Director: Hamilton Luske & Ben Sharpsteen
Cast: Dickie Jones, Cliff Edwards, Christian Rub
Plot: A living puppet, with the help of a cricket as his conscience, must prove himself worthy to become a real boy.
Awards: Won 2 Oscars - Best Original Score, Original Song.
It's hard to believe that Pinocchio was released in 1940. I remembered seeing The Lion King (1994) and Pinocchio on the same day on home video when I was very young. Despite being entirely different stories, I thought that they were made around the same time. It was only after I grew up that I found out the latter was created seven decades ago!
This revelation goes to show two things: One, Walt Disney animated features have been remarkably consistent over the decades. Two, Walt Disney animated features have been very much a part of everyone's childhood, no matter when, no matter where.
Pinocchio is a near masterpiece, a film that has been etched in popular culture in various ways. Its theme song 'When You Wish Upon a Star' is one of the most famous songs of all-time, with its music even making its way into a part of John Williams' original score for Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
"Never tell lies," as your parents would say, "or your nose will be as long as Pinocchio's." Even Roberto Benigni, who directed the extraordinary Life is Beautiful (1997), felt compelled to play the title character in his universally-derided live-action version in 2002.
Disney's Pinocchio is different from the source material written by Carlo Collodi in the early 1880s. Only the second Disney classic to be produced after the successful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio is a magical experience filled with human drama, thrills, double-crossing, a bit of fantasy, and some truly scary moments.
It is wonderfully hand-drawn, and despite the painstaking process, it features some of the most impressive visuals in the Disney canon such as the final act set in the ocean floor, and a first act that sees an assortment of clocks entertain with precise movements.
The story is a tale of redemption, of a stringed-puppet who is turned into a wooden boy by the Blue Fairy. He succumbs to temptations, but learns life lessons in a harrowing adventure with his 'conscience' Jiminy Cricket as they escape the clutches of evil people and creatures out to harm them. He redeems himself with his courage and selflessness, and fulfils his 'father' Geppetto's dream of wanting a real boy.
Pinocchio is both touching and hopeful, despite some frightening material that could be nightmarish to kids. There are scenes of boys turning into donkeys in a slave island, Pinocchio locked in a cage, and almost all the scenes with Monstro, the original He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, are intense.
There is one particular 'jump' scare when a school of fish swims past the humongous whale's eye. All these can be distressful to small children, and I've to admit I was psychologically scarred when I first saw Pinocchio.
Still, Pinocchio is very much a film that would resonate with anyone who dares to dream, for dreams do come true to good people. So be good and wish upon a star, and you may just get your Blue Fairy. A must watch for fans of Disney classics!
Verdict: Touching, and bone-chilling at times, this timeless Walt Disney classic is a near masterpiece.
GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)
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