Monday 10 December 2012

Pinocchio (1940)

Here is one I have been looking forward to more than usual. It has been so long since I saw Pinocchio that pressed hard I do not think I could swear that I actually did see the entire movie before though I believe I have. Bits and pieces are very familiar, if for nothing else because “When you dream upon a star” and “I’ve got no strings” are featured in the annual Disney Christmas show I grew up with. But seeing it now a lot of it feels new to me. New and familiar. Like an old friend I have not seen since childhood.

It is totally amazing that “Pinocchio” was made only 3 years after “Snow White”. Technically the Disney studios came a long way in those 3 years. The small annoyances are gone, character drawing is less superficial and the flow of the story is so much smoother. Of course with “Fantasia” we saw what they could do now, but there they did not have to tell a story. That they do in ”Pinocchio”.

And what a story it is.

Even with the usual heavy dose of Disney sugar coating this is a gruesome story. We have got toys coming alive (nope, not Chucky), kidnappers of children, child slavery, deportation, children turned into animals, smoking and beer drinking children, monstrous whales and death.

Presented with this list I am not sure I would have let my son watch this movie. In fact I do not think anybody would get away with making it in this day and age. But then, 1940 was a very different world and while frowned upon I do not think many people back then were shocked to see cigar smoking children or a kuk-kuk clock with a child getting whapped in his butt by his mother.

My son took it in full stride and enjoyed it all. He was very impressed with the whale. It is biiig, he said making flying moves. After my initial surprise I also quickly enough fell into the movie and accepted it, but occasionally glanced at my son, checking up on how he was doing.

Pinocchio is a sweet boy, innocent and happy. So is Geppetto, Figaro the cat and Cleo the Fish. Jiminy Cricket, our narrator and appointed conscience for Pinocchio , is exactly as human as he needs to be. In this sugar sweet Disney world it is refreshing with a character with human weaknesses and sentiments even if he is a tiny cricket. That is also needed to counter weight the other perfect leads.

As is usual the case in this sort of films the villains are the real stars. Honest John and Gideon, the con men who twice lures Pinocchio off to trouble, are great and colorful. Sneaky and mean, but also wonderfully arrogant. Stromboli is in indeed a volcano and fireworks to look at and listen to and even the whale, Monstro, has wonderfully choleric traits.

But when all is said and done it is the music which is the real star of Pinocchio. Not just the two signature songs, but all the way through. These are classics now and work excellently also without the movie. Nothing puts me in a mood for the holiday season as “When you wish upon a star”. I can almost smell pine and cinnamon.

I am pretty sure I am going to see this one a few more times over the next weeks, willingly or unwilling. So far I do not mind.


  1. I actually never saw this movie until about a month or so ago. I was surprised by the smoking, too. Good review.

    1. Thank you. Yeah, there are a lot of no-no'es here.