Pinocchio – tape 1039

There’s only one film on this tape. It’s the Disney Christmas Premiere. What modern animation marvel are we seeing for the first time?

It’s Pinocchio, a film made in 1940. Disney really kept those movies under lock and key, didn’t they?

When DVD first arrived, I used to have to buy them from the US. I bought a DVD of Pinocchio from Amazon, but when I tried to play it, it just played a garbled video that seemed to be of Prince of Egypt. It’s the weirdest faulty disc I’ve ever seen.

Pinocchio occupies an odd space in Disney’s catalogue. It’s not about a princess, so it doesn’t fit there, it’s not one of their animal tales, like Bambi or Dumbo, it sort of lives in its own niche.

It’s beautifully animated. My daughter asked me if I thought the animators would have used actual puppets as reference, and I said I would have thought so, given they shot visual reference for a lot of their movies. And the animation in the opening musical number is flawless.

The film’s cultural footprint is fairly big, though. It has at least three hugely well known songs. When he made Close Encounters, Steven Spielberg referenced Pinocchio in the dialogue, and with a Pinocchio doll in Roy Neary’s house, but he also wanted to play ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ over the end titles. But for the original release, he second guessed himself, thinking it was too cheesy, and took out the musical reference. When he did the first Special Edition, a couple of years later, he was confident enough to put John Williams’ quotation of the song back in – that’s the version you’ll be familiar with.

The Blue Fairy makes an appearance in another Spielberg SF movie, AI: Artificial Intelligence. Although that story actually came from Brian Aldiss and Stanley Kubrick.

My daughter commented that she’d forgotten how terrifying so much of the film is. Disney didn’t shy away from scaring its audience, but Pinocchio is almost a succession of terrifying scenarios. The film has four different villains, starting with the fox, J Worthing Foulfellow, who persuades Pinocchio that going to school is a waste of time, and he should pursue a career on the stage.

He then gives Pinocchio to the even more terrifying Stromboli, who runs the puppet theatre, locks Pinocchio in a birdcage, and tells him when he stops getting audiences, he’ll chop him into firewood.

Then there’s this chap, who kidnaps young boys, and takes them to a twisted theme park.

All their basest impulses are encouraged.

And as a result, they all turn into Asses. And are sold to the Salt Mines.

Escaping from this, Pinocchio goes looking for his father Geppetto. He has been swallowed by the great whale, Monstro. And their escape from him is another really terrifying sequence. After which Pinocchio appears to drown. This film could give you PTSD.

Thank goodness for Happy Endings, that’s all I can say.

The tape ends just after the movie.

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4 comments

  1. A masterpiece, and one where everyone was on the same page at letting their imaginations run riot. Disney had quite a run before the war came along and spoiled everything.

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