This article is about the 1940 film. For the character, see Pinocchio.
Though Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is generally considered to be Walt Disney's most significant contribution to cinema, Pinocchio is considered his greatest achievement and representative of the Disney studio at the peak of its golden age, as well as one of the greatest achievements in animation. It is one of the most critically acclaimed of all the Disney animated features and is considered to be one of the greatest animated films of all time. However, on its first release, Disney only recouped about half of its $2.6 million budget in 1940.
The plan for the original film was considerably different from what was released. Numerous characters and plot points, many of which came from the original novel, were used in early drafts. Walt Disney was displeased with the work that was being done, and stopped the project midway into production so that the concept could be rethought, and the characters redesigned. It was at this stage that the character of the cricket was expanded. Jiminy Cricket, voiced by Cliff Edwards, became central to the story.
The song "When You Wish Upon a Star," became a major hit and is still identified with the film, and later as a fanfare for Walt Disney Studios itself. Pinocchio also won the Academy Award for Best Song and the Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and in 1994 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and in the second slot, behind only Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in the American Film Institute's Top ten Animated Feature Films of all time in 2008. The film is constantly considered the greatest film in the animation medium, despite the initial failure at the box office.
The film opens with Jiminy Cricket singing When You Wish Upon A Star as he sits on a bookshelf, on which can be found various literary classics, such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio, which is given a place of prominence. Jiminy Cricket greets the audience and acknowledges that many may not believe that a wish, as the song states, may come true, and, as proof of the message, decides to tell the story of Pinocchio. He slides down the shelf to the book and opens it, beginning his story in a peaceful village at night, which Jiminy states he was passing through. At this point, the viewer enters the story Jiminy is telling through an illustration in the book.
The Blue Fairy
The wishing star glows brighter, and gets closer to the window; eventually, reaching the workshop, it transforms into the Blue Fairy. She approaches Pinocchio and brings the puppet to life with a tap of her wand, and his strings vanish without a trace. Pinocchio is delighted and surprised at his ability to move and talk. The Fairy informs him, however, that he is not a real boy yet, and must prove himself brave, truthful, and unselfish in order to become one and learn the difference between right and wrong. After Jiminy hops in to explain to Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy decides to dub the cricket Pinocchio's conscience and leaves, telling Pinocchio to always let his conscience be his guide.
Jiminy tries to explain the concept of right and wrong, and, though he is largely unsuccessful, Pinocchio tells him that he wants "to do right". Jiminy then sings Give A Little Whistle, and Pinocchio joins in, falling into a pile of toys by accident. This wakes Gepetto, who cautiously searches the room. On finding Pinocchio moving and talking, he first thinks he is dreaming but is eventually convinced, and delighted, that his 'son' is alive. Winding the music boxes, Gepetto, Pinocchio, Figaro and Cleo celebrate. Pinocchio is distracted by a candle and, not knowing what it is, sets his finger on fire; Gepetto panics and extinguishes the wooden boy's finger in Cleo's bowl. He decides that they should go to sleep before anything else happens.
On the way to School
The next morning, the village is awake. The boys and girls hurry to school, and Pinocchio excitedly follows them. He is noticed by a fox and cat, who, knowing the value of a moving puppet without strings, "befriend" him, intending to sell him. The fox introduces himself as Honest John and tells Pinocchio that he is just the type to become an actor. He and his partner Gideon (the cat) lead him through the streets, while Honest John sings "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life For Me)". Jiminy, meanwhile, is "late on his first day", and tries to tell Pinocchio not to give in to temptation, but is ignored, and Pinocchio accompanies the fox and cat to "be an actor" while Jiminy desperately runs after them.
Stromboli, the Puppet Master
Honest John takes Pinocchio to Stromboli's Caravan, where puppet master Stromboli buys the wooden boy and makes him his star attraction. That evening, Jiminy watches from a lamp post as Pinocchio performs I've Got No Strings for the audience, and is met with enthusiastic applause as onlookers throw money onto the stage, much to Stromboli's delight and Jiminy's surprise. Thinking that he was wrong in trying to stop Pinocchio, Jiminy decides to let the living puppet continue without him. Gepetto, meanwhile, is worried that Pinocchio has not returned from school, and leaves the workshop to look for him. In Stromboli's caravan, after the show, the puppet master congratulates Pinocchio for making him so much money and tells him that he will become a star. Delighted, Pinocchio tries to go home to tell Gepetto but is stopped by Stromboli, who grabs him and throws him into a wooden birdcage. He tells the boy that he will keep him there, taking him out only to put on shows as they tour the world. And when Pinocchio is too old to entertain audiences, Stromboli will use him for firewood. Laughing, Stromboli leaves the carriage, slamming the door. The caravan begins to move, and Pinocchio weeps as he tries to call out to his friend.
The Nose of Deceit
Jiminy is outside in the rain, watching the caravan pass. He decides to wish Pinocchio good luck and to say goodbye to him and is surprised to find Pinocchio locked up. He tries to unlock the cage but to no avail. He stays with Pinocchio as the two weep over their predicament. Geppetto passes the caravan, but his calls for Pinocchio are not heard over the rain and thunder. When all hope seems lost, the Blue Fairy appears in the caravan. She asks why Pinocchio did not go to school; the wooden boy lies, telling her that he and Jiminy were captured by monsters. His nose becomes longer with each lie he tells until it becomes a tree limb, complete with leaves and a bird's nest. The Blue Fairy tells Pinocchio that a lie keeps growing, "until it's as plain as the nose on your face". Pinocchio promises to never lie again, and his nose returns to its normal size. The Fairy then frees Pinocchio from the cage and vanishes, saying that this will be the last time she will help them, meaning she could not help them anymore. Jiminy and Pinocchio sneak out of the caravan as it is moving.
Meanwhile, the fox and cat are celebrating at The Red Lobster. Seated opposite them is the Coachman, who listens to their story and decides to catch their attention with a huge bag of money, which he says can be theirs if they bring "stupid little boys" to the crossroads for him to take to Pleasure Island. Though Foulfellow is at first terrified of getting caught, the Coachman assures him that none of the boys ever come back "as boys." As soon as they leave the tavern, the fox and cat find Pinocchio racing Jiminy Cricket home, and pretend to be doctors, stating that he is 'allergic' and must go to Pleasure Island to get better. They carry him to the crossroads with Jiminy once again in hot pursuit. When on the Coachman's Stagecoach, Pinocchio meets a kid named Lampwick, who tells him that Pleasure Island is a "swell joint" where boys can run riot without fear of reprimand from authority figures and everything is freely available. The coach reaches the shore, where the boys board a boat which takes them to the island.
As the boys enjoy themselves at the fairground-like Pleasure Island, the Coachman orders his minions to close the doors, locking the unknowing boys in. Later that night, Jiminy searches the now-deserted fairground for Pinocchio. He eventually finds him playing pool with Lampwick, who scoffs that Pinocchio "takes orders from a grasshopper" and laughs at Jiminy, shooting the cricket down the pool gutter when he admonishes him. Jiminy
loses his temper and attempts to leave, quitting as Pinocchio's conscience after discovering that Pinocchio is friends with Lampwick. He crawls under the main doors of the fairground to find the Coachman and his minions loading donkeys into crates going to places such as the Salt Mines and the Circus. One donkey, named Alexander, is able to speak. The Coachman throws Alexander into a pen of other donkeys that "can still talk". Jiminy realizes that the donkeys are the same boys that went to Pleasure Island, meaning that they were somehow transformed into donkeys and being sold into slavery. He rushes back to warn Pinocchio. Back in the pool hall, Lampwick is still laughing about Jiminy when he suddenly sprouts donkey ears. He then looks into the mirror and panics. He pleads Pinocchio for help, but the boy is only able to look on in fright. Lampwick's last words are a frantic call from his mother before he turns into a donkey completely. Losing his mind, Lampwick starts to kick everything in the pool hall, breaking a mirror and a table, and kicking his clothes off. A speechless Pinocchio hides behind a chair, and his panic increases when he himself sprouts ears and a tail, but Jiminy arrives just in time to tell him that Pleasure Island is cursed and takes him to an escape route in order to avoid the same terrible fate. Together, they swim to the shore of the mainland with Pinocchio only having a donkey tail and ears, leaving Lampwick and the others behind.
In the Belly of Monstro
Pinocchio and Jiminy arrive at Geppetto's workshop to discover the old woodcutter has left, along with Figaro and Cleo. A message from the Blue Fairy as a dove informs Pinocchio of his father's location: after venturing out to sea to find Pinocchio, he had been swallowed by Monstro, an enormous whale. Pinocchio resolves to save Geppetto; though Jiminy tries to warn him against it, he accompanies the boy. Tying a rock to his donkey tail, Pinocchio plunges to the bottom of the sea and he and Jiminy begin their search for Monstro. Any sea creatures they attempt to ask to flee at the mere mention of Monstro's name.
Inside the belly of the whale, Gepetto is in a small boat with Figaro and Cleo. They have nothing to eat; Geppetto fears that, unless Monstro opens his mouth soon, they will starve to death. Monstro then wakes from his slumber to surprise a school of tuna, who flee in all directions; Pinocchio and Jiminy see Monstro and, frightened, try to swim to escape; Pinocchio is swallowed but the sprightly Jiminy manages to escape. Pinocchio finds himself on Geppetto's boat, and the woodcarver is relieved to see his son again. Geppetto laments that they could not get out of the whale. However, Pinocchio has a plan; gathering some wood, he starts a fire, which causes Monstro to sneeze the boat out. Jiminy jumps on as they fly past. Furious, Monstro chases the boat and smashes it to pieces with his tail. Pinocchio grabs ahold of his father and paddles for a hole in the cliffs beyond as a means of escape. Monstro enraged as ever, continues to chase after them. Pinocchio succeeds in getting through the hole in the cliff just as Monstro crashes into it. Gepetto, Jiminy, Figaro, and Cleo wash up on shore alive, but Pinocchio is seen floating face down in a deep puddle, apparently having died to try to save his father.
In Gepetto's workshop, Jiminy, Gepetto, and his pets mourn Pinocchio's death. However, in saving his father, Pinocchio has proved himself; the Blue Fairy, from afar, grants him life, and he becomes a real boy. While the other characters celebrate, Jiminy, standing on the window ledge, gazes at the Wishing Star and thanks the Blue Fairy. As a reward, a gold medal declaring him an 'Official Conscience' appears on his front. As Jiminy leaves with his new badge, the Wishing Star still shines in the sky, protecting and illuminating the village forevermore.
- Dickie Jones as Pinocchio and Alexander
- Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket
- Christian Rub as Mister Geppetto
- Walter Catlett as John Worthington Foulfellow
- Mel Blanc as Gideon
- Charles Judels as Stromboli and Coachman
- Evelyn Venable as Blue Fairy
- Frankie Darro as Lampwick
- Thurl Ravenscroft as Monstro
|I take the liberty of calling to your attention again to the use of the language and the pronunciation... It is a masterwork full of episodes and fit to be developed.|
—Lo Duca in a letter dated July 4, 1935
It's clear that Walt Disney had been aware of Pinocchio long before deciding to adapt it for animation; Roy E. Disney recalled his uncle reading the story to him before bed. However, Disney does not seem to have considered it for a feature until it was suggested by Ben Sharpsteen. Mrs. K. Evers, a family friend, suggested it for a short subject in a letter of April 8,1935. On his holiday in Europe Disney had met Lo Duca, an Italian journalist, who was similarly enthusiastic that Disney adapt it, urging him that it was 'fit to be developed' in a letter. The title Pinocchio had been registered as a feature in May 1934. Collodi's original story, Le avventure di Pinocchio first appeared in serial form in 1881, and was published as a book in 1883. An English translation of story was published in America in 1911. Walt Disney owned the original Italian edition and several different English translations of the tale, and in 1937 Bianca Majolie, a member of the story department, made a new translation. A play by Yasha Frank, based on the original story, was published in 1939 but performed earlier; Disney circulated a memo on June 9, 1937 recommending that his artists will see the play, and consider it as material for a feature. However, due to the pressure to complete Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, story meetings for Pinocchio do not appear to have begun until March 24, 1938. Story work for Bambi was begun in 1937, before the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and earlier than that of Pinocchio. Thinking that the animal characters of Bambi would be easier to animate than the predominantly human cast of Pinocchio, Disney expected Bambi to be completed first. By December 1937, however, it seemed Pinocchio would be the first to be ready for release.
It is thought that Walt showed less enthusiasm in story meetings for Pinocchio than in those for Snow White. Anxious to increase the output of his studio - he intended at this point to release, in addition to short cartoons, two or more features every year - he seemed eager to move onto the animation stage as quickly as possible. As a result, the story was split into sections; The first, consisting of scenes introducing Pinocchio, Gepetto, Figaro and the Blue Fairy, was prepared in a scene-by-scene format. Animation began in early 1938. It was not until February of that year that Disney began to show more interest, finding potential in the scenes featuring Monstro the whale.
The Character of Pinocchio
The story men found Collodi's original story difficult to adapt. Originally written in serial form, the story was, as a result, episodic and needed to be cut down considerably in order to work as a feature film. The primary problem, however, was the protagonist; Pinocchio himself was an impudent rogue, often guilty of cruelty in the original story. His wooden body would surely make the character even less sympathetic with audiences. In early story treatments for the film, Pinocchio retains his malice, at one point trapping Figaro's tail in a vice. Emphasis was also placed on the boy's wooden body, as he was teased for his appearance by boys, and sniffed at by a curious dog, on the way to school. As animation had, by this time, begun, but no voice had yet been found, animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston worked from the sped up voice of story man Ted Sears, intended as a temporary measure. However, Disney was still unhappy with the character of Pinocchio and halted production until a solution could be found. The degree of humanity in the living puppet had yet to be determined and fine-tuned. In early April 1938, however, scenes featuring other characters had been written and were being animated.
Though Fred Moore had attempted to design Pinocchio in a more appealing way, it was Milt Kahl who was responsible for the character's redesign. Kahl approached the character as though he was an ordinary boy, rather than a wooden puppet; the joints and nails could simply be drawn in afterward. At the request of Hamilton Luske, Kahl illustrated his ideas by animating the scene in which Pinocchio dives into the sea in search of Monstro. The little wooden boy became less mischievous and more passive, wandering innocently into the hostile world that awaited him. Though Disney himself found this to be an excellent idea, giving the go-ahead for the opening scene's animation to be continued in September, some were unsure, including Wilfred Jackson, who would later admit that the change removed 'the guts of the whole story', as a more human Pinocchio in his puppet form made his transformation into a real boy less gratifying. The Disney Studio debated about including a winter scene or a full-fledged scene featuring Christmas in the animated feature Pinocchio (1940). From a January 6, 1938 story meeting, Walt Disney said, “That’s the trouble – the exhibitors will class it as a Christmas picture and only run it at Christmas time. Well, Heidi had Christmas in it – they had quite a sequence there of Christmas…It doesn’t matter, we were just trying to get something pictorial in here.”
Inspirational Sketch Artists
As with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Albert Hurter designed the characters, objects and locations featured in Pinocchio, and was responsible for the overall styling of the film. Hurter's influence are particularly apparent in the scenes in Gepetto's Workshop, in which nearly every object is designed to resemble a face or creature of some sort; every object in the workshop was designed by Hurter, then realized as a three-dimensional (often working) model. However, the inspirational sketch artist whose style is perhaps most prevalent in the final film was Gustaf Tenggren, who had already made his name as an illustrator before joining the studio in 1936. Tenggren reinforced the influence of European Illustration on the film (having worked as successor to John Bauer for the magazine Bland Tomar och Troll); he also kept files and cuttings on favourite American painters (such as Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood and Edward Hopper) and shots from Hollywood films.
These influences can be seen in Tenggren's inspirational sketches for the film, in which composition is made dynamic by a 'fish-eye lens' effect, depth is emphasized by exaggeration of perspective, and figures and buildings are characterized by sharpened, immaculate edges. During his time at the studio, Tenggren did not socialize with the other artists and animators, who felt that the talented artist was too proud to want to compromise on the styling of the film. Tenggren left the studio a year before the film's release and, controversially, received no credit for the film; despite this, he is generally considered (with the possible exception of Mary Blair) to be the most influential artist on the visual style of Disney's films.
The Character Model Department
Joe Grant had designed both The Evil Queen and her alter-ego, the Witch, and had been responsible, along with William Cottrell, for both characters' scenes in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. During production on Snow White, several crude models - including armatures for the dwarfs and a plasticine Snow White head - had been constructed as reference for the animators. Grant's more detailed plasticine model of the Witch did not go unnoticed by Walt Disney, who, when passing him in a studio hallway one day, asked him to "set up a little department": a "think tank" which would be responsible for the design and construction of models for use by the animators and their assistants. Interestingly, Disney did not include Cottrell in his proposal; it is thought that separating the team of Grant and Cottrell was intended as a reassertion of Disney's power.
In setting up the Character Model Department, Grant recruited the studio's best artists; over the years the department included, among others, Jack Miller, Bob Jones, Martin Provenson, Cambell Grant, John Wallbridge, Fini Rudiger, Tom Codrick, Mary Blair, Aurelius Battaglia, James Bodrero, Kay Nielsen and Albert Hurter. Most artists would produce sketches and model sheets. At Disney's suggestion,eventually three-dimensional models were constructed. Charles Christadoro, Ted Kline, Lorna Soderstrom and Duke Russell were responsible for sculpting the clay models; these models were then fired in a kiln in Grant's own backyard, and painted by women from the Ink and Paint Department, including Helen Nervobig. Models were constructed of every character, including Pinocchio as a marionette, as well as Stromboli's Caravan, The Coachman's Stagecoach and all of Gepetto's Toys and Clocks. Many model sheets were also produced with designs for the fish Pinocchio encounters in the sea. The artists of the Character Model Department were also responsible for developing ideas, and were heavily involved with the story development of Pinocchio and many of the segments in Fantasia.
Next to Disney himself, Grant was the most powerful man in the studio during production on Pinocchio and Fantasia; he was increasingly relied on to make creative decisions and was determined to "appeal to Walt to stimulate him and to raise (himself) in his esteem." All sketches and model sheets had to by stamped 'O.K. J.G.' (indicating Grant's approval of the design) before being used by the animators. The animators did not regard the Character Model Department fondly, often angry both at Walt's increased attention paid to it and what they believed to be very little effort put in on the part of the artists, "who could sit and whistle and make a pretty thing without much effort". Grant's department, correspondingly, saw the animators as "a hundred percent yokel". The disdain shown by each group for the other increased at the construction of the expensive new Burbank studio, which placed the Character Model Department on the third floor (near Disney's office) and the animators, on the first.
Reception and Critical Reaction
Upon its 1940 release, Pinocchio was not financially successful. It was thought by many to be too dark a film for family audiences. While there are also dark elements in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, these evil forces are vanquished in the film's climax; in comparison, four of the villains of Pinocchio (Honest John, Gideon, The Coachman, and Stromboli) continue their deeds unpunished. It is thought by some that the use of multiple villains in the film is a reflection of complexity of the Deppression (following the Second World War, most Disney films would be characterized by a single villain). The dark themes of the film are also thought to be a result of the film's European sources, particularly Collodi's original story (the darkness of which Disney nevertheless attempted to lessen in his adaptation) and a mise en scene heavily influenced by German Expressionism. Intense sequences, such as Stromboli's imprisonment of Pinocchio, Lampwick's transformation and Monstro's scenes, were deemed particularly frightening for young audiences. Perhaps most importantly, the Second World War had cut off Disney's European market, preventing the exhibition of Pinocchio (and, later that year, Fantasia) in Europe. It has been speculated that this cut off an audience which may have been more ready to accept the film more than Americans, given the film's strong European influences.
Despite not being a commercial success, the film remains the most critically acclaimed of all the Disney animated features. Archer Winsten, who had been critical of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, had nothing but praise for Pinocchio. The New Yorker's review was similarly positive, arguing that "it befits us to take Pinocchio to our hearts with gratitude and pleasure." While many audiences complained about the absence of a romance, some critics praised the film for staying away from over-sentimentality. Richard Mallett (Punch) wrote, "is it better than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? I think it is, much better, not in spite of (as at least one reviewer said) but partly because of the absence of so much conscious sentiment and charm." The film is also considered the most technically brilliant film in the Disney animated features canon. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of the critics gave the film a positive review based on 41 reviews. Pinocchio is one of a handful of films to achieve a 100% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Main article: Pinocchio (video)
Difference from source material
- Jiminy Cricket (or the Talking Cricket as he was called in the original Italian tale) actually dies early on when he tries to lecture Pinocchio on his bad behavior, only to have the puppet brain him with a hammer. He reappears later on as an equally preachy ghost, then inexplicably reappears alive again towards the end.
- Geppetto actually gets arrested through some meddling townsfolk who misinterpret his attempts to discipline the naughty Pinocchio for child abuse.
- Stromboli was originally called "Mangiafoco" ("Fire-Eater"), and despite his terrifying appearance, was capable of kindly impulses.
- The fairy was usually referred to as the fairy with blue hair (turquoise actually), and there was no indication she was responsible for Pinocchio coming to life. Also she had a entourage of intelligent animals at her command, including a poodle who acted as her coachman, a team of mice to pull her coach, and a snail who acted as her housekeeper and messenger.
- Pleasure Island was originally called "Toyland" ("Il Paese dei Balocchi").
- It was a giant shark, not a whale that swallows first Geppetto, then Pinocchio, in the original story.
- Two books labeled "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan" are visible in the very first shot of the film. Alice in Wonderland was released 11 years after Pinocchio, with Peter Pan immediately following two years later. 70 years after the release off Pinocchio, in 2010, another Disney adaptation of Alice in Wonderland would be released and become a billion dollar grossing Tim Burton blockbuster starring Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp.
Signature Edition Videos
- The main song "When You Wish Upon A Star" was parodied in the Family Guy episode "When You Wish Upon A Weinstein", where Peter Griffin sings "I Need A Jew" when he foolishly spends his family's savings on volcano insurance and asks for financial help. Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane were sued by the owner of the rights to the song.
- The film is also parodied in The Simpsons episode, "Itchy & Scratchy Land".
- One of the few Disney film whose antagonists receive little to no consequences for their actions.
- Pleasure Island's name may have been a play on Treasure Island, a novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, which, incidentally, inspired the films Treasure Island and Treasure Planet.
- Pinocchio is the first and, until the release of The Sword in the Stone, the only Disney theatrical release to include a storybook opening, but leave out a storybook closing.
- This is the second Disney animated classic to have the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo at the end of the movie.
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