being a fellow child actor provided a good, young voice for the rebellious Lampwick. Overall, the cast did a good job in bringing these characters to life and once again for most of them, it would end up being the absolute peak of their careers.
Hero/Prince: After having a Prince in our last film, we do hit a bit of a roadblock here in that we don’t have a clear, defined hero in Pinocchio. In a way, the closest thing we have here is Pinocchio himself when he saves Gepetto at the end of the film from Monstro and this in turn leads the Blue Fairy to finally declare him worthy of being a real boy. When compared to heroes of the future films, Pinocchio is probably going to rank on the lower end since his only heroic deed comes at the end, and as a result he will end up being one of the weakest heroes in the Disney Film canon.
Villain: Similarly after having one defined villain in Snow White with the Evil Queen, here we have a slew of minor villains that share the screen in terms of what they do to Pinocchio. First we have the hired goons of “Honest” John Fowlfellow and his associate Gideon who are paid to do the dirty work of others, and while Gideon is a bit absent-minded John makes up for his with his quick tongue and ability to manipulate Pinocchio twice. One of the men they did business with is the puppeteer Stromboli, who for some reason is the only one from this film that is officially classified as a Disney Villain. He first appears to be a proud showman only to reveal his true intentions to use Pinocchio to make him money before turning him into firewood, and while his time was brief he does make an impact on the film. The next villain to talk about is the first animal to be considered a villain which is Monstro the Whale, and again while his time is brief he was quite a memorable character in terms of providing fear to children when he threatens to kill Pinocchio and Gepetto. Finally, we have the Coachman who runs an extensive underground kidnapping ring where he brings boys to Pleasure Island and they turn to donkeys, and he later sells them to salt mines and the circus as he turns a nice profit for himself when he shows John and Gideon what he is offering. While these villains combined may not reach the same levels as the Evil Queen did, they still provided some good fodder for the film and were fine villains for the film.
Other Characters: Once again, we have a pretty solid supporting cast of characters to help fill out the film and add some different dimensions around Pinocchio and his evolution throughout the film. Obviously, the first one to talk about is Gepetto who creates Pinocchio as a puppet and then wishes for him to be a real boy, and while we don’t see much of him on the screen you could see his caring for Pinocchio when he goes out looking for him, even going as far as to sail out to sea and getting swallowed by Monstro. He is willing to sacrifice his own life to save Pinocchio only for Pinocchio to save him instead, and for that you can’t help but feel happy when Pinocchio is turned into a real boy giving him a son. We must also mention Gepetto’s pets Figaro the cat and Cleo the goldfish who even though they can’t talk like John and Gideon, they provide plenty of emotional support for Gepetto and they are just as important to him as Pinocchio is. We then have the Blue Fairy who decides to grant Gepetto’s wish due to the happiness he has provided for others, but she tells Pinocchio that only he can make Gepetto’s wish fully come true by proving himself worthy to be a real boy. She would only make two appearances on screen with the second being rescuing Pinocchio from Stromboli, and despite being on screen for a very minor bit of time she was a memorable character as well. We then have the boys who are taken to Pleasure Island including Lampwick who Pinocchio befriends, and it is pretty sad knowing that they were turned to donkeys and in essence never got any comeuppance since only Pinocchio escaped the island. Finally, we have Pinocchio’s conscience in Jiminy Cricket who is a bit of a cynic at first, but comes to deeply care about Pinocchio and he would become an enduring character for Disney in the decades to come. While this supporting cast may or may not be as memorable as the Snow White cast, they were still pretty important to the film and as mentioned, Jiminy Cricket would be one of the standout characters that would have a lasting impact in Disney history.
Songs: Once again, we have a film laden with some memorable songs though not quite as many as Snow White had. While one song from this film is up there in terms of status as a classic song, the rest of the songs from the film are unique in their own way. The first song to really talk about is Gepetto’s song about Pinocchio called Little Wooden Head which was a simple, but nice little song about Gepetto’s love for his new puppet. The next song is a more memorable song in Give a Little Whistle as Jiminy sings to Pinocchio about calling for help if he is tempted, and it is a good song to show Cliff Edwards along with another song that we will get to in just a minute. The next song we have is Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee which is sung by Honest John to Pinocchio twice, first when he talks him into being an actor and then again when he brings him to the Coachman. While relatively short both times, it is a fun song even though it is about John leading Pinocchio to two very bad situations. The next song is Pinocchio’s big moment as he sings I’ve Got No Strings during Stromboli’s show, and this leads to a very memorable dance sequence involving numerous puppets and it is one of the more loved scenes in the film. Finally, we have the song that is best remembered from this film and that is the opening song When You Wish Upon a Star, which would make history by becoming the first Disney song to win an Academy Award. This song would become one of the most recognizable songs in Disney’s history and is still as popular today as it was back then, and it is one of the many highlights from this film along with the rest of the songs from the film.
Plot: The plot of Pinocchio is pretty interesting in that Gepetto creates Pinocchio and wishes him for be a real boy, and the Blue Fairy grants the wish to an extent as she says that Pinocchio has to prove himself worthy of being a real boy. What follows is a series of mishaps for Pinocchio as he gets in with a pair of foxes who give him to Stromboli and he looks to profit off of him before making him into firewood, and then they do it again by giving him to the Coachman who takes him and several other boys to Pleasure Island. It is easy to write off these as Pinocchio being naïve considering he just came to life, but that’s why Jiminy Cricket offered to be his conscience though Pinocchio doesn’t listen to him as much as he probably should’ve. Things come to a head as Pinocchio barely escapes turning into a donkey by getting off Pleasure Island only to find that Gepetto had gone out to sea looking for him and was swallowed by Monstro, and Pinocchio finally proves himself worthy by saving Gepetto and thus becomes a real boy in the end. While the plot of Pinocchio is pretty simple in that Pinocchio must prove himself worthy of being a real boy, it is still a good plot as we get a lot of twists and turns to the point that you wonder if he will actually pull it off. It does get you emotionally invested because you want to see Pinocchio succeed and become real, and seeing him save Gepetto in the end is very touching and shows the love he has for him. It ends up being a very satisfying ending to the film and helps make the film one of the most memorable in the history of Disney.
Random Watching Thoughts: Ahh, the days when RKO Pictures was a thing; Not common to hear the song that is best remembered from this film at the very beginning of the film during the opening credits; We have another storybook beginning much like Snow White; How old is Jiminy because I never thought that crickets had a very long lifespan; Apparently Jiminy was a cynical cricket before meeting Pinocchio; I wonder if anyone tried to look up where this village was actually located in real life; So is Jiminy an actually cricket because he doesn’t have wings like a normal cricket?; Given how much clutter Gepetto has in his workshop, business must be down for him; Figaro is one of the cutest kittens ever; That doll Jiminy had his hands on had quite a lot of junk in the trunk; Of all the names you could give a puppet, “Pinocchio” is a pretty strange one; That was mean of Gepetto to make Pinocchio kick Figaro and then scare him; All of those clocks going off at the same time and yet Gepetto has to check his watch to get the time; Cleo enjoyed that kiss from Figaro a little too much; Poor Figaro just wants to sleep and Gepetto first keeps talking to him, and then he makes him get up and open the window; Isn’t the rule that if you reveal your wish to someone, it won’t come true?; Gepetto must’ve gotten used to sleeping with all those ticking clocks; Jiminy is clearly smitten with the Blue Fairy; It is a bit of a dick move by the Fairy to only turn Pinocchio into a living puppet and force him to make Gepetto’s wish come true himself; So the Fairy updates Jiminy’s wardrobe and he still wants a badge made of solid gold; So Pinocchio and Jiminy talk for a time and then do a full song though Gepetto doesn’t wake up until Pinocchio falls to the ground; Has Gepetto had previous issues with others that he keeps a gun by his side?; I love how Gepetto was ready for bed not that long ago and now all of a sudden he has plenty of energy to play with Pinocchio; Shouldn’t that fire have spread a little quicker on Pinocchio since he is still made of wood?; Poor Cleo having to swim around in that dirty water after Gepetto put the fire out in her bowl; So Pinocchio has been alive for a good 9-10 hours and Gepetto is confident enough to have him go to school like a normal child, makes sense; Figaro wanted to go to school too which makes him a curious cat; So in a town of humans there are somehow two human-like foxes walking around and no one finds it weird; Gideon must have a strong head if he can take all those blows to the skull and keep going; That must be a tight hat if John’s head got stuck in it after Gideon hit with the mallet; Jiminy tells Pinocchio exactly what to say to John and he pretty much discards it to go with them; I would like to see someone actually translate what Stromboli is saying when he is ranting in Italian; If Stromboli is conducting the orchestra, who is actually working the puppets?; Something you would never see today is people just throwing money onto the stage after a performance; Is it healthy for Cleo to have a big piece of chocolate cake like that?; Poor Figaro looked so tortured having to wait to eat what looked like a tasty fish; What would happen if Stormboli cut the inside of his mouth by using his sword to eat?; Boy, Stromboli went from somewhat likeable to a complete asshole in no time; Since when did Jiminy become a master at breaking locks?; What a cruel tease by having Stromboli and his carriage drive right by Gepetto as he is searching for Pinocchio; Pinocchio must have some great counterbalance if he can handle how long his nose becomes and he doesn’t tip over; Why does he have a fully developed nest with two eggs in it on his nose; They are lucky that the Fairy was kind enough to help them out because she could’ve left them since her job was technically finished; Wouldn’t Stromboli have come back to the village when he realized that Pinocchio was gone?; Only Gideon would take a smoke ring and eat it like a donut; If that’s all Stromboli paid, John and Gideon got royally ripped off especially after the Coachman shows what he’s offering; You would think Pinocchio would not trust John and Gideon again after what happened with Stromboli, but they once again pull a fast one on him; How many of John’s big words were actually real and how many were just made up?; I wonder if John gave any other boys different playing cards since he gave Pinocchio the Ace of Spades; Pinocchio really wants to share his card with Lampwick though he keeps interrupting him; How far away was this island from the mainland?; If you want a fun watch, check out the Youtube series Film Theory and the episode about Pinocchio where MatPat discusses if Pleasure Island is actually profitable for the Coachman; A lot of things you will never see today like kids smoking cigars and the clearly racist Native American statues tossing out cigars to the boys; This really gives off the stereotype that all young boys are unruly ruffians given how much damage they do; I’m also surprised they didn’t catch any flak for saying “Jackass” repeatedly even though they were clearly referring to the donkey; I wonder if the animators made for Jiminy to put his jacket on backwards or if that was an oversight that just happened to work; So what does the Coachman do with the donkeys that still talk?; So we see Lampwick physically transform from a human to a donkey yet he somehow doesn’t realize it until he laughs like one; If Pinocchio is still made of wood, should he technically not be able to change into a donkey since he’s not fully a human?; The island must not have been that far since Pinocchio and Jiminy were able to swim back in a relative short time; So the Blue Fairy said she couldn’t help them again only to send them a letter about Gepetto being in Monstro; So when did we establish that Pinocchio and Jiminy can breathe underwater with no issues?; That fish must have a thing for Jiminy as she follows him for a bit; Funny that they have schools of fish follow them for a bit until they tell them they are looking for Monstro and they bail quickly; How was Gepetto able to afford a ship and why would he assume that Pinocchio went out to sea?; Quite coincidental that Gepetto says they are close to death and a short time later, Monstro opens his mouth and inhales a giant school of tuna fish along with Pinocchio; Gepetto sees that Pinocchio has donkey ears and a tail, but he barely bats an eye about it just because he has him back; Can we even attempt to discuss the physics of being able to start a fire in the belly of a whale?; We also don’t fully see how that tiny raft is somehow able to get past the bottom row of teeth; What happened to Figaro and Cleo when Monstro came out of the water and tipped the boat over?; How lucky was Pinocchio that the cliff wall just happened to have a hole in it so they could get through before Monstro leaped out and hit the wall; So Cleo and Figaro somehow survived on their own because they happened to wash up on shore shortly after Gepetto does, specifically Cleo who is still in her bowl which is completely undamaged; Call me crazy, but it actually looks a bit weird seeing Pinocchio as a real boy after seeing him as a puppet for the whole movie; The Fairy really splurged to give Jiminy an 18-karat gold badge.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, Disney’s sophomore film coming off a very successful debut in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ends up being an even better outing for the Mouse House. While the film itself was not initially successful in terms of money made mainly due to the outbreak of World War II, subsequent re-releases have helped establish its place as one of the classics in Disney’s history. Many even consider it to be the absolute perfect film and the peak of Disney during his lifetime, and while that is certainly up for debate there is no question that Pinocchio is very memorable and about as close to perfect as you could get. It will be interesting to see going forward how the rest of the films stack up since many consider Disney’s peak only two films in, but that’s what makes doing these re-watches fun in trying to compare one era to another. At the end of the day, Pinocchio is a great film and a step up from Snow White as the bar as now been raised once again for Disney to try and top.
Final Grade: 9/10