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Disney Animation Marathon: Pinocchio (1940) Review

Pinocchio (1940) is the second feature film to be produced by the Walt Disney Studios, after their huge success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Based on the novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, this film was supervised by directors Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen. When woodcarver Geppetto (voiced by Christian Rub) wishes upon a star to have a real son, his puppet Pinocchio (voiced by Dick Jones) starts to act human. However, for him to be a real boy and not a puppet, he must prove to be “brave, truthful and unselfish”.

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The tale of Pinocchio is a classic one and is completely charming. Not only does this story allow for a fun journey to be had throughout, but it is an interesting concept on the discovery of being human. There is something truly magical about the narrative of this film, perhaps even more so than a majority of the Disney animated movies, which rely so heavily on that spark of magic to captivate audiences.
Coming off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney spent a lot of time working on their new craft and are able to further develop the writing of their characters. Whilst Snow White can be seen as “flawless” in her personality and behaviour, Pinocchio is more mischievous and, in a way, feels more human with his flaws despite being a puppet. Geppetto is the father figure we would all love to have, and I have always adored the character of Jiminy Cricket and what he represents in the film. With a balance of fun to his design and behaviour to the seriousness of his role to the story, he is incredibly well written and fantastic to watch,
It was not only the writing of the characters that the team improved on, but the animation style as well. This film holds up so well for an animation that was done 80 years ago. What stands out to me the most about the animation is the colours that are used, going for a look that seems hopeful with the splash of brightness in Pinocchio’s outfit, but overall quite natural with the faded look beyond that. It’s a very distinct style and one that is harder to find in animated movies, which prioritise the bright and bold colours for the appeal of younger viewers.
Pinocchio Review | Movie - Empire
There is a great message to be had in this film, the idea that you should be kind to others and do your best to make the most out of your life. The idea of Pinocchio’s nose growing whenever he tells a lie is not only a fun visual gag for audiences to laugh at, but also something that has spread into mainstream culture on a regular basis. This film has so many iconic single moments in it, including their musical moments from “When You Wish Upon a Star” to “I’ve Got No Strings” which have both also been used for numerous reasons in the media since.
With this movie, Disney tried to create a more elaborate story than what was shown in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Instead of having a primary location, such as the cottage, the film continually goes on a journey. I do wish the film slowed down a little bit here, instead of jumping from location to location as quickly as it did. There are many scenes that stand out, but I wish we had further development of them. I would have loved to have seen Pinocchio spend more time dealing with being at the theatre, rather than escaping quickly and moving on to the next sequence.
Disney is known for making some of the best villains in movie history. Whilst this is something that they did superbly in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, I found the villains here to be quite weak in comparison. Whilst I like the idea of a mischievous fox being the main villain, I think his role as a villain is downgraded by having two other smaller villains as well, not giving the audience much time to familiarise themselves and to get to truly know them as characters. Whilst we had those epic sequences with the Evil Queen, we never get that with anyone Pinocchio interacts with.
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There is a lot of charm and magic to be had in this classic tale. The animation is taken to a whole new level from Snow White and showcased exactly what could be done in the world of animated feature-length films. Whilst this one drags out a little more and feels more clunky as a narrative, this is still a wonderfully made film and certainly a highlight in the Disney catalogue. There is a reason why the Disney music of choice that plays over the start of every movie of theirs is “When You Wish Upon a Star”.

What do you make of this animated classic? Is it one of your favourites from the Disney catalogue? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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