Film Review: Pinocchio

Niina Pekantytär
Walt Disney Pictures

Pinocchio is the second Disney classic movie and it premiered in February 1940. The film wasn’t financially successful. Part of the reason is believed to be in the Second World War and Americans not going to the movies that much at the time. However, what it comes to the development of western animation Pinocchio is a remarkable film.

What it comes to Disney animations Pinocchio has never been one of my favourites. Later as an adult, I have learned to respect it more. Often I like to compare animations to their original sources.

Pinocchio’s creator was Carlo Collodi. He was an Italian writer and a journalist. Originally Pinocchio was published as a serial story in the Italian children magazine Giornale per I Bambini between 1881–1882 and completely book in 1883. In 2016 I was studying illustration and one of the stories we had to illustrate was Pinocchio. That is when I picked up Collodi´s book and read it. Stories are pretty creepy and disturbing. Pinocchio in the book is really mean child. Jiminy Cricket only makes a short appearance in the story. Pinocchio actually kills him by stepping on him. There is even one chapter where Pinocchio is nearly hanged as a trouble maker. In the end, he does become a real boy.

I prefer the Disney version. ​
Walt Disney Pictures

In the book, Pinocchio doesn’t regret his bad behaviour but in the movie, Pinocchio has developing morality.

What’s a conscience! I’ll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to. That’s just the trouble with the world today…

I think this sentence summarizes the whole movie pretty well. Disney’s Pinocchio is about morality and the way humans learns to separate right from wrong. The greatest power in the film is Gepetto’s strong love and trust for Pinocchio. They don’t have that much time to spend together. Quite early in the movie Honest John and his helper seduce Pinocchio to work for Stromboli and the world of theatre and later to Pleasure Island. In the movie transformation into a real boy is a reward Pinocchio receives from good behaviour.

The first scene where Pinocchio starts to understand Jiminy’s words is the scene where Stromboli throws him into the cage and threats to make firewoods out of him. When Blue Fairy arrives Pinocchio regrets his actions but is too ashamed to admit it, which is why his nose starts to grow.

By the end of the movie, Pinocchio has developed morality. When he gets the message that Gepetto has been eaten by a whale, his first unselfish action is to go and save them. The second time happens when Pinocchio saves Gepetto’s life by pulling him to the cave away from the whale Monstro. In the end, Pinocchio does become a real boy since he has proved himself to be brave and unselfish.

The biggest reason why I never really liked Pinocchio’s character is that he doesn’t know how to say no but is easily manipulated and each time follows the person who he happens to be around. However, when I last time watched Pinocchio I got a revelation and understood why he behaves this way. When Blue Fairy makes a wooden puppet a living puppet Pinocchio has no understanding about being a human. He is literally sent to school when he is 1-day old. Straight away Honest John seduces him to the theatre. The next day he is captivated by Stromboli and the next few days he spends on the pleasure island. Can we expect that boy that has only lived for 4–5 days to have a perfect judgement of human nature?
Walt Disney Pictures

Jiminy has always been my favourite character in Pinocchio. He climbs the social ladder when Blue Fairy makes him Pinocchio’s conscience. Jiminy becomes found in Pinocchio and he wants the help him the best way he can. However, for me, Jiminy is most familiar from “All of us to all of you”. Disney’s Christmas special that as far as I know hasn’t been aired in the USA since the ’70s but it is aired in Finland and in all Nordic countries each year around Christmas. Hosted by Jiminy Cricket and each year there are clips from upcoming Disney films as well. I also like the way Jiminy was portrayed in the Once upon a time -series as a psychologist. I think it was very fitting for the character. ​​

​Gepetto represents the unconditional love of a parent. He is a bit silly old man but he is very good-hearted. This can be seen in the way his pets care for him. After Pinocchio has gone missing and Gepetto has prepared dinner, Figaro is really mad when Gepetto tells him not to eat the fish. He is really mad but still respects Gepetto’s wishes.

I also love the scene where Gepetto tickles Cleo’s stomach. Both pets are very fond of Gepetto. The character has a very playful sense of humour. You can see this in the scene where he dances with Pinocchio and makes him kick Figaro’s butt. One can also see his playful nature in the music boxes and clocks he creates. Figaro gets a little bit jealous of Pinocchio just because he gets so much attention from Gepetto. Figaro’s and Cleo’s relationship is like watching brother and sister. Cleo is angelic and sweet and Figaro is the rebel. Both are still very fond of each other.
Walt Disney Pictures

Pinocchio you have a tail!

Disney’s Pinocchio is way less creepy than Collodi’s original story (and many other animated movie Pinocchios). Still, Disney’s Pinocchio is considered to be one of the darkest Disney animations ever made. There is a big amount of bad guys. Puppet theatre owner, the violent Stromboli and the leader of the Pleasure Island. Honest John and Gideon are also crooks of the story but they are the characters who start the unfortunate events. I always thought the creepiest scene in the whole movie is the one where Lampwick turns into a donkey. Pinocchio has lots of psychological horrors.

I really like the way Game Hall of Pleasure Island is designed. I think it was quite clever to make it as an 8-ball. There Pinocchio drinks beer, plays pool and smokes cigars with Lampwick. I find the whole concept of Pleasure Island pretty absurd. It is like trauma therapy for young boys since they get to break everything.

Pinocchio includes lots of sociological themes like child labour. Little boys are seduced to the Pleasure Island and when they turn onto donkeys Coachman is planning to sell them as “free labour” to salt mines and circuses. The scene, where the little boys/donkeys are sent to the boat trip, is heartbreaking. When I was watching Pinocchio I hoped that there had been some kind of a magical interfering (Blue Fairy perhaps?) who could have saved the lost boys.

One thing that I have noticed in Pinocchio is the episodic feeling of it. This also links the film to Collodi’s original story. In many ways, the bad guys in Pinocchio remind me lots of Disney’s early animation episodes characters from Silly Symphonies.
Walt Disney Pictures

Little wooden head

Pinocchio has an opening storybook beginning. Jiminy is the storyteller. The beginning of the film is fun when the camera watches the world through the eyes of jumping cricket. One of my favourite things in the film is Gepetto’s workshop. Every time when I watch Pinocchio I can’t stop admiring the number of details and funny looking clocks. The quality of the animation is very much advanced compared to Snow White. Another beautiful scene is the underwater scene. I find underwater scenes and battles with Strombo actually much more light hearten than the anxiety-driven scenes in the Pleasure Island or with Stromboli. Probably because family is back together no matter what happens.

One of the things I do like in Pinocchio is the songs. Hi, Diddle Dee Dee is a very deceitful song. I think it’s hilarious but of course, it gives one very unrealistic image of an actor’s life.

When you wish upon a star — is actually a Disney song that for me is pretty much the same as Christmas Carol. No doubt because each year it is included in “All of us to all of you”.

I’ve never liked the character of Stromboli but I’ve always liked the song and the puppeteer performance. Especially different dolls that represent different nationalities; Russian dancers, Dutch dancers and the French can can dancers. I’ve got no strings

I also like the songs “wooden little head” and “give a little whistle”. During those two songs, the viewer is introduced to Gepetto’s workshop and the main characters.

There are many scenes in Pinocchio that I like. When Pinocchio finally finds his family in the belly of the whale Gepetto accidentally hugs and kisses a fish. I also love the end scene. Figaro is so happy when Pinocchio becomes a real boy he jumps into Cleo’s tank and gives her a kiss. One of my favourite scenes happens right before Blue Fairy arrives. Gepetto has so many ticking clocks on the walls that Jiminy has trouble getting sleep.

I´m a Finn guy, so naturally the majority of the Disney films I have seen I´ve watched with Finnish voiceovers. The last time we watched Pinocchio in Disney society in my uni and that was the first time I watched it in English. I usually prefer Finnish versions (Finnish animation voiceovers are usually very high quality). But because Pinocchio hasn’t really been my favourite I didn’t mind watching it in English. In fact, Pekka Lehtosaari who has directed most of the 90’s Finnish Disney voice-overs got orders from Disney to find voice actors matching with the original voices. They indeed are very much alike. Wonderful Finnish actor Matti Ranin who passed away a few years ago (he also worked as a director for Disney’s Finnish voice-overs) did the voice of Gepetto. I thought it was quite funny because Ranin’s physical appearance was very similar to the English voice of Gepetto Christian Rub and in fact, Disney animators used Rub as a physical model for Gepetto.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN

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