After releasing a film that took years to make and not knowing what the end result would be, many wondered what Walt Disney could possibly create next after his 1st full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Well, Walt Disney started lining up more possible projects including more full-length animated features. He was considering many options for his second animated feature including Bambi (1942), Dumbo (1941), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), and even Fantasia (1940), all of which would eventually become animated features later. Then, due to difficulties figuring out how to adapt the other stories to the big screen, Walt Disney finally decided for his 2nd animated feature to be Pinocchio (1940).
This tale starts with a lonely wood carver named Gepetto finishing up on his newest marionette that he has called Pinocchio. He tells his two animal companions, a cat named Figaro and a fish named Cleo, that he wishes that Pinocchio was a real boy. One night, he gets his wish as a magical blue fairy brings this puppet to life. He isn't a real boy yet, but if he is able to prove his bravery, honesty and kindness, he will be one someday. Pinocchio is given a sidekick named Jiminy Cricket who will help him decide what's right or wrong and help make Gepetto proud. Now, Pinocchio is put to the test as he goes on many accidental misadventures such as becoming an actor, going to an island where you're allowed to do whatever you want (with a permanent price to pay, of course), and chasing down a monstrous whale.
As was the case with Walt Disney's previous picture Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940) is exceptionally well animated. The backgrounds are so painstakingly well detailed that you practically notice something new in the backgrounds every time you watch it. In terms of its visuals, it really pushes the envelope for what animated films can do with lighting, color, and other unique visual techniques. The music by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, and Paul Smith is also worth commenting on. I think it's safe to say that all of us know how immortal and timeless the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" is. I think that playing this song during the opening credits was genius, since it's the best way to draw the audience's attention at the start of a film like this which is surprisingly darker than you might remember it being.
Why do I say that Pinocchio is a slightly darker film than most people will remember it being? Because of the way the story convinces us how wrong it is to do whatever Pinocchio is manipulated into doing. For example, when Pinocchio tells a lie about why he didn't go to school to the blue fairy, his nose keeps on growing whenever he tells lie after lie. Another noteworthy example is when Pinocchio is manipulated into going to Pleasure Island where young boys smoke cigars, drink beer, play pool and other frowned upon activities for kids to be doing. After too much time there, the kids transform into donkeys that will be taken to work at the salt mines. The reasons why they somehow turn into donkeys are surreal to say the least, but let's just say this scene will scare off kids from smoking and drinking....at least for a while.
I could have done without a few scenes at the beginning, which were solely devoted to showing off the sound effects and the details in Gepetto's workshop as opposed to continue telling the story. In short, Pinocchio gets off to a little bit of a slow start. I also thought that the ending to this film was sort of ripping off the ending from Snow White in a way that was less credible. If you've seen the ending to this film already, you'll know what plot device was used during that scene that I personally don't care for. On top of that, there were certain little details in the climax that didn't add up for me.
Alright, guys. Prepare to detest me for what I'm about to say. I have to agree with Internet video film critic Doug Walker (of the Nostalgia Critic fame) when he said that Jiminy Cricket does not hold up well as a character. But I have my own reasons why I dislike this character. While I do agree with Doug that his sense of humor doesn't hold up well, the main reason I don't care for Jiminy Cricket any more is because he's way too careless, gives up too easily, and thinks he's right about everything. There are more than a few scenes that show just how blatantly inconsistent his character is, and how he switches back and forth between a sidekick with good intentions to a creature whose remarks are unjustified. In the end, I felt like Jiminy was way too inconsistent to the point where his character just didn't work.
Ultimately, what still keeps Pinocchio a good Disney movie more than 70 years after its initial release is the animation, the music, and the way it reinforces the main morals of its story onto its young audience. Even though Jiminy Cricket's somewhat good intentions with his character backfired on me, I still liked Pinocchio himself. I admired how curious he was about the world around him, how positive his attitude was, and how clueless he was about what's good and what's bad. In other words, he felt like a real kid personality wise. This aspect and the ones I've mentioned before are good enough reasons why Pinocchio is a film that any Disney fans should take a look at.