Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 88 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, Dolby Digital 1.0 English
Subtitles: English SDH
MSRP: $ 35.99
Release Date: March 10, 2009
Review Date: March 5, 2009
With its combination of an amusing and engrossing story, brilliant and sophisticated animation, and a song score brimming with melody and invention, Pinocchio is undoubtedly a Walt Disney masterpiece. As timeless and flavorful today as it was when it was new, Pinocchio is no movie just for children. Its themes of temptation for the flashy and alluring, the need for family love and loyalty, and the necessity to think before acting are universal themes for all ages, and its mixed tone, both hilarious and eerily scary, give it a sophistication which all of Disney’s movies from its first decade of animated features were known for. This 70th Anniversary edition comes a decade after the film’s initial release on DVD. The Blu-ray edition is unmatched in its consummate look and sound for a genuine film classic.
Kindly woodcarver Geppetto (Christian Rub) wishes that the marionette he’s just carved and named Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) could be a real boy. That night, the Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) brings the puppet to life, but earning true flesh and blood status is something only he can achieve through honesty, diligence, and selflessness. Achieving those ends isn’t made easier when two con men including J. Worthington Foulfellow (Walter Catlett) first sell the innocent Pinocchio to puppet show maestro Stromboli (Charles Judels) and later to a coachman who takes a large group of boys to Pleasure Island where their shenanigans cause them to turn into jackasses. Pinocchio’s absence from home has caused Geppetto to go looking for him and has led him into a situation of ultimate danger, one only his “son” and his sidekick conscience Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) seem willing to attempt to rescue him from.
The set pieces that make up the film’s running time are each a little miracle unto themselves. The early scenes where we get to know the sweet, lonely Geppetto are among the film’s most priceless, especially when all of his hundreds of clocks reach the hour of nine and begin to chime in their own unique fashions, among the most delightful sequences in all of animation (capped by Geppetto‘s offhanded, droll remark wondering what time it is). The climactic Monstro the Whale sequence is vividly animated and remains one of the most terrifying dramatic scenes in all of the Disney canon, but no less frightening to smaller children (including me when I first saw the film) is the scene where the boys begin turning into animals, horrifying in its implications toward wrongdoers. The Oscar-winning score and songs by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, and Paul Smith punctuate the action, from Jiminy’s (and later Disney’s) sincere theme “When You Wish Upon a Star” to Pinocchio’s introduction to puppet stardom in “I Got No Strings.” Geppetto’s “Little Wooden Head” and Jiminy’s “Give a Little Whistle” likewise reveal intricacies about character that make them necessary entities to the piece rather than songs merely sprinkled into the mix like so many raisins in cookie dough.
The multiplane camera gets quite a workout in several beautifully realized scenes in the picture. When we slowly zoom into the interiors of the village over rooftops and down cobblestone streets, it ceases to seem like animation any more, and the entire underwater section, even before we find the monstrous Monstro, is wonderfully different decades before The Little Mermaid or Finding Nemo made underwater scenes vivid, the effect intensified by the wonderful voice recordings that give a gurgling sound to the voice actors’ words. And speaking of voice actors, they are all magnificent. Dickie Jones is full of wonderment and spunk as the inquisitive Pinocchio. Cliff Edwards, one of the most popular performers in America throughout the 1920s and 1930s, gives Jiminy Cricket a feisty pluck that kept him a useful character for Disney to return to whenever he wanted a voice of reason and intelligence. (Many of us remember those “I’m No Fool” Disney shorts throughout our elementary school years.) Walter Catlett is the embodiment of the slick scoundrel while Charles Judels’ Stromboli is powerfully mean with a girth to match the fury in his voice when things don’t go right.
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a remarkable transfer, filled with so much rich detail, mind-numbing colors of vast richness and purity, and not an artifact in sight: no dirt, no banding, no scratches. You’ll undoubtedly notice things for the first time with such depth of picture (some yellow edging on the red feather in Pinocchio’s cap or the white hairs inside Figaro’s ears, for example), and the visual range offered by such high resolution gives the picture quite often a three dimensional allure. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track does offer some expanse to the original theatrical mono track (also provided in a restored encoding). Early on, the voices sound dry and a trifle trebly, but later on, that effect seems to have been smoothed out. Much of the film sounds mono apart from some music delivered to the surrounds at the beginning, but once the Monstro sequence begins, prepare for some rather impressive low rumblings, surprising from a film of this age. For the rest of it, the track is clean and the dialog in the center channel is always clear.
Disc One contains the feature film which can be viewed in six different ways. The first is the standard fashion with black pillarbox bars on the right and left of the image.
The Blu-ray offers the Cine-Explore feature which is the video commentary featuring film historians Leonard Maltin and J.B. Kaufman and animator Eric Goldberg in pop-up windows offering not only their own anecdotes and commentary on the film but introducing a host of storyboards, stills, and clips from the Disney TV shows featuring animators who worked on the project offering their own expertise on their creations and Disney feature films with similar sequences in comparison to Pinocchio.
For those who wish an audio commentary without the pop-up windows, the viewer may choose that option.
For those who are bothered by the black pillarbox bars which are there during the playing of this Academy ratio film, Disney has provided Disney View, artwork panels that match the colors of the scenes as they play and extend to the sides of the widescreen TV. When the camera is stationary, the effect works acceptably, but once the camera begins to move (which is often), the panels become a real distraction. Some viewers who like their screens filled, however, may like them.
The viewer may choose to watch the film with Pinocchio’s Matter of Facts, pop-up facts about the film and other information of interest related to the original story.
The viewer may turn on a sing along mode which will turn on the subtitles during the five song sequences for viewers to sing with the characters.
Also on disc one is the music video of “When You Wish Upon a Star” sung by Disney Channel star Meaghan Jette Martin. It runs for 3 ¼ minutes.
“Pinocchio Knows Trivia Challenge” is a game for one or more players answering trivia questions about the film in an attempt to return Pinocchio’s nose to its normal size in the allotted time.
The disc is BD-Live compatible, but the network had not been turned on for the Blu-ray during the review period.
Disc Two contains a wealth of additional bonus features.
“No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio” is a 56-minute discussion covering every aspect of the behind-the-scenes work on this Disney classic. Archival footage along with current Disney animation experts offer up valuable information about the film’s two year production schedule. It’s presented in 1080i.
There are two deleted scenes and an alternate ending available for viewing. Each features an introduction and then storyboards for the sequences with voices and music to bring the sequence to life. Together these three scenes run 10 ½ minutes.
“The Sweat Box” is an interesting 1080p featurette about what went on in the small projection room housed at the old Disney Hyperion studio where Walt and the production team would watch story reels, rough animation, and dailies discussing the pros and cons of the work being done. A typical meeting is simulated (detailed notes were taken by a stenographer for these meetings) so the viewer can get a handle on how Disney and his team pieced these films together. It runs 6 ½ minutes.
There is a 10-minute reel of live action reference footage delivered in 1080p. Since the footage is silent, a narrator explains what’s happening in the footage, a quite fascinating featurette.
There are eight Pinocchio art galleries which the viewer may step through offering hundreds of pictures, single drawings, storyboards, models, video of the models turning, products, and live action reference shots.
Three theatrical trailers, all in 480i, can be chosen for viewing. They represent the original 1940 release (2 minutes), the 1984 (1 ½ minutes) and 1992 (1 ½ minutes) reissues.
There is one deleted song - “Honest John” - which is presented in a 2 ½-minute audio recording.
“Geppettos Then and Now” is an 11-minute featurette offering interviews with six international toymakers who construct everything from traditional wooden toys to computer-oriented ones, all describing their kinship to Geppetto and their views of making toys for a living. It’s in 1080p.
Two different game sections are offered. A simpler game is Pinocchio’s Puzzles, a multi-tiered jigsaw-type puzzle featuring six scenes from the film. Put the pieces in the correct spots and the scene from the film plays as a reward. More complicated is the Pleasure Island Carnival Games, four arcade games of increasing difficulty.
Disc three is a standard DVD version of the film.
If your wish upon a star was that Pinocchio would arrive on Blu-ray disc in pristine condition and with a host of bonus features and a DVD copy of the movie, then your wish has come true. This Blu-ray set of a true cinematic masterpiece couldn’t come more highly recommended.