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.
The Production: 5/5
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 importance of family love and loyalty, and the need for thinking before acting are universal and for all ages, and its mixed tones, 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 new Signature Collection edition comes almost eight years after the film’s initial release on Blu-ray. This new Blu-ray edition recycles the former video and audio transfer (with fixes in the original audio as released) and adds a few rather negligible bonus features to some of the carried-over material from previous Blu-ray and DVD releases.
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, truthfulness, 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 leading 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 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 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 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 pluckiness 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.) Christian Rub is a miracle of kindness and resolve as Geppetto while 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, and he does double duty as the nefarious Coachman who takes the malicious boys to their doom on Pleasure Island.
3D Rating: NA
This 1.33:1 1080p (AVC codec) transfer seems to be the same one utilized in the 2009 Blu-ray issue of the film. DNR has scrubbed away any trace of grain and left in a place or two evidence of a little busyness where things were digitally tempered. On the plus side, there isn’t a sign of age here with mind-numbing colors of vast richness and purity (reds may be a trifle hot) and not an artifact in sight: no dirt, no banding, no scratches. For those who haven’t seen it in a while, 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), and the dimensionality 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 in Dolby Digital 1.0). 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.
Special Features: 4.5/5
The film may be viewed in three ways. The original theatrical version, the movie with the black pillarboxing bars replaced with artwork by Toby Bluth (called DisneyView), or in Sing Along mode with subtitled lyrics during the songs.
The Pinocchio Project: “When You Wish Upon a Star” (HD): a behind the scenes look at the production of a new music video of the song featuring Alex G, Tanner Patrick, and JR Aquino. The final music video itself runs 2:49.
Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island (7:14, HD): Pixar director Pete Docter and Disney historian J. B. Kaufman discuss Disney’s process of putting together sequences for the animated classics. A recreation of Walt’s suggestions for the Boobyland sequence (later renamed Pleasure Island) is also presented.
In Walt’s Words (4:48, HD): archival recordings from 1956 present Walt Disney’s recollections on the making of the movie and the problems it generated for his studio.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Poor Papa (5:19, HD): the 1927 silent cartoon with synchronized music score and sound effects.
No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio (56:09, HD): a 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.
Deleted Scenes (10:33, HD): two deleted scenes and an alternate ending are available for viewing. Each features an introduction and then storyboards for the sequences with voices and music to bring the sequence to life.
The Sweat Box (6:25, HD): a 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.
Geppettos Then and Now (10:57, HD): a 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.
Reference Footage (9:57, HD): live action reference footage of an actor impersonating Jiminy Cricket. Since the footage is silent, a narrator explains what’s happening in the footage.
Theatrical Trailers (SD): 1940 trailer (1:52); 1984 reissue (1:25); 1992 reissue (1:33)
“When You Wish Upon a Star” Music Video (3:14, HD): sung by Disney Channel star Meaghan Jette Martin.
The Making of Pinocchio (5:06, SD): brief original featurette on the film’s production.
Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (4:04, SD): split screens are used to show mock-ups of storyboards to a few animated sequences.
Promo Trailers (HD): Beauty and the Beast (2017), Moana.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
If your wish upon a star is that Pinocchio would come back into print on Blu-ray disc in its previous excellent condition and with many (but not all) of its previous bonus features intact, your wish has come true. You’ll be missing the Cine-Explore feature, a trivia pop up feature, and some games and puzzles which were on the previous release. Nevertheless, this Blu-ray set of a true cinematic masterpiece couldn’t come more highly recommended.