Join me, as I find out what happens when you wish upon a star…
Once Upon A Time…
Following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney wanted to surpass his first animated film. Instead of creating a sequel film, he chose to tell a completely different story, Pinocchio based off the book The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Disney used the profit made from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to help create the film, which included making real life props for the animators to draw. Determined to make a best animated film possible, Disney scrapped six months of work because he felt it did not have enough emotion in it. It appears that Disney’s obsession for perfection would ultimately pay off, as the film as met with critical acclaim upon release and is considered on the studios best animated films to date.
Memories From My Childhood:
So I can’t actually remember when I watched Pinocchio in my childhood, I know I did watch it but I can’t pin point when. What I do remember are two brief moments: the whale and the scene where the boys turn into donkeys. I suppose I can always count the scene where Pinocchio and his father dance, which was featured in every single one of those anti-piracy clips that featured at the start of the Disney videos, but I can’t actually remember it out of that context. So I’m going in watching this film with even less prior knowledge than I did with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
My Impressions Today:
So the film starts in a similar way that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: all the credits at the beginning, a song (this time it was When You Wish Upon A Star) and the storybook. I would like to confess, that for someone who believes she is a Disney fan, I’m a complete idiot for not noticing that tune played with the Disney logo at the start of every Disney film is in fact the first notes of When You Wish Upon A Star. I guess you learn something new everyday. Anyways, back to the film, instead of the audience having to read the backstory, we now have Jiminy Cricket narrating. Yay, less work for us!
As Jiminy is telling us the story, we are taken back in time, to when Jiminy first travels to the village where Geppetto lives. And what appears to fast becoming a Disney tradition, Jiminy makes himself at home in Geppetto’s workshop. There, the little cricket acts like a bit of a peeping Tom and watches as Geppetto puts the finishing touches to Pinocchio and begins to dance with him.
Once Geppetto decides to stop tormenting the animals with the puppet, he decides to go to
bed, but not before he makes a wish, that Pinocchio could be a real boy. Enter the Blue Fairy. She decides to grant Geppetto’s wish and brings Pinocchio to life with magic. She tells the puppet that he can be a real by once he proves he is brave, truthful and unselfish. I’m not sure how many little boys the Blue Fairy knows, but even I know that is a tall order. To help Pinocchio out, the Blue Fairy promotes Jiminy from cricket to conscience.
Geppetto wakes up and discovers Pinocchio is alive and is really happy about it. The next day, Pinocchio heads to school, because even puppets need to learn. As he makes way to school he meets Honest John, a talking fox. I would like to point out at this point, the film appears to have different classes of animals- those that can talk and those that are mute. The film never explains why some animal can talk and some can’t but I did find it curious, as in other Disney films either all animals talk or they don’t. Digression aside, Honest John tells Pinocchio all about the theater and takes him to Stromboli. However, it doesn’t take Pinocchio long to realise the importance of stranger danger lessons.- Stromboli locks him in and cage and tells him he will perform until he no longer can and then he will be made into firewood. Remember folks, this is a film aimed at children.
After Jiminy failed to help Pinocchio escape, it all comes down to the Blue Fairy to help. But not before she gives Pinocchio a lecture on being truthful. She also warns Pinocchio she can only help him this one last time, for reasons. While all this is going on, Honest John is boasting about outwitting a puppet, not a feat I would call impressive but who am I to judge. The Coachman gives us one of the most creepy animated shots as he explains to Honest John, he wants naughty boys to take to Pleasure Island. I’m just not going to comment on that.
So on their way home, Pinocchio and Jiminy come across Honest John, who once again, persuades Pinocchio to go to Pleasure Island. There the puppet meets another child called Lampwick and together they enjoy the delights of Pleasure Island, which include smoking, drinking and beating people up. Once Jiminy catches up with Pinocchio, he express his anger and disappointment at Pinocchio playing pool. Yes, apparently playing pool is worst than smoking. After telling Pinocchio off, Jiminy discover what his happening to the boys on Pleasure Island. They are being turned into donkeys and being sold to the circus and salt mines. You know, what you’d expect to happen to naughty boys on Pleasure Island. As Jiminy goes back to Pinocchio, the puppet realises what is happening as Lampwick turns into a donkey and he starts to also grow donkey ears and tails. Jiminy comes up with the bright idea that to escape donkey curse, Pinocchio needs to jump off the island. Which he does without hesitation. And it works.
They go home, only to discover that Geppetto has shut up shop and gone off somewhere. One of the bizarre things about this scene is that the workshop appears to be covered in a lot of dust. The question I have is, how long was Pinocchio on Pleasure Island? i was under the impression it was only for one evening. Clearly getting up to no good playing pool can make time pass really quickly. Anyway, a helpful dove passes by and gives Pinocchio a message: his father has been swallowed by a whale called Monstro. Like any good son, Pinocchio decides to go and save his father. This leads to a very surreal scene where Pinocchio basically interrogates the entire ocean about the location of Monstro. Eventually, the puppet comes across the whale, who wakes up and proceeds to swallow Pinocchio whole. Inside the whale’s digestive system, Pinocchio and Geppetto are reunited. They come up with the plan to make Monstro sneeze to escape. Bizarrely this does actually work but Monstro isn’t keen to let them escape and chases after them. Pinocchio saves his father from drowning and outwits the whale but at the costs of his own life. Remember this is aimed at children!
In a scene reminiscent of Snow White, Geppetto mourns the loss of his puppet son; but
then the Blue Fairy appears and makes Pinocchio a real boy. For real this time. Everyone is happy and the film ends with When You Wish Upon A Star.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After…
I found that Pinocchio goes against everything I associate with Disney. Firstly the music only features at the beginning and the end, rather than throughout the film. The big thing that noticed was that none of the villains got their comeuppance. The Coachman continues to enslave donkey boys, Honest John is still not honest, Stromboli chops up puppets and Monstro… still acts like an over aggressive whale. we also never find out what happens to the donkey boys. Overall, the film has a much darker tone than other Disney animated films, which is probably why I enjoyed it, which makes me wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much as a child (that may explain my childhood amnesia…). I can definitely see how Pinocchio receives so much praise and definitely lives up to its reputation.
- When You Wish Upon A Star performed by Jiminy Cricket.
- Little Wooden Head performed by Geppetto.
- Give a Little Whistle performed by Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio.
- Hi-Deedle-Dee-Dee performed by Honest John.
- I’ve Got No Strings performed by Pinocchio.
- Hi-Deedle-Dee-Dee (Reprise) performed by Honest John.
- When You Wish Upon a Star (Reprise) performed by Jiminy Cricket and the Chorus.
A Fun Fact To Depart On…
Walt Disney had a real Pinocchio puppet made so the animators could properly draw the puppet movements. The puppet was also used in publicity photos before it was lost, until 2003 when it was found in the basement of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
Next week, I’ll be having a fantastic time (I hope) writing about Fantasia.