The Disney Classics Challenge: Pinocchio

Hellow everyone! I said I wanted to watch 2-3 movies a week, but maybe I’m able to watch more this week because I’m sick so now I have a lot of unasked-for free time. And what activity can you better do when you’re sick other than laying on the couch covered in used napkins watching old Disney movies?

So we’ve landed in 1940. I was surprised to read that despite great reviews, Pinocchio was initially a box-office failure. It eventually turned a profit when it re-released in theaters in 1945. Pinocchio got theatrical re-releases in 1945, 1954, 1962, 1971, 1978, 1984, and 1992. I was released on VHS in 1993 and it was the first movie to be released on Disney DVD in 1999.

I had the VHS as a kid and for some reason, I remember the story of Pinocchio better than the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I didn’t remember the details though, since I haven’t seen it since I was a kid. I also remember seeing a live-action version of Pinocchio in the cinema as a kid, but I can’t really recall anything about it, only that it was really dark. Also, I forgot to mention this in my Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs review, but at one point a dwarf shouts: ‘Jiminy Cricket!’. I though that was a nice Easter egg (or was it just a coincidence?). This movie isn’t on (Dutch) Netflix again, but I have the DVD.

Let’s get to the movie. Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it starts with a book. But this time, we don’t have to reads for ourselves. Jiminy Cricket narrates for us. He tells us the story that one night he came to the house of the wood carver Gepetto. We see a lovely scene of Gepetto finishing the puppet Pinocchio, and the cat Figaro and the fish Cleo are also introduced to us. I love Figaro. Being a cat-lover, I really think every cat-owner can see something of his/her own cat in Figaro. Anyway, everyone goes to sleep and Gepetto wishes that Pinocchio would be a real boy. His wish is heard by the blue fairy, who gives the wooden puppet life, but doesn’t turn him into a real boy just yet. To achieve that, he must prove himself brave, truthful, and unselfish. To help him with that, she declares that Jiminy must act as Pinocchio’s conscience. Scared awake by all the ruckus, Gepetto thinks there are intruders in his house and grabs his gun (I know this still happens, but I’m always a bit thrown-off when there are guns in kids’ movies) to scare them away. This scene is actually quite similar to the one in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where the dwarfs find out that Snow White is in their house. Anyway, Gepetto is in ecstasy when he finds Pinocchio. After a little dance, time to go to bed.

The next morning he sends Pinocchio off to school. On the way, Pinocchio encounters Honest John and Gideon the cat (kinda funny that they have animal cats like Figaro and human cats like Gideon in this universe. Honest John en Gideon are the only anthropomorphic animals though, beside Jiminy), who want to sell the extraordinary puppet to the traveling gypsy Stromboli. They deceive Pinocchio by telling him that he will be an actor and will gain fame. Because Jiminy overslept, Pinocchio doesn’t have a conscience to tell him to go to school, so he agrees with them. When Jiminy finds Pinocchio and does tell him to go to school, Pinocchio doesn’t listen. Pinocchio’s performance as a string-less puppet is a success. Stromboli is actually a very racist stereotype Jew or gypsy (or Roma, I don’t even think it’s socially accepted to use the word gypsy nowadays).

After the show, Stromboli doesn’t allow Pinocchio to return to his father and locks him away in a bird cage. Jiminy sees Pinocchio’s initial success and decides that he isn’t needed (‘what does an actor want with a conscience anyway?’), but he wants to wish him good luck anyway. He finds Pinocchio locked in the bird cage, but is unable to free him. The blue fariy comes to their aid, but when she asks Pinocchio about how he came in that situation, he lies about it, which causes the iconic nose-growth. What I find surprising is that this is the only time in the whole movie that Pinocchio’s nose grows. And it isn’t really important to the plot anyway. The fairy forgives Pinocchio and frees him.

On their way home, Pinocchio encounters Honest John and Gideon the cat again, and this time they take him to Pleasure Island, an entertainment park without rules. So up until now we’ve seen a racist stereotype and a gun, but nothing really weird. But this is the point where everything gets bat shit crazy. All the kids on Pleasure Island fight each other and vandalize the place, and they are handed out cigars and beer. CIGARS. AND. BEER. Pinocchio is having the time of his life, smoking and drinking with his new friend Lampwick. He refuses to listen to Jiminy again, only to find out that the whole island is a trap, and that all the kids there are being turned into donkeys so that they can be sold. Because that makes sense. This scene is really fucked up btw, I’m surprised it didn’t traumatize me as a kid. Jiminy and Pinocchio escape just in time (Pinocchio does have Donkey ears and a tail now though). What also strikes me is that they do nothing about the situation on the island. They don’t defeat the evil guy, they don’t save to donkeys/boys, they just escape and the island probably still exists. Because that’s what you get when you smoke and drink when you’re under-aged, kids. You turn into a donkey. Let this be a lesson.

They swim back to Gepetto’s house(?), only to find out that it’s abandoned. I thought that all this happened in one night, but judging on the dust and the cobwebs, quite some time must’ve passed. The Blue Fairy delivers them a letter telling that Gepetto went looking for Pinocchio, but that he was swallowed by the giant whale Monstro. Pinocchio doesn’t hesitate and jumps into the ocean to look for Monstro on the sea-floor together with Jiminy (because who needs oxygen?). Monstro turns out to be one evil motherf*cker (he even has teeth!). Gepetto is trapped inside his belly and doesn’t have any food anymore. Pinocchio is eventually swallowed by Monstro too. There is a happy reunion, but Gepetto explains that they can’t escape. Pinocchio creates a fire with a lot of smoke, which causes Monstro to sneeze them out. Monstro, enraged, chases them, but Pinocchio is able to save Gepetto. To bad Pinocchio died doing that. What follows is another scene very similar to Snow White and the Seven Dwafs: Gepetto mourning at Pinocchio’s bedside. The Blue Fairy appears again and turns Pinocchio into a real boy because he saved Gepetto. The End.

I like Pinocchio a lot more than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the tempo is better, it’s more dynamic, the characters are better written, the songs are more memorable. Except for the Pleasure Island scene, it aged very well. I feel like they used any feedback they got on Snow White which caused an enormous leap in quality.

Next up is Fantasia, a movie I’ve never seen before. I’ll see you then!

About Tekira

26 year old psychologist, on the quest of finding a job, loves anime and games.

One thought on “The Disney Classics Challenge: Pinocchio

  1. Anita says:

    Can’t wait to hear what you think of fantasia !!

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