When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.
Pinocchio is a 1940 animated musical fantasy film directed by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske, written by Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Webb Smith, William Cottrell, Joseph Sabo, Erdman Penner, and Aurelius Battaglia, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. It's based off of Carlo Collodi's 1883 children's novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio. It stars Dick Jones and Cliff Edwards. The film was nominated for Best Original Song and Best Original Score, both of which it won. This is the first film in the Pinocchio franchise. It will be followed by a remake of the same name. In 1994, it was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
"Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy." - The Blue Fairy
When a lonely woodcarver named Geppetto wishes upon a star for his puppet Pinocchio to become a real boy, his wish is granted. Pinocchio comes to life...but is still made of wood. As he embarks on a quest to become a real boy, Pinocchio runs into trouble and has to learn the difference between right and wrong.
My Favorite Part of Pinocchio
Pinocchio feels like the opposite of Snow White in a way.
What this film does so well is actually tell a children's story right. Pinocchio is a tale of morals, and it executes that template really, really well. You have this full journey for our titular character as he encounters temptation and evil and has to face all of this and learn how to be brave and honest to become a real boy. That story is just timeless. Combine his journey with the beautiful animation (which I actually thought was significantly better than Snow White) and some really great sequences, and you've got an iconic Disney movie.
My Least Favorite Part of Pinocchio
I've noticed that this is a recurring trend in the early Disney movies, but Pinocchio can feel episodic in nature. Sure, there's an overarching story, but each step of Pinocchio's adventure feels like its own, self-contained story, which makes this film feel like a TV miniseries compiled together into one film. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that these episodes vary in quality. For example, Pleasure Island and Stromboli are two great sequences. But the Monstro sequence at the end is not so great. It can make the film feel very uneven, which is frustrating.
Why Pinocchio Is Great
I give Pinocchio props because I still loved it without having much nostalgia for it. Sure, I had seen it before, but it wasn't one of those Disney films that I re-watched over and over and over again like I did with Snow White. This movie still holds up pretty well. Obviously there are elements that didn't age well. But the journey as a whole is really compelling and emotionally resonant to the point where you feel satisfied as the film wraps up and Pinocchio earns being a real boy. It's a classic journey that will entertain families for years to come.
The Disney Evaluation
Pinocchio is a strange one to evaluate here, because it has some of the most iconic things in any Disney movie ever. When You Wish Upon a Star is considered to be one of the greatest Disney songs of all time to the point where it's played over the Disney logo in the modern day films. Pinocchio's nose growing is another iconic Disney scene. I think Jiminy Cricket is one of the most iconic Disney characters. There's so much that's iconic about Pinocchio...but the film itself doesn't feel like the sprawling fairy tales that Disney is known for telling. I don't know how to describe it, but the overall vibe of the film doesn't feel entirely like a Disney movie.
Because of that mix, I can't go all the way, but Pinocchio still get's a Genie's Lamp.
THE DISNEY SCALE
Mickey Mouse (Top Tier Disney)
Genie's Lamp (Great Disney)
Glass Slipper (Good Disney)
A Sword in the Stone (Bad Disney)
Poison Apple (Terrible Disney)
Family Factor: 8.5/10
Disney Imagery: 9/10
Final Thoughts and Score
Pinocchio is widely regarded as one of the finest Disney movies and one of the greatest animated films of all time. I'm not quite there, but this movie is great.
I will go Sweet here. Age range is 5+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske
Rated G for some frightening scenes and images, drug and alcohol use, thematic elements
Released on February 23, 1940
1 hour and 28 minutes
Dick Jones as Pinocchio
Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket
Christian Rub as Geppetto
Walter Catlett as Honest John Worthington Foulfellow
Charles Judels as Stromboli / The Coachman
Evelyn Venable as The Blue Fairy
Frankie Darro as Lampwick
Clarence Nash as Figaro
Thurl Ravenscroft as Monstro
Mel Blanc as Gideon